The majority of Northern Arkansas is mountainous terrain inside the Ozarks. Temperatures in this area fall within USDA hardiness zone 6B and the soil is heavy, red clay. Fruit trees planted in these conditions must be suited to temperatures that may drop as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit. The key to planting fruit trees in Northern Arkansas is to select cultivars that will grow well under these conditions.
Select a location for your trees that is in full sun. Most fruit trees require full sun to develop fruit.
Test your soil to determine the structure, pH and nutrient content. The University of Arkansas maintains a soil testing laboratory through its community and continuing education system. Contact your local county extension agent for information on how to take core samples for testing and where to send them.
Purchase soil amendments based on your results from the soil test in step 2. Most northern Arkansas soils are slightly acidic clay soil with few nutrients. You will probably need to purchase powdered limestone to raise the pH of soil, gypsum to break up the heavy Arkansas clay and organic amendments to improve the nutrient structure, including compost, peat moss and well rotted manure.
Amend your whole planting bed, not just the location where you plan to plant your tree. This will encourage your tree to develop a wide-spread root system. Break up the soil with a rototiller. Spread your amendments over the entire soil to a depth of 4 inches. Then mix the amendments into the soil with your rototiller.
Select fruit trees that are adapted to zone 6. Stone fruits such as cherry or apricot will not do as well in Zone 6 because late season frosts may damage their buds and cause them to not produce fruit. Special hybrid stone fruit trees that are adapted to frost, as well as cold-tolerant trees such as apples and pears, will do well in zone 6.
Dig a planting hole for your tree that is twice the root ball’s size, but no deeper. Place the root ball of the tree into the hole and cover with soil. Mulch with straw to crowd out grass and weeds and hold in moisture.
Water your tree once every 10 days with an inch of water. Keep the soil as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Add a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen (0-10-10) to encourage the development of fruit.
Plan a routine of regular spray to keep the tree healthy and resistant to bugs and disease.
Thin fruit to increase the quality of fruit production and harvest promptly as fruit becomes ripe.