Fruit trees can offer more return on effort than anything else in the garden. A single apple tree can produce up to 500 apples each season. Several fruit trees can offer 8 months of fruit for your family. Growing your own fruit saves you money, and ensures your fruit isn't laced with toxic chemicals.
Fruit trees can be planted in early spring or in fall and are available in two options: bare-root and in containers. Bare-root trees are common through online and mail-order sources. They are usually less expensive, and there is a greater variety available then containerized trees from a local nursery. When ordered, they are lifted from the ground at the nursery, the soil washed from the roots, then wrapped in moist peat or a similar material to keep them from drying out. Bare-root trees must be planted while dormant in late winter or early spring.
Containerized trees, usually purchased from local nurseries, are fully rooted in a pot and are available for a greater period of time spring through summer. Only the most popular varieties are usually available. Being established, they are easier to grow.
Fruit trees do best in full sun. Most need well-drained soil, though apples, plums and pears are more tolerant of poor drainage. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating, others require another variety to pollinate. Ask the nursery about the pollinating requirements for your trees.
Plant bare-root trees as soon as possible. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for a few hours before planting. Keep containerized trees well watered until planted. Dig holes twice as wide as the roots to help roots grow easily. The depth of the hole should be as deep, but not deeper, than the roots. Compost can be mixed into the hole if the soil is poor, but don't fertilize new fruit trees. Spread the roots out in the hole and tamp the soil around them firmly. Water thoroughly when first planted, then whenever the top 2 inches of soil are dry.
Fruit trees need an open shape to receive sufficient sunlight. They can be pruned when first planted, and each year in late winter before new growth begins. Remove any crossing, dead or diseased branches to create an open tree. Bare-root trees are usually pruned before you receive them, sometimes with all branches removed.
When fruit begins to appear, remove some of the fruit to ensure larger, better fruit growth. In early and late spring, each year, you can fertilize established fruit trees...though if they are doing well on their own, fertilizing may not be necessary.