Growing Fruit Trees
Fruit trees need suitable climates, well-drained soil, proper planting, and maintenance throughout the season. It takes some planning and work to get them established, but once you do it's a joy to pick fruit fresh from the garden. Here's how to create your very own home orchard.
> Site considerations
> How to choose a fruit tree
> Growing + Grow sheets
> Pruning + Pruning tips
> Fruit thinning
> Pests & diseases
> Harvest & storage
There are many things to consider when deciding which fruit trees are a good match for your garden, including:
• Careful evaluation of your microclimate
• Chill hours available (see below)
• Soil quality
• Access to water
• Protecting fruit from wildlife
Learn more about site considerations.
The best way to assure success is to choose fruit trees that work in your microclimate, and to grow them in the conditions they need. One important consideration is the number of chill hours required. Fruit trees (except citrus) need a specific number of cumulative hours of chilling (temperatures between 32°F and 45°F) to break winter dormancy. This varies by variety.
Learn more about selecting fruit trees.
All edible plants require proper preparation and planting, and fruit trees are no exception. Fruit trees need proper spacing to avoid crowding and other problems. To get them off to a good start, make sure you follow guidelines for proper planting and handling.
Learn more about fruit tree preparation and planting.
Tap into our full Grow Sheet Library or click on the individual trees below to learn how to grow healthy trees for sweet, delicious fruit for years to come.
Pruning is different for every type of fruit tree. Most fruit trees benefit from summer and winter pruning. Refer to our full Pruning Library or click on the individual trees below for detailed tips, techniques, and timing.
Benefits of pruning fruit trees
• Controls size for easier harvesting and care
• Increases strength so weight of the fruit doesn't break branches.
• Distributes sunlight evenly throughout tree
• Regulates fruit bearing by removing excess fruitwood
• Renews fruitwood to continue strong buds and flowers
• Removes undesirable wood such as dead, broken, diseased, and crossing branches.
Use this maintenance schedule, which provides fruit tree care by type of tree and time of year.
Without pollination, flowers may bloom abundantly but will not bear fruit. To avoid this frustration, learn your fruit tree's pollination requirement. This will vary depending on your tree, climate, and regional conditions. Refer to nursery literature, books, and University of California pollination information.
Specialized fruit tree fertilizers can be purchased at nurseries. Be sure to follow all instructions. Do not add more fertilizer to help your tree “grow faster.” Excess fertilizer could damage your tree or get washed away in storm drains. Learn more about fertilizing fruit trees.
Fruit trees often produce more fruit than the branches can hold when young, and more fruit than the tree can support as it matures. Thinning fruit or removing extra fruit when the fruit is small is key to harvesting good-sized fruit. The amount of fruit to thin depends on the species and the overall fruit load on the tree.
Stone fruits produce one fruit per bud:
• Apricots and plums are fairly small, so they should be thinned to 2 to 4 inches apart on the branch.
• Peaches and nectarines should be thinned to about 3 to 5 inches.
• If excessive fruit have been set, more thinning may be required.
• If the fruit load is light, but one or two branches have a large amount of fruit, less thinning is required.
Pome fruits (apples and pears) produce a cluster of flowers and fruit from each bud:
• Thin to no more than one to two fruit per cluster, depending on the total fruit set and growing conditions.
• Retain the largest fruit whenever possible.
• When the crop is heavy, fruit should be spaced no less than 6 to 8 inches apart.
Learn more about thinning fruit trees.
If you eat a delicious peach and decide to plant the seed, you will be disappointed. Fruit trees require propagation by budding and grafting, which assures quality fruit plus disease resistance and other traits. Budded and grafted fruit trees are available bareroot in winter.
Learn more about fruit tree propagation.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) encourages natural predators to control pests in your garden or orchard. Nature provides a balance between plant pests and the beneficial insects that control these pests. The less we do to tamper with that balance, the more likely it is to work successfully. How does it differ from organic gardening? Proponents of IPM are not opposed to the use of chemical controls, but use them only when necessary and only in amounts and with proper timing to minimize a negative effect on the beneficial bugs in the garden.
Learn more about managing fruit tree pests and diseases and common pests and diseases of individual fruit trees.
Learn more about home orchards
Learn more about individual fruit trees