What to Look for when Buying a Tree

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Although the process of growing and caring for a tree is generally
challenging and even difficult at times, sometimes one of the hardest
parts is choosing which kind you want. You have to choose between the many
sizes, fruit, and other attributes. The different sizes include: dwarf,
semi-dwarf, and standard. Your choice can affect everything about your
growing experience, including the amount of work you have to put in and
the amount of rewards (fruit) you will obtain.

Dwarf trees are ideal if you only have a limited amount of open space in
your yard. They take up as little as only as eight-foot diameter plot of
land. Although the dwarf fruit trees are smaller than the others, their
fruit is just the same size and the shortness makes them easier to prune
and harvest. Dwarf fruit trees aren’t known for living quite as long as
larger fruit trees. They begin to bear fruit after three to five years, so
if you are going to buy a dwarf fruit tree from a nursery you should
always check and see how old it is.

Semi-dwarf trees are medium sized, and when they are full grown they take
up a fifteen-foot diameter. Semi-dwarf fruit tree's height can range from
as low as ten feet to as high as sixteen feet. To keep them from getting
to large you should prune them at least once a year. Occasionally
semi-dwarf fruit trees take a season off and produce little or no fruit,
but mostly they produce hundreds of fruit every year. Many people enjoy
having semi dwarf fruit trees because they produce more fruit than a dwarf
tree, and they are generally easier to harvest and maintain than a
standard fruit tree.

Standard sized fruit trees take up much more area the then any of the
smaller tree varieties, and they are also harder to keep manageable and to
harvest all of the fruit. If you do not prune them at least once a year
they can grow as large as thirty feet. If you are just looking for a good
tree to provide you with plenty of delicious fruit from and to keep your
yard shady, a standard sized tree would be the perfect tree for you.
Standard sized fruit trees take a very long time to reach their full
height, but they usually begin to bear fruit after only three to five
years.

The best variety of fruit tree to buy would be one that carries fruit and
does well in your area, because a local fruit tree takes less work and
grows the best. Although fruit trees bearing other, more exotic kinds of
fruit may seem more exciting, they usually won't grow as well in your
area. That’s not to say it’s impossible. You can definitely try to grow a
more exotic tree, but it will take much more commitment and time.

Another factor involved in deciding on a type of tree is what kind of soil
you have, because some trees do better in damp soil while others are
better suited for drier soil. If it rains often in your area you would do
well to plant a plum tree. But if you do not get very much rain you would
do better to plant a pear tree or an apple tree. Before choosing which
type of fruit tree you would like, consult your local nursery or gardening
guru to find out which trees would do well in your area.

Other things that you should look for while looking for a fruit tree at
the nursery are things like how sturdy it is, if all of the branches are
evened out, how straight the tree stands, the condition of the roots that
support the tree, the length of the stem, and the height of the fruit from
the ground. Making a careful and deliberate decision can mean the
difference between having the stunted fruit from your lopsided tree being
eaten by animals all day long.

Shaping Trees for Different Situations

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Through the use of pruning techniques, it is possible to shape your tree to a certain style. There are seven main tree shapes that all have their own benefits for certain situations. During the growth of the tree, simply cut off the unneeded branches, tie the wanted branches into the proper shape, and you will be able to shape it however you want. However, for some of the more advanced shapes, equally advanced pruning techniques are required. There are many books written on this subject.

Usually, if you’re trying to get your tree to a certain shape, all the tying and pruning should occur in the fall. This will encourage the shape to stick, since no fruits will be produced at that point in time. Each of the different shapes is very useful in certain situations. So, here are some different types of shapes you are able to choose from.

Standard trees hardly need any explanation. These are the varieties that are most common, and probably what you picture when you think of any tree. No specific shaping is required to get the shape to take this form. Just let it go and prune it as you would normally, and unless you have a strangely deformed tree then it should end up being a standard tree.

It is possible to turn a standard tree into a bush tree through pruning. The branches take the same shape, but the stem or trunk of the tree is noticeably shorter. This can be beneficial if you want to grow trees, but don’t want to block the view. For example, my house has a great view of the Rocky Mountains. I didn’t want to sacrifice this gorgeous view, so I grew my trees up as bush trees.

Cordons are a type of tree that you might not be familiar with. It consists of one stem with no branches. It is planted at an angle so that it arches up over the ground. Through the course of its growth, all branches are removed. These are beneficial because they take up very small amounts of space and more can be fit in a certain square footage. The only negative aspect is that they produce smaller amounts of fruit per tree.

Espalier trees grow with a single vertical stem in the center, and several horizontal branches on each side. These allow for long rows of trees, while still producing large amounts of fruit. If you operate an orchard, you probably use this shape to fit as many trees as possible into the area you have.

Fan trees use the same theory as espalier trees. However, the shape is slightly different. The same central vertical stem is used, but the connected branches are not horizontal; they grow in the same pattern as a standard tree, only they are two dimensional rather than three dimensional. They are also used to save space, and are used instead of espalier trees for certain types of trees that do better with sloped branches.

Another type of espalier is the step-over espalier. They are like a normal espalier, but with just one horizontal branch very close to the ground. They are particularly interesting because they still produce delicious fruit while providing a border for whatever you want. I have used step-over trees to fence of my garden. They are definitely my favorite shape of tree, mainly because they are like a fence that bears fruit. What’s not to love?

As you can see, each of these shapes has its own benefits and negative aspects as well. If any of these sounds like they would be a good fit for your garden, you can ask your local nursery employees for advice on reading material that will help you achieve your goals. Most of the time, getting the tree into the desired shape is a very easy process and just requires some guidance at the beginning.

Starting an Orchard

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If you have a large amount of land that you have not put to use, you may consider planting an orchard. If you’ve had previous experiences with planting and maintaining trees, that is an added reason why you would be perfect for maintaining an orchard. It might seem like an overwhelming thing to undertake, but it is actually fairly simple. All it takes is some commitment.

If you’ve never grown a tree on your property, you might not want to make the time and money investment of buying lots of trees. If you are inexperienced, you will want to start with just one or two trees so that you can get a feel for the growing process. Once you have seen one tree along all the way to adulthood successfully, you are probably experienced enough to handle multiple trees. You should never plant so many trees that you are going to be overwhelmed, though. Only plant what you can handle.

Generally if you are getting started on a large amount of trees, you will want them to all be the same type. If they all require the same amount of water and nutrients, you won’t have to spend as much time catering individually to the different types of tree. As an added benefit, you will become very familiar with the process of growing that specific tree. You won’t be overwhelmed by having many different types, but instead you will become a master of that specific type.

If you already have a tree growing on your property that you have maintained from its childhood, then you know that the soil is acceptable for that type of tree and ones similar to it. Since you’ve already been through the process of growing that type of tree before, you shouldn’t have any problem testing all of the soil to make sure it is similar to the segment you already planted on. Then it is just a matter of growing more trees and causing the process to be the same as it was before. Since you’ve already dealt with the same problems in the past, you probably have a good idea of how to deal with any pests that might come about during growth.

Generally in an orchard, the trees are planted in a row, then pruned to be in a two dimensional shape. This is known as either a fan or an espalier shape. There is one main branch in the center that is completely vertical, then multiple branches that go off to the side. If the side branches are horizontal it is known as an espalier. If they are sloped, it is known as a fan. Generally these 2 shapes are used in orchards because of how compact they are. By using them, you allow for many more trees to be in the certain amount of space. However, if land conservation is not an issue or you’re not looking to be efficient, you should probably stick with the traditional tree shape.

To aid in the watering of your trees, you should install either a sprinkler system or an irrigation system. The sprinklers require more maintenance, but if you dig an irrigation ditch then it is really easy to just run the faucet for a few minutes every day and reach all the trees. It’s just a matter of what you would prefer.

Once your tree collection starts to bear large amounts of fruit, you can consider starting a fruit stand or participating at the farmers market. Instead of letting the fruits go to waste or trying to eat them all (which can lead to some bad stomach aches), you can let the rest of the world enjoy the product of your intense labor. If you become a popular vendor, you might even make back a decent return on your investment. However, you can’t count on making very much money. Starting an orchard shouldn’t be a capitalistic investment. You should only start one if you have a passion for trees.

Dealing with Barren Trees

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One of the most frustrating things that can possibly happen to someone who has slaved for hours and hours in growing a fruit tree is the unexplainable barrenness that can sometimes occur when there should be a plethora of fresh fruit. I know this from experience. My neighbors all consider me the gardening guru because of my extensive knowledge. But this is only because gardening has been my passion for years and years, and like a sponge I have accumulated so much information in my mind. My learning has also come from past experiences with failure. For about 5 years after I started planting fruit trees, I did not see a single fruit for all my labor. I was nearly ready to give up, until I met who I think is truly the guru of gardening.

I was in the gardening store, looking for some sort of new fertilizer to put my hope in for my quest to obtain fruit. I don’t know if there was a look of desperation in my eyes, but a kindly old man came up and started speaking with me. He introduced himself as Ralph, and for some reason I opened up to him and told him about all of my difficulties. I’ve never been the type to spill all my problems on anyone who asks, but Ralph seemed like such a nice fellow that I just couldn’t help it. And I’m glad I did, because what he taught me truly helped me to get my fruit trees in gear and start producing.

I learned that generally, the inability to produce can be caused by a number of factors. Sometimes the tree is simply too young; If your tree is less than four years old, you shouldn’t exactly expect it to be producing yet. If it has reached 4 years and you still have seen no sign of fruit, then you should start to consider other factors that might be causing the barrenness.

If the tree is undergoing any type of water stress (this can be poor drainage, too much water, or too little water), then it will have trouble growing. If you suspect this is the case, you should evaluate your own watering techniques and compare them with the needs of the tree to see if you are causing water stress. Also always be on the lookout for any diseases or pest damages. If your tree is constantly being molested by all kinds of little creatures, then you can’t expect it to be lively enough to produce fruit.

If your tree blooms but still doesn’t produce any fruit, this could be because of cold temperatures during the bloom. The coldness damaged the flower bud or damaged the baby fruit. Aesthetically the tree may look fine, but the inside could be damaged beyond any hope of ever seeing fruit. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do in this case except for wait until next year and hope that it doesn’t happen again.

If the tree’s pollination process has not been fully completed, it could have troubles growing fruit. If you planted different varieties, you may find that the requirements are different than you had originally thought and they were incompatible. In this case you need to replant the correct combinations.

Once I evaluated the conditions of my tree and everything that has occurred in its life, I realized that not only had I cross pollinated slightly incorrectly, but I was also giving my tree too much water. After I fixed these problems, I had learned my lesson and I have not had any trouble bearing fruit since then.

So if you are struggling with a plant that is not being cooperative, you should consult an expert gardener. If you can find a gardening mentor like mine that is willing to teach you everything they know, then you should be able to get your garden on the right track with no problems.

Maintaining a Healthy Young Tree

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Making sure that your fruit tree stays healthy is very important, but not as hard as some might think. There are several vital things you need to do: don't harvest all of the fruit on the tree at the same time; make sure the soil is healthy; watch out for pests; plant it correctly; be sure it is protected when it is young. I will expand on all of these things.

One way to ensure that your fruit tree will remain healthy is to never harvest all of the fruit at the same time. If all of the fruit is left on the tree, it will grow to an unbearable weight. The combined weight of all of the fruit can get very heavy and snap the branches. So once the fruit starts to grow, you should always pick some of them before they are completely ready. Even if you don't want to pick the fruit before it is ready, it will be beneficial to your tree. While you should do this to prevent it from becoming too heavy, you should also never over-harvest. This can be equally damaging.

Another part of making sure that your fruit tree stays healthy is planting it in fertile soil. If you plant anything in soil that doesn't have the proper amount of nutrients in it, it will not grow and flourish as I am sure you would like it to. You also have to be sure that you plant the right tree in the right kind of soil, because some types of fruit trees do better in drier soil while some kinds or trees do better in damp soil. Just look up what kinds of nutrients your desired tree requires and you’ll know for sure whether to plant it or modify your soil in any way.

Another way to ensure your fruit tree's health is to watch out for pests. To help keep the pests away from your tree, try to eliminate places by your tree that pests might be living. Always look for old piles of brush, weeds, old leaves, or any other decaying matter where pests could be hiding. Another way to keep pests away is by using bug sprays and repellents. Also, regularly turn over a little bit of soil around your tree and look for pests that could be hiding underground. Sometimes the ones that are hidden out of sight can be the most harmful.

If you don't plant your fruit tree correctly, it could end up being very unhealthy. So to avoid this, always look for instructions before you plant trees. When you are planting a tree, make sure that your tree is perfectly vertical, so it won’t grow to be pointing off in an abnormal direction. When you are planting a tree you should also spread out the roots so that the tree will always be stable. This will help it live longer since the maximum water intake will be optimized.

The final thing to do in keeping your fruit tree healthy is to keep it protected when it is young and fragile. When you have a young tree you should tie it to a stake to help it to survive strong winds. Don't tie it too hard, you should always allow room for the tree trunk to grow. Another thing to do when it is young is to put a small fence around it. This can help keep it safe from animals that will eat its bark if given the chance. A fence will also help to guard the base against strong wind and other weather.

If you follow all of this advice during the early years of your tree, you should have an experience that is nothing but joyful. Hopefully you’ll learn from the mistakes of others, and take great care of your tree. Just remember to always look up information on the type of tree you have, so that you can find out what exactly it requires.


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