Fruit trees can be wonderful additions to your landscape and provide fresh fruit each year with proper care. The first year after planting is the most important time for you to provide care and maintenance for healthy growth. Once a fruit tree is established it needs very little care and pruning. Planting the tree where it will get full sun for at least six hours a day in the proper planting zone and giving it lots of room to grow, are the first steps to growing a productive tree.
Stake young fruit trees to promote straighter growth and protect them from being blown down in the wind. Use landscape ties or cotton strips so as not to damage the tender trunks. Do not tie them too tight and watch as the tree grows that the ties have not become tight. Remove the ties after the first year unless the tree is a dwarf fruit tree, then it may stay on permanently.
Water the tree once a week with 5 gallons of water if there has not been any significant rain. During the first growing season, water twice a week during very hot and dry times to help establish a healthy root system.
Apply a fruit-tree fertilizer once you start to see growth. Thoroughly water the tree after applying the fertilizer to leach it into the soil. Follow manufacturer's directions on amount to apply and any additional applications, depending on the type of fruit tree you are growing.
Spread a 2-inch thick layer of mulch under the canopy of the tree to a 3-foot diameter. This will keep weeds from growing and competing for water and nutrition. The mulch will also help to retain moisture. Keep the mulch at least 4 inches from the trunk.
Paint the trunk with whitewash to keep it from getting sunburn in its first year. If the canopy does not fill out enough to protect the trunk, paint it again the second year. Paint any branches that are filled out with leaves the first year also.
Prune off dead and damaged branches. Cut off any suckers or branches growing below the graft line as soon as they start to sprout. Prune the tree to shape it during the winter or very early spring.
Spray the tree with a dormant oil spray before growth starts, but after temperatures are above freezing for at least 24 hours. This will keep the scale and other insects that have wintered in the tree from destroying the fruit when it sets.