Considerations when buying a fruit tree

Considerations when buying a fruit tree

This is the season to be planting fruit trees, and if you are one of those who haven’t done so but is contemplating it, you might find this first step a little bewildering. Trees have many attributes and characteristics that need to be taken into consideration, such as species, type of fruit, and size.

First, you have to settle on the size, and there are three main kinds of sizes – dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard size. Don’t choose a large sized tree if your garden is too small to accommodate it, or if you intend to radically change your garden landscape every now and then.

Dwarf trees are perfect for small yards or gardens with limited space. The crown area they take up may only be less than 8 feet (2.5m) in diameter. Dwarf fruit trees bear fruit that are the same size as their regular sized cousins, but their short stature means that picking their fruit or pruning them will always be easy. Furthermore, they can start bearing fruit after just 3-5 years, so make sure to inquire from the nursery how old the tree is that you’re buying. These small sized fruit trees can also fit into containers and pots. The downside of dwarf trees is that they are relatively short-lived.

orange fruit tree
Semi-dwarf orange trees

Semi-dwarf trees are medium sized trees, categorized as trees with crowns up to 15 feet (5m) in diameter. Their height typically ranges from roughly 10 feet (3m) to 16 feet (5m) high, so harvesting their fruit may require a ladder. Some gardeners prefer semi-dwarf trees because they produce more quantity of fruit compared to dwarf trees, and are still quite easy to maintain (pruning is required to keep their size and height manageable though).

Standard sized trees are trees bigger than dwarf /semi-dwarf, and thus require at least annual pruning. They typically grow as tall as 10 meters (33 feet). They live long, provide you with a good feast of fruit every season, as well as shade your garden from the sun. In that regard, standard sized fruit trees are perfect all-rounders.

standard sized apple trees
Standard sized apple trees

You need to ask the nursery how well the trees would do, in relation to your local climate and weather. Plum trees do better in wetter weather, whereas pears and apples prefer drier climates. Check the soil profile in your garden/area too. Is it clayey, sandy, or loamy?

Finally, inspect the tree carefully to rule out any diseases that may have taken hold on the tree. The branches should be spread out evenly, and the trunk should be sturdy. There should be no trace of white rot fungus like Armillaria spp. Taking the time to make a careful decision when buying a fruit tree can make all the difference between having a healthy tree and subsequent harvest, or having to chop down and replant your new tree in the conceivable future.

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