Few plants offer a sweeter return on investment than fruit trees. To ensure that your newly planted fruit trees provide the nourishment you crave in the future, you’ve got to give them the best possible start. Growing fruit trees requires considerable commitment—but most good things in life do too! When planting your Southern California backyard orchard or just a single tree, be sure to avoid these common planting and care mistakes.
Poor planning is often the root of preventable problems. Before you pick out a tree and put it in the ground, take time to research carefully. Determine what types of trees are most likely to thrive in your microclimate. Moreover, carefully choose a planting site. This may require you to contact your local utilities to make sure you don’t plant above pipes or cables that could possibly be damaged by spreading tree roots.
Planting a seedling in summer can be stressful for most trees and shrubs, but given the hot temperatures in this part of the country, it can be doubly stressful for a planting. To give your fruit tree the best possible start, plant it on a dry day in winter. The ground should not be saturated with water.
Adding Fertilizer to the Soil
Many a novice gardener has sabotaged their new tree by adding fertilizer to the soil during the planting phase. Fertilizer is helpful to your fruit tree down the road after it has had a chance to establish itself in the soil. Fertilizing too soon can be detrimental to your tree’s root system as it forms.
Over-Watering / Under-Watering
Providing your fruit tree with an adequate supply of water—no more and no less—may seem like guesswork, but getting the watering part right is essential to the health of your tree, particularly as it attempts to establish itself in your landscape. Keep in mind that young trees do need extra water—and they’ll need extra water during periods of hot, dry weather. During the rainy season, you likely won’t have to irrigate—and probably shouldn’t. You don’t want your soil to be waterlogged or your tree’s roots can develop rot.
You will need to stake your new fruit tree. Some gardeners make the mistake of removing the stake from a tree that’s been grafted on dwarf rootstock; these trees should have a permanent stake support. On the other hand, a fruit tree with vigorous rootstock only needs to be staked until it is strong enough to support itself. Good staking prevents the tree’s roots from moving the trunk, which you don’t want. To ensure your tree grows straight and strong, stake it on the side of the prevailing wind; in other words, the tree should blow away from the stake.
Forgetting to Mulch
In most places, mulch is important, but in Southern California—it’s a must. Mulching ensures that your soil optimally retains nutrients and, so importantly, moisture. In Southern Cal’s arid climate, water will dissipate quickly into the air, but mulch keeps it locked into the soil, allowing the tree’s roots to have the time they need to adequately absorb it. Mulching also discourages opportunistic weeds and grass from competing for water and nutrients with your fruit tree. Opt for organic mulch materials for best results.
Get the best return on your tree investment by avoiding these mistakes. Your reward will be healthy fruit trees that deliver juicy fruit once they are mature.