November and the months before March are an ideal time to plant fruit trees. Now that the leaves are off the trees, and the earth isn’t too cold, roots can set themselves with no burden of feeding the tree. And in northern latitudes fruit trees are deciduous, they shed their leaves in winter.
Why plant fruit trees?
Besides the fact that many are very beautiful they’re also extremely useful and help us to make our personal contribution to reducing climate change. Fruit, or for that matter vegetables, grown on our own bit of land decrease CO2 emissions. Avoiding delivery from far flung orchards or remote countries means no use of oil and no greenhouse gases.
In my own little garden the fruit tree of most significance is my Bramley apple. This is big enough to sit in the summer, provide wonderful blossom in spring and a big and dependable crop of cooking apples every fall. All winter I will watch birds going onto it and through it to get a seemingly inexhaustible source of food. What more could anyone ask from one tree?
The array of fruit trees acceptable for a garden is monumental. Most kinds of fruit, be they apples, pears, cherries, plums, damsons or gages are grafted onto rootstocks to restrain their heights. This is a procedure where the surface of the tree, over the graft, is the variety you would like because of its fruit but the base, below the graft, has been selected for its vigour. The same selection, a Bramley apple for example, may be available on very dwarf, dwarf, semi dwarf, semi vigorous or vigorous rootstock letting you choose the one that suits your garden best. Moreover you will find trees trained at the nursery to offer unique shapes such as cordons, espaliers, lovers, stepovers and ballerinas. Cordons, lovers and espaliers are trained apartment to offer modest trees useful as a hedge or trained on a wall. Stepovers are so low you could literally border a garden bed together and ballerinas give tall thin trees. Whichever form you choose is very likely to be offered in a massive assortment of apples. The other fruit, pears etc., are also likely to be offered in a substantial number of varieties. So how would you opt for the sort of fruit to suit you?
This of course is a very private issue. To consider just apples, there are plenty of factors, beginning with taste. This is entirely a private matter but such issues as time of fruiting, ease of growing (some varieties are a lot more fussy and might need plenty of spraying to generate adequate crops – anathema to the natural gardener), whether cooking or dessert or both, ease of storage and pollination group ought to be considered. Get these incorrect and you might have lots of years to regret your mistake.
The ideal place to begin is with a gardening book and one or more catalogues. There are lots of reliable nurseries with free catalogues of fruit trees that have been developed from early times to the present. But before you begin to look at them you’d be well advised to consider which varieties taste best. Then the final size of this tree and the pollination group. Some trees are self pollinating but most will require another tree flowering at the same time if they are to produce fruit. Some really, like my Bramley, need two additional pollinators flowering at exactly the exact same time and these would normally must be within around 100metres of my tree for the bees to travel between them. In cities or close orchards this is seldom a problem but with much more distant gardens you might need to plant more than 1 tree to get decent amounts of fruit. Again a fantastic book and a good catalogue can help you out here.
After you’ve planted your tree do not expect a harvest for the first year. If it produces a little one that you should probably remove it when you find the fruit set and leave the tree to gather its strength during that first year. Water it well in dry spells during the first two or three summers and get ready to wrestle with the joys of pruning. It’s quite possible to have plants without pruning but better crops produced more often, ie yearly rather than every two decades, are more likely if you learn the beginnings of this art.