Friday, May 4, 2012

Tips to Care for Your Fruit Trees

Another growing season is upon us.  Many of us have planted a new tree or two recently.  One of the favorites to plant are fruit bearing trees.  And, I can see why.  Who wouldn't love a good crop of apples for snacking, baking or jarring?  Sounds Delicious!

What you may not know is many fruit trees require at least two varieties for cross pollination in order to get a good crop of fruit:
~most apples except Braeburn, Gala, Jonagold, Golden Delicious and Gravenstein,
~most sweet cherries except Early Burlat, Lapins, Rainier and Stella,
~most pears except Moonglow, Starkcrimson and 20th Century,
~most plums except Green Gage and Methley.

Some fruit trees will have a good crop by themselves, though they will often have more fruit with cross pollination: apricots, pie cherries, figs, nectarines, peaches, prunes and persimmons.

Asian pears will often have fruit the first year. They are the easiest tree fruit to grow. Apples, European pears, and figs are also easy to grow. Apricots, peaches, and cherries need more care because of disease problems.

Dwarf and semidwarf rootstocks are available for most fruit trees. Dwarf trees will grow 8 to 15 feet tall. Semidwarf trees will grow 12 to 20 feet tall. Pruning makes a big difference in size. Semidwarf trees are usually stronger and bear fruit sooner than dwarf trees.

Fruit trees should be trained to have a single, upright trunk with well spaced, spreading side branches. The tree should be cone shaped so the upper branches don’t shade out the lower branches. The first five years are the most important for training a fruit tree.

Apples, cherries, pears, and plums bear fruit on fruit spurs, which are short twigs on older wood. Spurs will die out if they are shaded too much. Upper and outer branches should be pruned to let light and air into the center of the tree so the fruit spurs will remain healthy. Pruning the largest twigs, at least the thickness of a pencil, back to three leaves in mid-July to mid-August will encourage more fruit spurs to form and also let more light into the center of the tree to keep the fruit spurs healthy.

Peaches, nectarines and apricots bear fruit on one year old wood. A few older branches can be removed each year to encourage lots of new growth.

Suckers and water sprouts grow rapidly straight up. They don't produce fruit, and they shade out the spreading branches that do produce fruit. They can be plucked off when they first appear in June much easier than cutting them off later. Or, they can be tied down so they grow outward and become productive branches. The most productive branches grow at an angle between horizontal and forty-five degrees.

Fruit trees can be pruned in the winter, spring, or summer. Winter pruning causes a tree to grow more vigorously. Spring pruning, after the fruit has set, keeps dwarf trees smaller and doesn't reduce the fruit crop as much. By mid-spring, it is obvious which branches are producing fruit and which are not, so productive branches can be saved.

Fruit will have the most flavor if it is allowed to ripen on the tree and eaten right away. But, it will store longer if it is picked before it is fully ripe. When ripe, the green background color will change to yellow. For red fruit, look at the bottom of the fruit to see the background color.
Another test for ripeness is to push on the fruit to check for softness. Ripe fruit will be considerably softer than green fruit. A ripe peach or nectarine will dent easily with a fingertip. For apples and pears, a piece of skin is peeled off and a special pressure guage is used to test for firmness.

To harvest fruit easily without bruising or damaging it, put your thumb next to the stem and wrap your fingers around the fruit. Lift and rotate the fruit so the stem is bent. If the fruit stem doesn't separate easily from the tree, the fruit is still green.

All of us at Trees "R" Us, Inc. wish you a bountiful growing season.  You can look to Trees "R" Us, Inc., for sprays, fertilizer, and a plant health care regimen.  As the premier tree service on the north shore area of Chicago, you can trust your trees to Trees "R" Us, Inc.

Contact us at or at 847-913-9069 or at

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