How to Grow Fruit Trees

Indulge in the satisfaction of growing your own juicy fruit! Adding fruit trees to your garden not only brings beauty but also provides a delicious bounty of fresh produce. Even in limited space, incorporating fruit trees is easier than you might think.
 

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Peach isolated Growing Fruit Trees
Prime Planting Time

Nurseries and garden centres typically stock new specimen fruit trees, particularly pip and stone varieties like apples and plums, from late May to late August.

Fruit trees can be planted at any time of the year when they are available, but ideally in autumn, winter, and early spring so they have time to establish their root system before the heat of summer. 

Ideal Planting Conditions: Soil, Site, and Sun 

Selecting the right spot for your fruit trees is crucial for their success. Here are three key factors to consider:

  • Soil Fruit trees thrive in well-drained soil. If your soil is not ideal, enhance drainage with Garden Time Compost, and you can also raise the height of the fruit tree when planting to avoid pooling around the trunk. 
  • Shelter Select a warm, sheltered spot. Fruit trees only flower once a year and in a windy position, flowers can be blown off the tree, leading to poor fruit set.
  • Sun Fruit trees plenty of sun for maximum ripening of fruit to enhance the flavour. Choose a site that receives at least six hours of sunshine daily.
Selecting the Right Variety

It’s important to select vigorous young trees, avoiding older trees that may have been in a planter bag or pot for a couple of years. 

With many types of fruit trees to choose from it is very important to select varieties that will grow and fruit the best in your climate (see below). For instance, citrus varieties thrive in warmer regions, while some stone fruit require winter chilling for fruit to set. 

Pollination – Generally fruit trees are self-fertile with a few exceptions such as plums, nashis, pears, and cherries which require specific pollinators e.g. a second tree planted nearby to enable them to bear fruit (pollinate). Others are self-fertile and will fruit without a partner. Another exception is that some have separate male and female plants. Your local garden centre can guide you when you purchase.  

Fruiting – It can take two to three years before your fruit tree (depending on variety) is well established so don’t expect it to be laden with fruit immediately, but the beauty of fruit trees is that they bear fruit for many years. 


Some examples of what to grow where are:

Apples

Varieties to try: Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Little Rascals, Splendour, Teachers Pet.
Ideal Region: Suited for most parts of New Zealand.

Avocados

Varieties to try: Bacon, Fuerte , Hashimoto Hass (the most common variety and self-fertile), Reed.
Ideal Region: Best in frost-free areas of the North Island (Good shelter and free draining soil are important).

Cherries

Varieties to try: Dawson, Rainier (early to mid season), Lapins (mid season), Stella & Stella Cherry Compact Stella CT (good for smaller spaces and warmer climates).
Ideal Region: Need winter chilling and hot dry summers. Suited to the South Island.

Citrus Fruits

Varieties to try: Bearrs Lime, Cipo Orange, Sweetie (mandarin), Lemon Meyer, Tahitian Lime.
Ideal Region: Suited to warmer parts of the North Island and the northern parts of the South Island. May be grown in colder climates but will need protection. Read our How to Grow Citrus Guide for more varieties and information.

Feijoas

Varieties to try: Apollo, Arhart, Bambina™ (dwarf), Den’s Choice, Gemini, White or Golden Goose, Kakapo, Karamea, Marion Pounamu, Triumph, Unique, and Wikitu.
Ideal Region: Can be grown well in most parts of New Zealand apart from exceptionally cold climates where they will need protection.

Guavas

Cherry varieties (more frost hardy): Red Cherry (makes the finest jelly of any fruit), Yellow Cherry
Tropical varieties (exceptionally frost tender): Red Sensation, The Guava
Ideal Region: Suited to warmer parts of the North Island and the northern part of the South Island.

Kiwifruit

Varieties to try: Hayward (note: limited varieties available to PSA)
Ideal Region: Warmer parts of both North and South Islands.

Stone Fruit

Stonefruit includes peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots, plums etc.   

Apricot Varieties: Apricot Garden Annie (dwarf), Moorepark, Sundrop, Trevatt.
Ideal Region: Need winter chilling. Suited to central Otago, Nelson and the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand.

Nectarine Varieties: Fantasia, Goldmine, Nectarine Flavourzee (Dwarf), Red Gold, Snow Queen.
Ideal Region: Need winter chilling. In warmer climates, opt for low-chill nectarine varieties eg: Garden Delight (dwarf, self-fertile).

Peach Varieties: Bonanza (dwarf), Golden Queen, Honey Babe (dwarf), Spring Crest, Red Haven, Paragon.

Espaliering Fruit Trees

Espaliering fruit trees is an efficient solution to maximise available space. By training trees to grow vertically, even smaller gardens can grow delicious fruit. Read our guide here. 

Fruiting & Extending the Season

Keep the fruit coming all year round by planting a mix of varieties with different harvest times. Examples:

  • Apple – triple grafted (i.e. three varieties on one tree): Royal Gala (early fruiting), Red Delicious (mid-season fruiting), Braeburn/Granny Smith (late season fruiting).
  • Pear – double grafted for pollination and to spread the picking time: William Bon Chretien (early season fruiting), Doyenne du Comice (late season fruiting).
  • Plums – double grafted for pollination: Black Doris (early season fruiting) and Santa Rosa (late season fruiting).
  • Apricots – double grafted to spread harvesting time: Trevatt (early season fruiting) and Fitzroy (late season fruiting).
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Planting Fruit Trees in the Garden
  1. Soak the tree’s root ball in Garden Time Seafeed for 10-15 minutes before planting to reduce transplant shock. 
  2. Dig a hole twice as wide and as deep as the container the tree came in.
  3. Add a combination of Garden Time Compost and Daltons Premium Garden Mix to the hole and mix it well.
  4. At this point, you can also add in Garden Time Chicken and Sheep Pellets and a couple of Premium Planter Tabs for slow-release nutrients.
  5. Create a mound at the bottom in the middle where the tree’s root ball will sit.
  6. Place the tree in the hole, replace the soil around the root ball and pat it to make it compact and firm.
  7. The base of the tree stem should be slightly higher than ground level to prevent water from pooling around the trunk and causing rots.
  8. Water thoroughly after planting and apply a layer of Daltons Premium Mulch & Grow to control weeds and retain moisture.
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Planting Fruit Trees in Containers

Choosing the right container size, mix, and location is crucial for container-grown fruit trees. Ideally select dwarf varieties, opt for larger containers with proper drainage holes and use quality potting mix to support healthy growth.
Varieties for Containers: Citrus grow well in containers. Try red guava or dwarf Feijoa Bambina. See more dwarf varieties in the list above.

  1. Soak the tree’s root ball in Garden Time Seafeed for about 10-15 minutes before planting. 
  2. Partially fill your container with Garden Time Fruit & Citrus Mix.
  3. Place the tree in the container and adjust the mix under the plant until it is at the desired height.
  4. Fill the rest of the container to approximately 2cm from the top, gently tapping to ensure the mix distributes throughout the roots.  
  5. Apply a layer of Daltons Premium Mulch & Grow on top to protect the soil and keep moisture from evaporating. Alternatively, try our Daltons Avalanche Pebble 8-14mm or Fine Lime Chip to give an attractive finish.

 

 
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Fertilising Fruit Trees

For strong vigorous trees, feed with Garden Time Fruit & Citrus Fertiliser in early spring when plants are coming into growth. 

Timing

September to mid-December: Feed with Garden Time Fruit & Citrus Fertiliser or Daltons Premium Fruit & Citrus Fertiliser every 4-6 weeks.
December to January: Do not fertilise during summer. 
February to April: Feed every 4-6 weeks.

Applying fertiliser

When using fertiliser, always follow the quantities on the packet and water well so nutrients are washed down to the tree's roots. 

In the garden: Apply fertiliser around the ‘drip line’ of the tree branches, dig it in lightly. 

For pots/containers: Spread fertiliser evenly around the top of container avoiding direct contact with foliage and water well.

Watering Fruit Trees

Give your fruit trees a deep watering two to three times a week during the growing season which is around mid to late October till April/May. Remember that potted trees require more frequent watering, especially in the heat of summer. Keep a good layer of mulch around the tree to retain moisture, add nutrition and suppress weeds.

Pests and Diseases

Check trees regularly to head off any potential problems before they occur. Common fruit tree pests and diseases are leaf curl, brown rot, and codling moth. Read our Q&A’s for more fruit tree help.

Birds: Make sure birds don’t get to your fruit before you do by covering them with bird netting as it starts to ripen.

Natural growth marks: The big advantage of growing your fruit in your backyard is that they are homegrown and are tree-ripened for maximum flavour. Although some fruit may end up with the odd natural mark, they will still taste delicious!

General Care and Maintenance

A number of fruit tree varieties available have been grown on dwarf rootstock, which keeps the trees smaller and more accessible for pruning and collecting fruit, some examples being apples and citrus. 

Pruning
Regular pruning is essential for pip and stone fruit trees in your backyard orchard to maintain their size and health. Without it, they can become large, and difficult to harvest fruit or care for. Aim to keep trees around 4 meters tall. Pruning enhances sunlight exposure, aiding fruit ripening, and improves air circulation, which deters pests from affecting fruits or leaves.

Pruning tips: 

  1. Clean your pruning tools thoroughly to prevent the spread of disease between trees. 
  2. Remove spindly (smaller than pencil or finger size) growth and any inward-growing branches (or where they are crossing over).
  3. Thin out any obvious overcrowding of branches to improve airflow and light penetration within the canopy.
  4. After pruning, apply a copper compound like Copper Oxychloride to create a protective barrier against various fungal diseases.
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Learn more about fruit trees with our Q&A section below.
FRUIT GARDENING Q&AS