When deciduous fruit trees such as peach, plum, apricot and apple lose their leaves in the winter, they become dormant. At this time of year they can be easily planted due to this dormancy. Not only are these trees perfect additions for the season, but now is the best time to prune and care for them.
• First, consider how big you want your tree and how much space your yard allows. Most nurseries carry semi-dwarf trees, but trees vary by variety. You’ll need a minimum of eight feet between them.
• Pick the variety based on your location within the county. Your local garden center will know which fruit trees are best suited to your chilling hours.
• Amend the soil with an organic planting mix and mix in a starter fertilizer at the same time. Make a soil “well” around the base of the tree to hold three to four inches of water.
• Fruit trees should be planted in full sun. Once the tree begins to leaf out, feed with an organic fruit tree fertilizer every three months until late summer.
• Deep water once every seven to 10 days. Do not keep soil constantly wet.
• In winter, once leaves have dropped, prune any dead branches, those that cross over others, grow toward the center of the tree, or any branch not growing upward in at least a 45 degree angle — these will break when fruit matures.
• Be sure to rake up old dead leaves and discard in trash. There may be fungus spores or insect eggs that could harm your trees if left to compost.
• After you clean up, use a dormant copper fungicide spray following the directions on the label.
• Do not use copper spray on apricots as this may cause fruit not to set.
Gary Jones is the chief horticulturalist at Armstrong Garden Centers. Email him your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.