Fruit trees in our backyard are a wonderful blessing during the hot summer months. When these delicious fruits ripen, we can thoroughly enjoy all the sweetness and fresh flavors we expect from our gardens.

Growing and caring for them is not difficult with some simple tips for success.

Some gardeners may think that a large amount of space is required for fruiting success. But, recently that mind set has changed with current planting techniques.  Because of the limited space available to most homeowners, the techniques of close-planting and training fruit trees, two, three or even four trees in one hole provides more variety and lengthens crop yields from 10 to 12 weeks instead of one to two weeks.  The length of the fruit season is maximized by planting several (or many) fruit varieties with different ripening times.

Small trees yield crops of manageable size and are much easier to spray, thin, prune, net and harvest than large trees. If trees are kept small, it is possible to plant a greater number of trees in a given space, affording the opportunity for more kinds of fruit and a longer fruit season. Choose a size and don’t let the tree get any bigger. A good height is the height you can reach for thinning and picking, while standing on the ground or on a low stool.

Here are some tips:

  1. Pruning is the only way to keep most fruit trees under twelve feet tall.
  2. The most practical method of pruning for size control is summer pruning.
  3. At planting time, for close-planting, plant each tree 18 to 24 inches apart. Cut back all trees to the same height.
  4. Remember to allow for good light penetration and air circulation.
  5. To conserve water and stabilize soil moisture: apply at least a 4-inch layer of mulch up to 4 feet from a single tree or from the center of a two-, three-, or four-trees-in-one-hole planting.

Two other important influences on tree size are irrigation and fertilization practices. Fruit trees should not be grown with lots of nitrogen and lots of water. Some people grow their fruit trees the way they grow their lawn, then wonder why the trees are so big and don’t have any fruit!