This is part 2 of a 7-part series of how to grow fruit trees easily.
Once you’ve found the best fruit trees to grow in your climate and backyard, it’s time to map out the ideal spot to plant them.
Finding the best spot to plant your fruit trees means giving it the best chance to thrive and not waste your money, time, or energy on a dying fruit tree.
There are three steps to do this:
Let’s take a closer look at each and what they mean for your garden. After we find the ideal spot, we’ll look at the best way to plant your fruit tree.
1. Locate a Spot with 6+ Hours of Sunlight
Fruit trees require at least 6 hours of daily sunlight to grow their roots, canopy, and ripen their fruit. While fruit trees did evolve as understory species in forests, and can grow in partial shade, they prefer at least several hours of direct sunlight.
For more sensitive fruit trees, provide at least 2 hours of partial shade during the summer. Ideally, time it during the afternoon (usually 2-4pm) as it’s the hottest time of day.
This is especially true if you’re growing fruit trees that aren’t adapted to your climate, such as growing apple trees in warmer climates.
Remember that sunlight easily dries out soil, which is one of the most common issues for fruit trees. Cover your fruit tree’s soil with cover crops, ground covers, or mulch. This also helps regulate the soil temperature and keeps the fruit tree cool.
Tip: In cooler climates, fruit trees can use more warmth, so the best place to plant them is facing the southern sun (if you live in the southern hemisphere, this is north). In warmer climates, plant fruit trees eastern or southeastern sun to give them the cool morning sun.
Before planting fruit trees, know if they’re evergreen or deciduous. Evergreen trees keep their leaves year-round, while deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and winter.
Typically, the goal is to create shade for you, your house, and your garden during the summer, and allow sunlight in during the winter.
For example, let’s say you have a patio and you’re thinking about planting a fruit tree on the west side of it.
Well, if you’re planting an evergreen fruit tree, such as a citrus, avocado, or mango, prepare to have your patio shaded all year (even in the winter).
However, if the sun is important to heat your patio in the winter, the better choice would be a deciduous fruit tree such as an apple, cherry, or fig tree. This way you get shade in the summer and sun in the winter. It’s a win-win.
2. Space Them 10-25 Feet Away
Spacing is another big consideration as fruit trees typically have large canopies and root systems. This means they can quickly compete with other plants, and potentially even damage structures such as walls, fences, and foundations (although, it’s not too likely).
The golden rule for spacing fruit trees is to plant them at least 10-25 feet away from any structures.
Before you plant your fruit trees, check their size at maturity. Are they:
- Dwarf – 8-10 feet tall
- Semi-Dwarf – 12-15 feet tall
- Standard – 18-25 feet tall
Depending on their size, space them at least the space of their mature canopy. So dwarf fruit trees should be spaced 8-10 feet apart, and so on.
Don’t forget about their height—make sure you’re also checking for overhead power-lines and their potential shade when they’re fully grown.
Also, keep companion plants within 25-50 feet for best pollination results. This includes other fruit trees. Planting in this range allows pollinators to easily travel from plant to plant, fertilizing more of the flowers into fruits.
For the best pollination, you should plant at least two of the same variety of fruit tree. Some flowers on fruit trees have different blooming seasons, so it’s beneficial to have some overlap.
3. Grow in Loamy Soil
Before planting your fruit trees, have a brief understanding of your soil type.
There are three main soil types, each with different properties. Here’s a quick table I put together:
|Sand||Good drainage||Doesn’t hold nutrients well|
|Silt||Holds nutrients well||Poor drainage|
|Clay||Holds the most nutrients||Even worse drainage than silt|
For example, do you have clay or sandy soil? Or a mix (loam)?
Generally, tropical fruit trees such as citrus, avocado, and mango prefer sandy loam soils while temperate fruit trees such as apples, cherries, and pears prefer clay loam.
Sandy soils are known for their large particles and fast drainage. So, water and nutrients often seep into the soil too quickly for the fruit trees to absorb. Instead, tropical fruit trees rely on getting their nutrients from a top-layer of decomposing plant and animal matter—such as compost and mulch (lots, and lots of mulch).
On the other hand, clay soils are known for their poor drainage. Their smaller particles pack together tighter than sand, and forming a barrier. In this case, water and nutrients aren’t leached into the soil, and fruit trees can become waterlogged.
Tip: You can tell if your fruit tree is waterlogged if it’s soil is sopping wet for over 1-2 days and its leaves are yellowing and dropping. Remember to hold off on mulching if your soil has poor drainage.
Generally, if you’re working with heavy clay soil, avoid planting your fruit tree in a hole in the ground as the clay will likely serve as a “bucket” and hold water. In this case, it’s recommended to plant fruit trees on a mound of soil to assist with drainage.
Keep in mind your soil’s pH. The majority of fruit trees prefer a soil pH of 6.0-7.0, which is slightly acidic. A slightly acidic soil helps dissolve the nutrient solids in the soil so the fruit trees finer roots can absorb them.
4. Plant Your Fruit Tree
Once you’ve considered the above factors, and you’ve decided on the ideal spot for your fruit trees, it’s time to plant!
Here are the steps I follow when planting fruit trees:
- Have the new ground (or pot) prepared
- Remove as much of the plant’s current topsoil as possible, without damaging the shallow roots
- Grab the base of the plant’s stem and wiggle lightly
- Using your other hand, scoop up and support the rootball
- Lightly place the plant in the new ground (or pot) and fill it in
- Make sure the soil is at the same level on the plant as before
- Apply 2 inches of compost and 4-12 inches of mulch to the top of the soil
- Water generously and add more soil as needed
- Watch the video below by Epic Gardening on some quick and easy soil tests you can do at home.
- Do 1 of the soil tests found in the video. What did you learn? What is your soil type?
In the next step, we’ll look at exactly when and how much water to provide your fruit trees.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.