Selecting a proper planting site and placement are critical when planting fruit trees in the home garden.
While fruit trees can be grown on a wide range of soils, good soil drainage is imperative. Apples and other fruit trees do not tolerate well soils. Fruit trees planted in poorly drained soils grow poorly and often die within a few years. Well-drained soils allow for good root growth. Most fruit trees grow well in fertile soils with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. If possible, conduct a soil test before planting to access the nutrient status and pH of the soil. If the soil test reveals nutrient deficiencies or a pH problem, they can be corrected before planting.
Because of space restrictions, planting sites are often limited in a home garden. Select a site that receives full sun. Fruit trees require at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. Avoid sites shaded by large trees.
When planting fruit trees, position the graft union (denoted by a crook in the trunk) 2 to 3 inches above the soil surface for dwarf and semi-dwarf trees. The dwarfing characteristic of the fruit tree is induced by the rootstock or portion below the graft union. If the graft union is planted below the soil surface, the trunk area above the graft (scion) may root. When this occurs, the dwarfing effect of the rootstock is lost. Winter injury may occur if more than 2 to 3 inches of the area below the graft union is exposed. Standard-sized fruit trees may be planted with the graft union 1 to 2 inches below the ground since the rootstock doesn't possess dwarfing characteristics. Planting trees too deeply can also cause problems.
This article originally appeared in the April 5, 1996 issue, p. 45.