5 Things You Should Know If You Want a Fruit Tree in Your Yard
Fruit trees can make a great addition to backyards by providing shade and access to fresh (and delicious!) fruits. Sadly, enjoying all the benefits fruit trees have to offer isn’t as easy as digging a hole and plopping one in. I spoke with an expert familiar with growing and caring for fruit trees to find out what you need to know before investing your time and money into planting a tree of your own.
Before you even decide what type of tree you’re going to plant, Mickey Popat, CEO and cofounder of plantogram.com, says it’s important to take the size of your space into consideration.
If you’ve got plenty of room outside, Popat says there’s no problem with choosing a tree that will reach 20 or more feet at maturity. “If you have a smaller urban backyard with close neighbors, dwarf or semi dwarf fruit trees may be more appropriate,” he says. “They can be maintained at about 8 to 12 feet tall, are very compact, and still provide an abundance of fruit.”
Some trees offer year round greenery.
If shade matters just as much as your fruit harvest, Popat suggests looking for an evergreen tree, which will have leaves year round instead of a deciduous one, which drops its leaves as seasons change.
Trees not suited for the climate where you live may not fruit.
The United States Department of Agriculture has broken the country up into hardiness zones to make it easier for people to figure out which plants can survive in their climate (you can check yours here). Choosing the right tree for your zone can not only mean the difference between whether the tree survives the freezing winter temps, but also whether your tree has the right conditions to produce fruit.
“[You should] consider chill hours,” Popat says, adding that some fruit trees require a certain amount of chill hours (such as winters where temperatures reach below 35 degrees) to set fruit. Otherwise, your tree may serve as an ornamental, or non-fruit producing, variety instead.
Your tree may need friends.
No, trees don’t get lonely when they aren’t planted near similar varieties. It’s just that some types of fruit trees need to be planted near one another to ensure cross pollination and to set fruit. “Consult the tag/label on the variety of fruit tree you’re considering — it will list whether or not the plant is self-pollinating. You can also find this information by a quick internet search of the variety of the fruit tree you are considering,” Popat says. He adds you should opt for a self-pollinating variety if your backyard is on the smaller side.
It could be a while before you see the fruits of your labor.
Most container-sized fruit trees that you purchase from nurseries, garden centers, or big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowes are grafted so they will produce fruit quickly, according to Popat.
This means you can expect to be noshing on your apples, cherries, or pears within the first few years. However, if you went the Johnny Appleseed route and started a sapling yourself, you’ll likely have a long way to go before you get any edible fruits.
For example, Popat says an avocado tree grown from seed can take between 7 to 10 years to fruit, whereas a grafted tree can start to fruit in as little as one to two years. So, if you’re in a hurry to start enjoying the benefits of adding fruit trees to your landscape, finding an established variety is going to be the way to go.