Raising a fruit tree can be labor and time intensive. Fruit trees grown from seed may take many years to mature and bear a single fruit. Others require careful pruning. training, regular spraying with pesticides and fungicides, and fruit thinning to maintain vigor and produce healthy fruit. Even trees that require very little maintenance need regular harvesting to keep pests away and to avoid the mess of rotten fruit on the ground.
Select a location for the fruit tree that has full sun and good drainage. Plant the tree at the same level in the ground that it grew in its nursery container. Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch around the tree to keep grass from growing over the roots and stealing water and nutrients from the soil. Do not allow the mulch to mound up around the trunk of the tree.
Space trees in an orchard approximately 15 to 20 feet apart to encourage good air flow between trees.
Prune new trees so that they have a central trunk. Train branches in a 'ladder' configuration in which the branches are evenly spaced throughout the trunk of the tree. Prune away branches that are spaced too closely together, or place branch spacers between the branches to train them so they grow apart.
Prune older trees in winter and early spring before they exit their dormancy cycle. Remove any suckers (branches that grow below the graft of fruit trees or out of the root system) during the tree's first three years. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased limbs.
Treat the trees with a rotating combination of fungicides and pesticides. Time each application of fungicide or pesticide to prevent particular diseases or pests that plague a fruit tree. Spray young apple trees, for example, with thiophanate-methyl during wet periods in spring or fall to prevent the fungus that causes apple scab.
Thin out fruit from fruit trees as it sets on the branches, typically four to six weeks after the fruit blooms. Leave one fruit set per every 6 to 8 inches on a branch.
Erect a fence around orchards, adding netting to protect ripening fruit from animals such as birds, bears, deer and foxes. Or, treat trees with pepper, hanging bags of soap or hair to drive away wildlife.
Harvest fruits as they become ripe and before they can drop to the ground and create a mess.