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how to grow fruit trees guide

'How To' Grow Fruit Trees

Growing your own fruit is very rewarding and with so many different ways of training them, there is a fruit tree to suit every size of garden. Take a look at our fruit trees for sale to see just how many choices there are.

Growing cordon fruit trees is the most simple and popular way of training fruit trees to create a traditional tree with a clear stem and a well formed crown. Dwarf fruit trees or patio fruit trees are ideal for smaller gardens, or you could try growing family fruit trees for a several varieties on one plant!

For a stunning garden feature, try growing espalier fruit trees against a fence or wall, or step-over fruit trees around the vegetable plot.

Growing fruit trees is easy; just follow our quick guide to get the best out of your tree.

soak fruit tree roots

Planting Fruit Trees

  • When you receive a bare root fruit tree it will arrive in a dormant state as this is the perfect time for transporting and planting it. Try to plant fruit trees as soon as possible; if this is not immediately possible, you will need to soak your bare root fruit trees in a half filled bucket of water to moisten the roots and stand it is a cool frost free place. The tree will remain in good condition for a week or so. If planting will be delayed for longer, the tree should be ‘heeled in’ to a temporary planting hole in the soil.

  • Grow fruit trees in a sunny and sheltered position, and make sure the site has good quality and well-drained soil. Digging in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost will improve your soil. Make sure you allow enough room for your tree to grow in future years.

  • Dig a generous sized hole at least a third wider than the roots. Hammer in a stake before inserting the tree into the hole to avoid damaging the roots. Spreading the roots in the hole, making sure the tree is at the same level that it was planted in the nursery (the soil mark on the stem should be obvious). Secure the tree to the stake with a tree tie, making sure that the tree does not rub on the stake. Backfill the remaining soil around the roots and gently firm the soil in with the sole of your shoe.

  • Water your fruit tree thoroughly after planting and ensure that the tree is kept well watered during its first year until established. A nutrient supplement or balanced fertilizer will help promote healthy growth. Check tree ties regularly and loosen them if necessary to prevent rubbing on the stem. The stake can be removed after two years.

  • When growing fruit trees in pots, use a large container and soil-based potting compost such as John Innes No. 3. Containerised plants will need more frequent watering than those grown in the ground.

Fruit Tree Planting Tips

planting fruit trees
  • To ensure effective watering, insert a piece of plastic pipe with holes drilled in the sides, reaching from the base of the roots to just above the soil level. This should be put in place at the time of planting the tree to channel water to where it is needed, whilst minimising the problem of surface rooting.

  • Fruit trees do not suffer competition well. Keep one square metre of soil around the trunk totally free from grass and weeds. A mulch of well-rotted manure or a special landscape fabric will help to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture. This is best applied while the soil is moist in spring. Keep the mulch away from the tree stem to prevent it rotting.

Pruning Fruit Trees

  • The aim of pruning a fruit tree is to create a well formed tree, with well spaced branches which are not overcrowded. This allows plenty of light to enter to ripen the fruit and also encourages good air circulation which reduces the spread of disease. It is important to get this right from the beginning, as it is very difficult to put mistakes right later on.

  • Apple and pear tree pruning should be carried out in the winter months, between November and February, when the tree is dormant and it is easier to see the shape of the tree. If you’re growing cherry trees, plums, apricots or peaches these should be pruned in the summer to reduce the risk of silver leaf disease.

  • When growing cordon fruit trees, pruning begins immediately after planting. Remove the central stem to just above the highest side branch. For the following 3 years, prune only the tips of the remaining main branches by one third in winter. Aim for about six well spaced main branches which will form the frame of your tree, with fruiting sub branches growing off of them. Always cut back to an outward facing bud, to encourage growth away from the centre of the tree. From the fourth year, some sub branches can be pruned out at the union where they join the main branch, to allow new sub branches to take their place.

  • Once the fruit ‘sets’ (starts to develop) around mid June, thin out the fruit on each branch so that they are not overcrowded. This allows the individual fruits to increase in size and helps to prevent branches snapping under the weight of a heavy crop. In a few months time you will be enjoying your own home grown fruit picked fresh from the tree.