When to plant and prune fruit trees

There’s something so satisfying about planting your own fruit trees. Not only are they a beautiful addition to your garden, but they‌ ‌are also great for the environment while providing you with the freshest, chemical-free fruit. After all, you can’t get much fresher fruit than being picked straight from your garden!

Add in the fact that most standard fruit trees are reasonably easy to grow, and they make one of the best ways to spruce up your outdoor space, which will help leave a positive legacy for your outdoor space for generations to come.

Ready to get planting? We stock a wide variety of fruit trees to choose from based on your personal preferences here at Gardeners Dream.

Apple tree with 3 ready to pick red apples

When to plant fruit trees

So, first things first – planting your tree! When is the best time of the year to plant in order to get the most out of your tree and its fruits?

When to plant your fruit tree can vary from species to species but, generally speaking, it is recommended to plant after leaf fall, in the transition from winter to spring.

Planting in December through to March offers the ideal time period to allow your tree to settle and grow before spring, though your tree has the potential to do well when planted up until May.

How to plant fruit trees

Lemon tree with lemons

You should aim to plant your fruit tree immediately after receiving it. If this isn’t possible you should soak the roots of your tree in a bucket of water, then leave to stand away from frost for no longer than a week before planting it.

When planting, select your area carefully. Your tree will need a good amount of sun, light and air, and will need enough room to allow for growth over the years. You will need to dig a hole for your tree that is at least three times the size of the roots of the tree.

Hammer a stake into the hole, position your tree, and then fill in the soil before securing the tree to the stake for support. This support should be left in place for at least two years while your tree is established.

Water your tree thoroughly after you have first planted it, and ensure it is kept well watered throughout the first year as it establishes in the ground.

When to prune fruit trees 

Pruning a fruit tree is vital, as it will help to control growth and keep it healthy through the removal of old, damaged wood or dead wood. Pruning will also help establish the shape of the tree and makes it easier for you to keep on top of maintenance in future years.

The best time to prune fruit trees will vary from tree to tree – it all depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. For example, winter pruning will encourage growth in your tree come spring, while spring and summer pruning can discourage growth.

When to prune apple trees

Flowering apple tree with pink flowers

If you’re looking for when to prune apple trees in the UK, you’re best off waiting until winter, before the new season’s fruit growth. Try to hold off on autumn pruning as the best period is a winter prune between November and March.

When to prune pear trees

A pear is a pome fruit, the same as an apple, so again a pear tree will best benefit from winter pruning (November-March). You can also carry out light pruning or general maintenance over the summer months if needed.

When to prune plum trees

Plums are a Prunus species, also known as stone fruit. These trees are best pruned lightly in summer, just before or after flowering. You should avoid pruning plum trees in winter, as this can open up the risk of infection from silver leaf disease in Prunus species. If you’re dealing with an especially young tree, carry out your pruning slightly earlier, in the spring and before the tree has flowered.

When to prune cherry trees

Cherry trees, again, are stone fruit, so the same rules apply when it comes to pruning. Opt for light pruning in the summer months, removing any dead or damaged leaves or branches in the process.

Pruning fruit trees

For the first three years, while your tree is still young and growing, the main aim of fruit tree pruning is to encourage growth and increase the scaffold strength of your tree.

While your tree is new it is important to minimise the rubbing and crossing over of branches, so you will need to establish a central branch and remove any branches growing too close together or crossing over. That’s because overcrowding can limit fruit growth.

The idea with initial ‌pruning is to allow airflow and maximum light to hit priority branches, in order to encourage maximum fruit growth.

After around three years your tree will have reached a level of maturity and strength. At this point, pruning will be required to remove old or dead branches, helping to maintain the shape and health of your tree.

Pruning fruit trees’ top tips

  • Prune your trees when they are dormant (without foliage), as it will be easier to see the overall shape of your tree and where branches or fruit buds need to be removed.
  • Look for any wood that is diseased, dead or damaged, and remove these with sharp shears. Next, look to see if any sprouts are growing from the trunk base or the main branches of your tree, and remove these.
  • When cutting off old or dead branches, ensure you are cutting flush to the main body of the tree and not leaving small stumps behind. Look out for lateral branches.
  • Once you have removed damaged or dead branches, look for any crossing branches or growing downwards – these will affect airflow to your tree and hinder fruit production.
  • You should aim for branches that are evenly spaced and growing from the centre of the tree in a fan-like arrangement. Keep the healthiest-looking branches, and those with a 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock angle from the centre of your tree, as these will be the least likely to break.
  • Finally, you should trim back your branches in order to encourage them to grow thicker – thinner branches run the risk of snapping under the weight of the fruit. You should aim to cut back around 20 to 30 per cent of last year’s growth, from the tip of each branch.

Enjoying your fruit tree

There are many tree types to choose from which you’ll find here at Gardeners Dream. Some offer privacy for your garden, and others add plenty of colour and foliage.

With a fruit tree, the main benefit is the delicious produce you’ll get every so often, depending on the variety you opt for. So how can you enjoy these fruits?

Eat the fruit

Sure, you could just buy your fruit from a supermarket. But imagine growing your own fruit and veg? When you own a fruit tree, you’re halfway there!

Someone picking up a plum tree

Aside from the cost-saving benefits, it’s so satisfying to pick fruit and vegetables from your own garden. This is especially the case since you’ve followed the fruit through the whole journey of its life.

Remember, in a supermarket, you only see the end of the journey – you have no way of knowing how the fruit was grown or stored. But when the fruit has come from your garden, you can control the soil conditions, and ensure no nasty chemicals are added to the fruits.

If that wasn’t enough, by growing your own fruit, you also eliminate all the food miles associated with growing that fruit. By planting a variety of fruits, you can also pick your fruits over many seasons, making your garden even kinder to the environment.

Make a crumble

There are several varieties of fruit trees we stock that are strong contenders to make a delicious crumble. Apple, blackberry, cherry and plum definitely spring to mind!

Now while we’ll need to leave the pastry and custard to you, the juicy fruits you can grow from any of our trees will certainly bring flavour to this most sumptuous of pudding ideas.

As well as stone fruit trees, you may also want to plant a nice patch of rhubarb. Apple and rhubarb crumble anyone?!

Share with the neighbours

For those who are on good terms with their neighbours, or even those who would like to be, handing them some fruit from your garden is a wonderful ice breaker. Sharing fruit harks back to the days when neighbours truly had good bonds, and can make for a very thoughtful gift.

Great for local wildlife

Bee in a pink flower covered in polen

Think it’s just you who enjoys a nice bite of some fresh fruit? Birds and other local wildlife will also be delighted at being provided such a tasty treat in the form of fruit from your tree.

In particular, berries provide plenty of nutrients, while apples which have fallen to the ground will certainly receive many a beak peck.

Also, if you are particularly keen on attracting local wildlife into your garden, we have a pets and wildlife section to explore too.

Fruit trees FAQs

When to Prune fruit trees in the UK?

As noted above, we’ve listed the best time to prune fruit trees depending on the species of fruit tree you have. Remember, neglected trees, overgrown trees, diseased branches or dying branches will make it less likely your fruit tree will continue to bear fruit. So we recommend regularly inspecting your tree to ensure it’s healthy, which will encourage new growth.

How long do apple trees take to grow?

Apple trees can take around six years to reach maturity. During this time, they can grow to be very tall. Therefore, it’s always best to plant young trees somewhere in your garden that offers plenty of clearance for the growing branches.

What is the easiest apple tree to grow?

The easiest apple to grow also happens to be one of the tastiest varieties! That is the Golden Delicious Apple Tree. This particular variety enjoys full sun or partial shade. It thrives when planted in fertile, well-drained soil.

Which fruit tree grows the fastest?

Plum trees are known to be some of the fastest-growing fruit trees in existence. We stock many varieties of delicious plum trees including Czar Plum Trees, Victoria Plum Trees and the Old Greengage Plum Tree which happens to be a great option if you’re in search of both a plum you can eat and also cook.

What trees are dwarf?

Short of space in your garden? There are a variety of fruit trees to choose from, all have different sizes. However, if the tree size is a concern, then you may wish to opt for a dwarf tree variety, also known as patio trees.

What is the best fertiliser for fruit trees?

We stock plenty of tree fertiliser here at Gardeners Dream for fruit trees including for apples and pears. We recommend choosing the right type of fertiliser (i.e. tree or plant) for the best results. As always, if you’d like some tailored advice based on the tree type and your soil conditions, please get in touch.

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