Now that we’re seeing more and more days of T-shirt weather, lots of us are starting to get the “gardening itch”—we’re ready to begin planting, ASAP! While it’s a little on the early side for some of our more tender plants, the cooler days of spring are great opportunities for planting fruit trees. With another month of cool spring weather ahead of us, new trees can get settled in before the heat of the summer sets in.
However, fruit trees can take up a fair chunk of space in the landscape, so the decision to plant one means you’ll also have to decide where to put it. To start, you’ll want to consider the design of your landscape, whether your tree will get enough light, and how you’ll be able to promote pollination.
Speaking of pollination, most fruit trees rely on pollinators in order to produce fruit. While planting native flowering perennials is one excellent way to attract more pollinators to your yard, you’ll see even better results long-term by increasing the population of pollinators right where you need them. Mason bee cocoons have recently arrived at our garden centre, which means you can now bring them home to hatch in your garden. As your fruit tree flowers, these harmless blue bees will start waking up and helping you out with your first fruit harvest!
Making It Work with Your Design
Fruit trees need tons and tons of sunlight to synthesize enough energy for their annual yield. If the goal is to pick lots of fruit in the summer or fall, you’ll want to choose the sunniest site you can for your fruit tree. This makes the fruit tree an ideal landscape plant for large, open areas that otherwise look kind of plain.
On many properties, this is often an open area in the front yard. A benefit of planting a single fruit tree here is the spring flowers make for unmatched curb appeal. A fruit tree loaded with delicate blossoms is so enchanting, it can visually “make up for” an otherwise less-than-perfect view!
However, if all your sunshine is in the backyard, it’s even more fun to work the tree in with the rest of your garden. You can frame fruit trees with shrubs (perhaps one that produces tasty berries, if you want to stick with the theme of edible landscaping!) to draw more attention to the trees as a feature. Applying a layer of attractive mulch around (but not touching) the base of the tree helps the roots stay cool and moist while establishing another tidy shape in the landscape.
Something to consider as you build your landscape around your fruit trees is that not all the fruit will stay on the branch. Falling fruit can get a little messy, which is just fine for the soil, but might be a bit of a hassle to clean off of certain surfaces. If you’re planting your tree near a seating area, you might want to consider in advance where the fruit is likely to fall and whether it’ll be a difficult cleanup. Fallen fruit also attracts wasps, which are vital pollinators but very bad dinner guests. If this is likely to bother you, plant the tree further away from seating areas—this way, the wasps will be so distracted with the tree that they’ll have no need to bother you.
Fruit Trees for Guelph Landscapes
We’re very lucky in Southern Ontario to have an ideal climate for several fruit tree species. Here are a few that do especially well around here:
Apple – Just about any apple tree species will thrive in our climate! Fresh apples keep for a long time, and they’re unbeatable for baking and fresh eating, hence their popularity in the Guelph area. I especially like Gala for fresh eating and Mutsu for its slight anise flavour, which is phenomenal in pies and crisps.
Cherry – The springtime blooming period of the cherry tree is legendary—some people even plant these trees solely for the show! However, if you love cherry blossoms, you’ve got to pick one with great-tasting fruit! Bing cherries are especially popular for fresh eating, while Montmorency makes for unbeatable cherry pies.
Pear – In my opinion, pear trees are a little underrated, and I’d love to see more of them around town. They offer just as much beauty and delicious fruit as the average apple tree, and you can do just about anything with a pear that you’d want to do with an apple! All of your grocery store favourites do great in our climate, like the buttery-tasting Anjou, slightly-spicy Bosc, and the crowd-pleasing Bartlett.
Plum – While every fruit tree looks pretty great when in bloom, plums have some of the prettiest darn fruit around! I absolutely love the colour of the ripe fruits in the landscape—and the fact that they’re sweet and juicy doesn’t hurt, either. Italian Prune is especially elegant on the tree with delightful, sweet-tasting flesh, while the self-fertile Santa Rosa produces equally tasty fruits without the need for a pollinator.
Caring for Fruit Trees
Each species will have its own care requirements, but maintenance for many fruit trees follows the same rules of thumb. Once you’ve brought your tree home, dig a hole deep and twice as wide as the root ball, so the base of the trunk sits level with the soil line but requires backfilling. Backfill with a mixture of about 75% triple mix and 25% compost. After backfilling the hole, water deeply to get everything settled in. By deeply, I mean to let the hose run for a good couple of minutes to let the whole root ball get a good drink.
After planting, you can water your fruit tree deeply every week unless the rain does it for you. Fertilize the tree annually with a balanced fertilizer and water it well before and after applying.
As I mentioned, mulching around the tree will help conserve water, keep the roots cool, and suppress weed competition. Make sure to clean up fallen fruit as often as possible and prune off dead or damaged tissue to keep pests and disease at bay.
There’s a lot to love about fruit trees, but there’s also a lot to know—so please feel free to ask! Don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions before you purchase your fruit tree online. We’d be happy to set you up for success and arrange pickup or delivery in the area surrounding Guelph.