UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County
University of California
UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County

Planting Fruit Trees

Lemon

The ideal planting time is December through March when nurseries stock bare root fruit trees. The best spot in your garden for a fruit tree gets at least 6 hours of sun, is out of the wind, and can be easily watered. The hole you dig should be twice as wide as the spread of the tree’s roots, but not too deep. The graft union (where the rootstock is grafted onto the type of tree purchased) should be 2 to 4 inches above the soil, and the tree should be on top of a small mound with sloping sides when planted properly, especially in heavy clay soils. Trees should be watered deeply after planting.

When planting a bare root fruit tree, you want to trim any roots that are twisted or broken. In the hole you have dug, create a cone of soil on which to put your tree, with the roots spread around the sides of the cone. Slowly fill the hole back in, making sure that you don’t have air pockets. Do not let your tree sink into the hole – if this happens, loosen the dirt you have filled in, and carefully build the mound up under the tree. Ideally, your tree will be one to two inches above the surrounding soil when you are finished filling the hole in. Around this area (not near the tree trunk) you can create a donut shaped trough to fill with water so that the tree is thoroughly irrigated as soon as possible. You can also use this hole to irrigate the tree during the dry season. Always water your fruit tree after planting and make sure it stays moist through the first summer.

 
Trees are then trimmed to 2 or 3 feet high, to encourage low branch growth. Lateral branches can also be trimmed and/or removed at this time. For more detailed instructions, see http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8048.pdf

 
If you live in a particularly hot area, painting the tree trunk with white latex paint diluted half with water will help prevent sunburn.

 
If you have not started a garden journal, now is a good time to begin one. In that journal record the variety of the tree you planted, the root stock listed on the tag and your planting date. You also should record its location in your yard. 

 
Helpful information on planting fruit trees can be found at
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