Arizona is well-known for its citrus trees, which have been an important agricultural crop in the Grand Canyon State for generations. Many other fruit trees grow well in Arizona, including pecan, peach, apple, persimmon and pomegranate. Not all varieties of fruit trees grow well in all regions of the state. Some thrive in the lower desert elevations such as Phoenix and Tucson. Others prefer the cooler climates found in the higher elevations of Prescott or Flagstaff.
Choose trees suitable for your local climate. Fruit trees’ chilling requirements determine which varieties are best for your area, the trees with the best chance of producing an abundant crop of fruit. Chilling requirements refer to the cumulative number of hours each winter when the temperature falls below 45 degrees but is above freezing. Select trees needing 600 hours or less of cooler temperatures if you live in the desert regions. Choices include orange, lemon, lime and avocado. In higher elevations, plant varieties such as the golden delicious apple tree, which needs 850 chilly hours.
Pick a spot with good drainage. Test the drainage before you plant by digging a hole and filling it with water. Time how long the hole takes to drain. Soil that drains between 24 and 48 hours is satisfactory. Slow-draining soil can be an indication that there is a layer of hardened calcium carbonate, called caliche, beneath the surface. Punch through the caliche layer with a pick axe or small jackhammer before you plant the tree.
Plant the fruit tree. Make the hole two times the size of the tree’s root ball. Add compost and mix it in thoroughly to raise the nutrient level of the soil and reduce compaction. Plant the tree deep enough so the root ball is completely beneath the surface to prevent it from drying out.
Connect an irrigation line. Build a basin two feet beyond the tree’s dripline, the perimeter corresponding to the widest part of the tree’s canopy. Run the irrigation line to the edge of the dripline and connect it to a bubbler style emitter. This allows you to provide the tree with the deep and wide watering pattern it needs.
Fertilize the tree. Fertilize in spring just before buds appear on the trees. Be sure to spread the fertilizer across the entire watering basin and work it into the soil. Don’t just apply it near the trunk.