My top tips for easy care growing of fruit and nut trees in Western Pennsylvania.
- It is easier to remove the grass and weeds if you first smother them. I do this by laying cardboard over the area. Cardboard is porous so your new trees will still get plenty of water.
- Remove all grass and weeds at least a couple of feet in diameter. You don’t want grass to compete with your trees for water.
- By having at least a foot on any side of your tree trunk you eliminate the possible damage to the trunk by mowing or trimming too closely.
- When planting I dug a circle approximately two feet in diameter lower than the rest of the surrounding turf and planted the tree in the center. The reason for doing this is so that rain water would stay around the trees and not run down the hill away from them. You can also choose to dig a narrow moat a foot or two out from your young tree to catch rainfall.
- By lowering the area around the tree there no need to water the young trees unless we have a prolonged dry period.
- If roots from other trees are invasive where you want to plant a tree consider starting them in a raised bed, or choosing a different spot. In time the roots from your young tree will find a path around the roots of the established tree. Some people cut and remove roots to make room for new plantings. I don’t because I don’t want to harm the established tree.
- Fertilize with compost. Forget purchasing tree spikes and other fertilizers you don’t know what is in them.
- To keep weeds at bay fill the area you excavated with grass clippings. Grass clippings will keep moisture in, heat up the soil around your new tree in early spring and keep weeds at bay. An inch or two of clippings are all you need. Don’t over do this step.
- In the fall rake as many leaves as you can around the base of the tree and out a few feet in diameter. I never purchase mulch for my gardens with grass and leaves being free.
- If you tree trunk isn’t straight or if you have soft loose soil consider staking your tree to protect it from damage in high winds.
- To keep mice and other animals from chewing and damaging the trunk of your tree in the winter cover trunk with a removable sleeve.
- When choosing between dwarf and normal height trees consider the room you have, other plantings you want to add to your yard and how you will harvest your fruit. I wanted to have as much variety as possible on my property, I also have a large maple tree in the middle of my yard so I went with dwarf varieties. Dwarf trees rarely grow more than 10 feet so picking fruit won’t entail ladders or climbing to reach ripe fruit another plus.
- If you are planting a thirsty tree, almonds for example need a lot of water, walk your property to find the wettest spot you can find and plant it there. This will give it the best conditions for healthy growth and save you a lot of time watering.
- Are you planting berry bushes? Know what kind of soil they need. Blueberries and cranberries need acidic soil. Save coffee grounds and collect pine needles, both are acidic, to add to the soil regularly. You can dump fresh coffee grounds around the bushes every day after making your morning coffee. It’s as easy as that.
- Are you or someone in your family allergic to bee stings? Plant fruit trees away from areas you use for entertaining or play as fruit trees will have an abundance of bees around them. For instance, I have all my trees away from the swing set the grandchildren play on.
- Check to see if a tree you are considering planting needs a companion tree for pollination. Even if your chosen tree is self-pollinating you may want to consider a second tree. Having two trees of the same fruit will increase the yields. For example, because I love peaches I planted two. This way I will have even more fruit set on each tree getting the most out of valuable garden space.
- Apples are a unique fruit to grow. Apples are not self-pollinating and need at least two different types of apples to pollinate. I have gala, granny smith and a Fiji. Two granny smiths or two of any other single variety will fail to produce pollination resulting in no fruit.
Tips for getting children to eat more fruit. While this isn’t specifically about fruit trees
- If you have children consider planting fruit along the paths they travel when playing. They will snack on fruit while playing helping to form healthy eating habits. On my property I have peas, strawberries, lettuces, and red raspberries on the way to the swing set. To get to the rope swing in the maple tree they pass more strawberries, cucumbers, more lettuce and blueberries, to name just a few.
- Bonus tip: I learned as a child that if I wanted to snack on the fruit in our garden I could eat as much as I wanted as long as I took a bowl and filled it for the family. You might want to give this a try at your house. The children get to snack while doing a chore and best of all, it will save you time.