How to Grow Native Fruit Trees
image by jcptalbot/flickr.com
Growing native fruit trees is a great way to boost your backyard food production. Depending on where you live, it's possible to grow everything from apples, lemons and plums to peaches and oranges. Native fruit crops include American grapes, cranberries, blueberries, American mayapple, beach plum, black cherry, Southern crabapple and saw palmetto.
Choose the kind of native fruit tree you want to plant. Many require cross-pollination to grow, so you need to plant two trees 15 to 20 feet apart. Talk to an expert at the nursery or garden store to determine if the tree you desire needs a partner tree. Make sure the tree you choose is appropriate for growing in your area.
Buy a bare root plant or a tree in a pot. It's important to realize that it can take a few years for trees to bear fruit.
Pick a planting spot in the sun. Fruit trees need 7 to 8 hours of sunlight daily to perform the the photosynthesis process. The energy they get from the natural light helps the tree convert carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, which makes it healthier.
Plan to plant the tree or trees when it is overcast and cooler outside. This will ensure the plants aren't put under too much stress.
Use a shovel to dig a hole that is deep enough so that the tree is planted as deep as it was at the garden center. The depth of the hole will depend on the size of the root ball. Make the diameter about one and a half times as wide as the root ball.
Add several shovelfuls of compost or organic material to the hole. Place the tree in the hole and step back to determine whether it is straight. If so, cover the remaining space with the rest of the soil removed from the hole initially.
Water the tree thoroughly and pack down the soil. Spread mulch or pine needles around the base of the tree to keep weeds at bay. This will also help the soil stay moist.
Fertilize the trees with a solution that is made for fruit trees or one that promotes bloom. Look for a higher number in the middle such as 15-30-15. These numbers tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are in the fertilizer. Following the manufacturer's directions, apply the fertilizer around the drip line of the trees, which is the imaginary line on the soil that matches the outward edge of the leaves above.
Check the fruit trees often for signs of disease or pests. Depending on the problem, the fruit and/or leaves will have blemishes and spots (see Resources). Remove infected twigs, branches and fruit.