Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Fruit & Nut Trees

Fruit Tree Site Selection

by National Gardening Association Editors

Most fruit trees need 8 hours of sun each day, so a planting site that receives full sun is your first priority. Early morning sun dries dew off the foliage quickly and minimizes diseases; midday and early afternoon sun improves fruit flavor. Plant fruit trees far enough from shade trees to provide adequate light and to minimize root competition. Your site should have good air drainage. Avoid low spots and areas enclosed by buildings or shade trees, where cold air settles, causing trees to suffer from winter cold and spring frost injury.

The North Slope

A north-facing slope or north side of a building is a good site for frost-sensitive crops such as peaches, Japanese plums, sweet cherries, and apricots. The shadow cast by the slope or building in winter keeps the plant cooler, which delays bud development and bloom in spring, while the higher summer sun angle provides enough light during the growing season. Fruit ripening will also be delayed on a north slope. A south-facing slope or wall hastens both bloom and harvest, and requires extra protection from frosts as well as from winter sunscald. In areas with short or frequently cloudy growing seasons, the hardier fruits (apples, pears, tart cherries, and European or American hybrid plums) do better on a south-facing slope or wall, which receives more intense light.

Fruit Trees in the Heat

Where summers are very hot and dry, avoid south or southwestern slopes, or give the trees plenty of irrigation. East- and west-facing slopes have intermediate effects. In areas with strong winds, choose a site protected by existing plantings or buildings, or plant a windbreak. Windbreak trees can also serve as border plantings or screens, provide shelter and nesting sites for insect-eating birds, and may lure pest birds away from your fruit trees. In addition to the right amount of sun and air, soil type should be a major consideration in choosing a site. Once you plant a fruit tree, it will remain in the same spot for many years, so it pays to examine and prepare soil carefully before you plant. Even if this means delaying tree planting by a year, you'll gain back that year in increased tree growth and health.

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