Nothing beats the taste of fresh picked cherries!
Nothing beats the taste of fresh picked cherries!

For those of us that love to garden – nothing can beat the quick return of bountiful harvests from the planting of tomatoes, peppers, corn and more each year. However, not to be forgotten are the years and years of fruit harvests that can be provided from a single planting of a few fruit trees to your yard or landscape.

There is something that is so satisfying about getting to plant a fruit tree – it somehow signifies that you are putting down roots of a more permanent nature.  Fruit trees can be a valuable addition for those that are trying to be more responsible for growing their own food – and requires much less maintenance than an annual garden.

Plant Fruit Trees – Fall Planting

A newly planted apple tree at the farm
A newly planted apple tree at the farm . 

Although you can plant fruit trees into your landscape at any point of the growing season – fall is really the best time to plant.

The advantages to planting your trees in the fall are many.  For one, the cooler temperatures are much less stressful on the trees and require far less watering than planting trees in the spring and taking them through the hot summer months.

Fall planting allows just enough time for the roots of a tree to become established – getting them accustomed to the soil and preparing them for fast growth the following spring.

Choosing Your Trees:

Whether you would like to grow your own cherry, pear, or apple trees –  take care when you select your fruit trees.  Make sure you select varieties that are hardy and tolerant to your growing zone.  In addition, most fruit trees require a second pollinator to insure that the trees will bear fruit.

Freshly peeled apples being prepared for making fresh apple butter
Freshly peeled apples being prepared for making fresh apple butter

For example – let’s say you like the Fuji apple variety.  If you plant a single Fuji apple tree – you may be sad to find out you will never enjoy the tasty apples that so many of us love. That’s because the Fuji is a self sterile variety – and requires a second pollinator to fruit.  So in order to have Fuji apples – you will need to plant a partner tree such as Gala or Granny Smith variety as well.

It may sound a bit daunting at first between selecting tolerant and partner friendly varieties – but almost all nurseries have easy to read pollination charts that can walk you through the process.  And of course – don’t be afraid to ask questions – most nurseries worth their salt will have someone on staff that can guide you through the process.


Planting a fruit tree is actually a very simple process.

As with your garden - mixing in compost in your planting hole is a great way to get your trees off to a good start!
As with your garden – mixing in compost in your planting hole is a great way to plant fruit trees correctly!

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Dig your planting hole about two to three times the diameter – and about 1 1/2 times the depth of the container that your tree came in.  Once your hole is dug – mix back in equal amounts of compost and soil to the bottom of the hole, filling it up enough so that the top of the tree’s root ball sits about and inch or so above the top of the hole. At this point, water the root ball generously (a few gallons) – and then fill in around the rest of the hole with equal amounts of compost and soil.  When your tree is completely planted – you want the base of the trunk to be just above ground level – allowing for good drainage.  Apply a 2 to 3″ layer of mulch (shredded hardwood mulch, straw, or shredded leaves work well) to help the tree retain moisture and protect the root ball from winter.  That’s it!

Can anything be better than a fresh fruit pie?!
Can anything be better than a fresh fruit pie?!

You will want to water your trees for the remainder of fall – applying a few gallons around the root zone when mother nature doesn’t provide her own.  If your tree is large enough – you may also want to stake it to provide protection from winter winds.

As for spacing – on average most dwarf trees should be planted about 8 to 10 feet apart – and at least 12 feet between rows. For semi-dwarfs 10 to 12 feet apart and 14 to 16 feet between rows, and for full size trees, your best bet is to read the label to make sure you leave adequate growth for specific trees.

With a little work this fall – you can be enjoying your favorite fruits for years to come!

Happy Gardening!  – Jim and Mary

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18 thoughts on “How And Why To Plant Fruit Trees In The Fall

  • August 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Great reading! I was just thinking about if I should put my tree seedlings in a greenhouse over the winter. I decided to not mess with the ones that I planted this spring. The seedlings that survived the heat of the summer are growing fast now, and I’m sure they already have an established root system. I might make an experiment with some new fruit trees that I am planning on picking up, planting some outside, and some inside, to see if there’s any different next spring. Great post! I did not know that fall was the best time to plant fruit trees, I might get a couple more than I originally planned now πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  • January 15, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Fall can be good time for planting trees. Mostly because roots will be able to settle in and gain some establishment. This head start may lead to earlier fruiting later.

  • October 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    compost tea, vinegar, peroxide, and molasses should help any tree issues you could possibly have. its called “Garrett juice” from the dirt doctor…

  • October 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I live in the far north of Minnesota, zone 3a. When does fall end and winter begin. We had a hard frost a month ago; snow October 6th last year that lasted until May. I am thinking I should wait…

  • September 7, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I would love to know what you do about pests and fungus “spraying”. We try to do all organic, but the apple trees we planted last fall have had cedar rust spots this year. My extension agent says I need to spray, but of course I don’t want to use those chemicals. Any help is appreciated.

    • October 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Treat yourself to a copy of The Apple Grower, by Michael Phillips. He lists many varieties of apples that are resistant to cedar rust, advises removing nearby cedar trees if possible, and notes that sulfur application at the correct time may be helpful.

  • August 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    This is such a great information. I didn’t know that you can plant fruit trees in fall. I guess in zone 5-6 it could be more of a problem.

  • July 31, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Good to hear another perspective, I can’t seem to justify paying the higher expense for container or balled and burlaped trees, ha! Let us know how they do compared to your spring planted trees!

    A little surprised though that you’re suggesting cherry trees; they aren’t known for doing well for a fall planting. Could be just my region though and your weather is different. I would say most trees are great for early fall planting, but not late fall…to give them time to develop their roots.


  • July 31, 2013 at 10:35 am

    We bought a place in the country and the first year we planted some fruit trees. Peach, apple, tangerine and fig. The peach tree gave us fruit from the very first year. It is 3 years old and this year we picked close to 10 gallons worth of peaches! The others are not doing so well but we continue to nurish them. We did get some tangerene’s last year but the squirrels beat us to the few figs we got!

  • July 30, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Reblogged this on bevykona and commented:
    one of the MOST sustainable things you can do. plant fruit trees. you won’t regret it!

  • July 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I bought a piece of property and started planting fruit trees and has been doing wonderful. The property already had two bartlett pear trees on it of which one produces fantastic and the other nothing. I have had this for 8 yrs now and I trimmed them but one still does nothing, not even a bloom. What could be the problem? Each new stem will get what I would call a knot about the size of a fifty cent piece, in the middle of it and continue to growing. Am I doing something wrong? How can I correct this?

  • July 30, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I wonder if you have organic solution for peach tree borers. I just lost 2 beautiful apricot trees (assuming that is what took them–and I’m pretty sure I saw the “moth” or what ever you call the beastie!). This was the first year that they bore fruit. πŸ™ I also have a plum and a peach tree in the area and I am worried that they will be next.

  • July 30, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I couldn’t agree more with Jenny (above)! I was just looking at replacing some large shrubs with fruit trees and wondering what I would like to focus on…Thinking Cherry, Pluot and Honeycrisp Apple

  • July 30, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Finding your site has been the most enjoyable of the year. I enjoy gardening but had not had the opportunity for several years. Your posts are so informative and timely. You have provided new inspiration. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I look forward to the next news from the farm.

  • July 30, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Many of the big box stores put their fruit trees and fruiting bushes (berries, fruiting cherry) on clearance (at least in my area of Indiana) in June-July. You can pick up trees at 50-90% off. We were able to put in 3 times as many as we had budgeted for. If planting in June-July make sure you water regularly and heavily.

  • July 30, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I find it absolutely remarkable that you posted on this today! I was just researching some fruit trees and nurseries local to our farm. We are currently living out of state, and plan to be moving back within a year. But we will be going home this Fall for a visit and are planning on going ahead and planting some trees and bushes so that we can get a little bit of a head start! Thanks for the tips and advice πŸ™‚

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