Fruit Trees and Home-Scale Orchard Cultivation
All of the tips on our Cultivation page apply to fruit trees as well as other plants. In addition, there are some planting and maintenance tips specific to fruit trees.
Why RootMaker® Fruit Trees?
After the heat and drought of recent years, it’s clear that any new-planted tree, even a native, will have a hard time surviving its first few years. That’s why we at Hill Country Natives place so much emphasis on large and well-developed root systems. The same goes double for fruit trees, which are not nearly as tough as our natives.
As it happens, most improved varieties of fruit trees on the right root systems for our area are ONLY available in late winter and ONLY as bare-root, ripped from the fields and arriving with minimal and damaged root systems. Sometimes these roots consist of only one or two large roots with negligible feeder root hairs, resulting in a tree with virtually NO chance of survival, much less a healthy, thriving future.
Consequently, we decided to apply what we have learned about native tree roots to fruit trees. We are procuring all the best varieties on all the best root stocks when they are available, in December and January. Then, we carefully root-prune them, plant them in RootMaker® containers, and care for them through the growing season and summer. By fall, BY FAR THE BEST TIME TO PLANT TREES IN CENTRAL TEXAS, they have a well-established root system and much better chance of thriving.
Dr. Carl Whitcomb, developer of the RootMaker® system, offers the following testimonial on cultivating healthy fruit-tree root systems:
“What you are proposing, that is, taking bareroot trees and placing them in containers to recover and develop a superior root system, works. I have done this a variety of times in experiments with everything from dwarf pines, roses, to fruit trees to quite large bare root trees off the west coast. Because of the bareroot harvesting process, typically the root system is not very good, with only a few long roots. In several studies we cut the roots back from a little to a lot to see what would happen. … Using good containers, mix, watering practices, etc. if you plant bareroot trees in containers in late winter — and it is important to have this planting done well before bud swell — you should have excellent trees … by August or September. Then planting a tree with now a much improved root system in the field, will establish quickly and more likely perform.”
What About Dwarf Fruit Trees?
Some of our customers have asked us about dwarf fruit trees. Based on our research thus far, dwarfing rootstock is a disadvantage in our harsh central Texas environment. Here at Hill Country Natives, roots are our central focus, and we’d rather prune aggressively to keep a tree manageable in size, instead of grafting a well-adapted variety onto dwarfing rootstock.
The guidelines for home-scale fruit production are a bit different from those for commercial growing. See the link below for tips on maximizing fruit production in limited space.
Tips on Backyard Orchard Culture