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fruit trees

fruit trees


fruit trees

Choosing a site

The best sites for fruit crops have well drained, fertile soils, protection from wind, good air drainage and full sun. A gentle slope with 6-8 hours of full sun per day is ideal. Good air flow will moderate frosts and fungal diseases.

South facing slopes are good for ripening and making fruit sugars. Apricots and peaches may be challenged with such a slope as the warmth can cause them to break dormancy too early. A less sunny slope may delay the flowering of peaches and apricots just enough for them to avoid late frosts.

Soil PH should be between 5.5 and 7.5, towards the lower end for apples, the higher end for say peaches and the middle for everyone else.

Try to avoid planting beneath power lines for down the road they may interfere with one another.

General Planting

Dig a hole that is twice as wide and about as deep as the root system in planting bare root trees. For potted trees dig a hole that is slightly larger and deeper than the pot. Loosen up the soil at the bottom of the hole, removing any large rocks. Add in any soils amendments such as rock minerals or Elmore Roots Successful Tree Planting mix and mix in with the soil in the hole. Fill the hole with the native soil packing with your heel the layers of soil as they go back in. Planting slightly deeper than soil level and leaving a slight depression will create a tree well which will facilitate rain water collection and your hand watering. Creating a berm around each tree with the sod from each hole will allow the water to seep down to the roots and not run off.

It is good to plant on cool days in the early morning or late afternoon. For bare root plants soak the roots in a bucket of water with some liquid seaweed up to 24 hours before planting. With potted stock water well with liquid seaweed before and after planting.

Generally trees should be planted an inch or two deeper than were grown at the nursery.

It is important to keep your trees well watered throughout the first season after planting. They require the equivalent of 1-2” of rain per week. A good soaking is effective;sprinkling is not.


It is good to keep weeds and especially grass away from new trees. You can apply a 2-4” mulch of compost, leaves, wood ships or hay out as far as the drip line. Keep mulch back several inches from the tree trunks, you don't want the trunk to rot or voles to take up residence there. Mulch encourages earthworms, holds moisture, keeps down weeds, insulates against excessive heat or cold, aerates and loosens the soil, builds humus and fertilizes feeder roots, 90% of which are within the 6” of surface soil.


Newly planted standard size fruit trees seldom need staking. If your tree is in a very windy site or develops a leaning habit, staking may help. Drive a stout post near the tree. To tie, use a webbing made for trees or a piece of rope threaded through an old piece of hose to protect the tree against abrasion. Once the roots are well anchored the stake can be removed. It might be beneficial to mark small trees or new plantings with a small stake that has a ribbon or flagging attached. This will alert operators of lawn mowers, tractors or other vehicles.

It is very important to check the tie each spring and loosen as needed.

Mouse/Vole Protection

Fruit tree are sometimes girdled by nice or voles eating the bark. Girdling can kill or severally damage a tree. The danger is greatest in winter. We provide each of our potted trees with a metal screen as guard against rodent damage. This screen can be left on year round but should be removed to inspect the trunk and adjust for growth at least once a year.

Deer Protection

Deer love fruit trees and can severely damage a new planting if not protected. Knowing your location and deer traffic in the area will make you more aware of potential threat to you new trees. There are numerous ways to approach deer protection and depending on the severity of deer pressure you may be able to simply use a scent barrier such as 'Plant Pro Tec' garlic clips or in more extreme situations fencing the entire planting may be necessary.

Apple Borer

In many parts of northern New England the round headed apple tree borer is a significant pest of young apple and crabapple trees.

The borer beetle lays its eggs under the bark near the base of the tree. The developing larvae spend the next 3 years tunneling through and eventually weakening the tree until it snaps or falls over. The trouble sign is a stressed tree and small deposits of orange sawdust, called frass, at the base of the tree, usually appearing in June or July.

The metal screen provided with each of our trees should help to protect your apple tree from the borer. Be sure to remove the screen once or twice a year to check for potential borers.

If evidence of borer activity is present using a sharp knife or tool slowly cut back at the area where you see the frass. Slowly follow the borers tunnel until you find and can remove the grub. Go slowly in attempt to do as little damage as possible to your tree.

Pruning Fruit Trees

Avoid pruning young trees, except to establish basic shape. Pruning young trees delays establishment and bearing. On apples and pear trees allow a central leader to establish itself and grow. It is ok to cut off extra trunks and large branches. Always remove suckers and root shoots from fruit trees. On plums the tree may want to develop 2-4 leaders, or an open vase shape. Always prune just above a good strong bud that faces the direction that you'd like your tree to grow.

Once a tree begins to bear it will want to be pruned annually. Good pruning allows for a good amount of sunlight to reach all parts of your tree. Maximum sunlight encourages more and higher quality fruit. A well pruned tree will produce larger fruit and encourage annual bearing.

Pruning should be done in late winter/ early spring, while the trees are still dormant.

Highly vigorous trees can be summer pruned to check persistent water sprouts. This should be done in early July, when growth has not yet hardened off fully.


Think seriously about establishing the long-term shape of your apple tree when it is young. Think about form and function. Look to establish a branching structure to let in air and light but also be able to support a heavy fruit load with little branch damage. It is recommended to establish the lowest scaffold of branches 4-6 feet from the ground for ease of mowing and mulching.


There are many types of apples with a diversity of flavors.

Summer apples ripen in the summer, are generally crisp only for a short period, do not keep well and are often the best for cooking.

Fall apples store longer and are useful for a wide variety of purposes. These are the traditional eat out of hand varieties.

Winter apples ripen mid to late fall, store well and reach their best flavor after weeks or even months of storage.

For pollination apples need another apple tree of a different variety. Crab apples, neighboring apple trees and even wild ones on the back 40 will be fine for cross pollination, as long as they are within 100' or so of each other, or bee flight for distance.

Our apple trees are grafted onto standard rootstock, most often Antanovka. Standard trees tend to have deep, substantial and therefore hardier root systems. They are stronger against wind, winter temperatures, often more resistant to disease and longer lived. Standard trees can grow to be 20-25 feet tall but can be pruned to a smaller size.

Though standard trees may be planted as close as 10-15 feet apart, we generally recommend 20-25ft which is close to standard orchard spacing.


Many pear varieties are hardy in our northern climate but sometimes take longer to bear than apples.

Pears need another of a different variety for pollination. Pear blossoms are less attractive to bees than apple blossoms and should be planted a little closer to ensure pollination (15-20 feet apart). It is very helpful to have a 3rd, different variety in the same planting.

Pears require less pruning than apples. Their growth habit is columnar rather than spreading. Caution against heavy pruning as such with a apples tree as it will encourage heavy suckering. Prune to eliminate crossing branches and dead wood. If possible keep the tree to one central leader.


All types of plums are small trees, seldom reaching more than 15 feet at maturity. They make a great fruit tree for tight quarters. Plums tend to flower earlier than other fruit trees often before the threat of hard frosts have past. Late spring freezes are a hazard for plums, sometimes freezing flowers and flower buds. Due to this nature fruit set every season is not guaranteed.

American crosses

Due to the tight branching structure of these trees and their open vase like structure it is recommended to plant them in a grove. This allows the branches of the trees to intertwine for group support and helps them get pollinated. Trees can be spaced 6-15 feet apart.

To get good fruit set studies have shown that having a few seedlings or Native plums in the grove may benefit in pollination. There are also some varieties, such as Toka, which are noted for being pollinators.

Plums are susceptible to a small pesky insect, the Plum Curcullio. If the tree sets heavy enough crop then giving up some of them to the plum curculio may not be an issue but control of the insect can be done organically with an application of kaolin clay (trade name Surround). Years ago growers would lay a sheet out under the trees in June and tap the tree trunks with a rubber mallet. The curculios would drop from the trees and be easily visible on the white sheet. The sheets would then be removed and shaken out.

European Types

Also called prune plums. European plums tend to produce smaller fruit and the trees are more temperamental to soil conditions and are not as hardy. Unlike the hybrid types they can sometimes be self fertile but planting another of a different variety is recommended. Lacking the hybrid characteristics of the American type plums, Europeans are more susceptible to the fungal disease Black Knot (seen in our native cherry populations in the wild. Black Knot should be cut out and burned to control the disease. In some areas black knot is prevalent but our potted trees are free of it.


The varieties that are hardy in our northern climate are also called 'Pie Cherries' or sour cherries. Unlike the sweet dark ones offered for sale at the store, these fruits are a bright red and tart. Cherries are self fertile so you only need to plant one but you will wish you had more.

These trees, like plums, tend to flower early and so their buds or flowers can be damaged by spring frosts. Because of this tendency we recommend planting them in a more protected site that may insulate the ground from early spring warmth and delay flowering.

All of the varieties we offer, with the exception of Montmorency (see below) are small trees. The reach a mature height of 10-15 feet. They should be planted 10-15 feet apart. The should be only lightly pruned, removing crossed branches and dead wood.

Montmorency cherry can grow considerably larger at maturity, about 20 feet. Spacing between this variety should be 25 feet. Orchard Mason bees are primary cherry pollinators and should be encouraged by providing habitat and nesting sites.

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Text by Effie Elfer - Fruit Drawings by Gabe Tempesta
Text and fruit drawings © 2009 Elmore Roots

Elmore Roots Nursery, LLC - 802-888-3305 - elmoreroots.com