Smith County Extension Agent
Many people during winter months look to plant fruit trees in their landscape or small home orchard. Fruit trees are best planted in mid-winter to allow time for root development before spring growth. Planting time for most fruit trees is January or February, during winter while the fruit trees are dormant.
After the trees have been planted, water your trees. A good soaking rainfall should be adequate. When rainfall is short, a good rule of thumb is to water trees every four days for two weeks, then five days for two weeks, and so on until you can water the tree every 10 to 12 days without placing the tree under stress. The key to watering established trees is to water deeply and infrequently. Water sprinklers set for 15 minutes every other day will not wet the soil sufficiently enough for producing trees.
Newly planted trees should be pruned back rather severely to compensate for loss of roots during transplanting. Pruning also begins the process of training the new growth into a good form for that particular variety. It is far easier to cut 3- to 4-foot trees back to 18 to 24 inches than to prune 5- to 6-foot trees back to 18 to 24 inches.
Such strong cutback is necessary to remove apical dominance (inhibition of the growth of lateral buds by the terminal buds of a plant shoot), to put the top of the plant in balance with the reduced root system, and force out strong vigorous shoots that are easy to train. The roots should be white with no apparent brown streaks.
Stone fruit such as plums and peaches are considered open-centered and should be trained accordingly. These open-centered trees have a martini glass or upside down umbrella appearance. Apples and pears, on the other hand, are considered the central leader and should be trained that way. The central leader system resembles a Christmas tree shape with a dominant central trunk and an array of scaffold limbs every four to five feet.
Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.