Fruit tree growth and maintenance can be easily accomplished with a bit of foresight and a good idea of what fruit trees need. Start out right by choosing the fruit tree varieties that are adapted for your area; they will require less care and are generally more disease-resistant. In general, two fully mature fruit trees will provide enough of that particular fruit for a family of four. If you want to share your harvest, you might need to plant a few more trees.
A fruit tree needs full sunlight to grow and produce at its best, and it needs a rich soil with plenty of room to grow beneath the surface. In order to grow fruit trees successfully, consider these two minimum requirements before you plant and be sure your chosen site can meet them. Remove any buried rocks that will hinder root growth.
Barbara Damrosch, author of "The Garden Primer," recommends applying a protective covering of mulch when you first plant fruit trees. Put mulch in a circle around the three, spreading it out to about a 3-foot diameter, but stop and leave a 6-inch ring around the trunk clear. Put pebbles around that inner circle, says Damrosch, which will deter hungry rodents who like hiding in mulch and might damage the trunk. Maintain the layer of mulch by adding additional layers as needed in spring and fall.
The trunk of a mature fruit tree is wide of girth, steady and seemingly indestructible, but a young, growing fruit tree's trunk can be damaged easily. Regular lawn maintenance poses hazards: a sloppy job with the lawn mower or weed trimmer and you'll have a fruit tree with a scalped trunk. Protect the trunk by trimming lengths of corrugated plastic tubing to about 5 feet tall, shorter if needed, to accomodate the lowest branches on the tree. Slit the tubing along one side and slip it around the trunk. If necessary, secure the covering with bungee cords to hold it closed. Keep the protective cover on at least through the tree's first year of growth.
Food and Water
Water is essential for a fruit tree to thrive. Water regularly during dry periods of summer and give each fruit tree a good soaking in late fall as well. Springs are often wet enough that supplemental watering is unnecessary, but if you have a particularly dry spring, don't hesitate to pull out the hose. Nutrients are the other important element: organic sources such as well-rotted compost or manure can give trees a huge boost. Rake the mulch aside and spread a couple of inches of nutrient material all around the tree, then cover up with the mulch. Other organic sources of nutrients include bone meal, cottonseed meal, blood meal or fish emulsion. Check the package label for amount and application instructions.