Fruit Tree FAQs

Q: What type of fruit tree would be best?

A: All of the fruit trees sold at Agriventures Agway are chosen by zone to assure that majority of fruit trees we acquire are able to grow with the conditions in our area. The only exception to this would be what we consider “tropical” – lemon, lime and banana trees.  These are OK outside in the summer, but need to be indoors for the winter as they cannot survive harsh winters that trees in our zone could.


Q: When do I plant a fruit tree?

A: Fruit trees in our area can be planted any time of year, even in early spring once the ground in thawed. A good rule of thumb is to look at if the forsythias by your area are in bloom, and that will show you the ground has been thawed enough. Fruit trees are able to handle close to freezing temperatures and even a little frozen precipitation as long as they are not in full flower.  Your local Agriventures Agway receives a fruit tree shipment in early March every year! These trees are raised in Virginia nurseries so they are delivered dormant to properly acclimate to our weather.


Q: How do I plant a fruit tree?

A: Remove your tree from the plastic container. Please dispose of this pot responsibly. Separate the roots a bit at the bottom so that they can spread out easily. If the roots are tightly packed, you can take a knife or other tool and score the roots vertically in 3 or 4 places. This type of root pruning will encourage new root growth.

Dig a hole large enough to hold the root system and just deep enough so that the ‘bud union” (the bulged section at the base of the tree where the graft was originally) remains 1 ½ to 2 inches ABOVE the surrounding ground level for all dwarf and semi-dwarf trees. Do not plant the bud union below the ground, as that will encourage “scion rooting,” resulting in your tree becoming standard or full sized.

Fill in half the hole with the soil you dug from it (break up the clumps). Then fill the hole to the top with water. When the water has settled, fill the rest of the hole with the remainder of the soil. It is helpful to form a 2 or 3 inch circular dam around the drip line tree. The drip line signifies how droplets would fall from the branches, to the base of the tree. This will allow the rain and irrigation water to drip into the ground gradually, rather than running off.

For the first season, be sure to water your tree once a week, if it hasn’t rained. Don’t let it dry out. Remember, during the first year the roots are expanding and spreading. This gives your tree good anchorage and creates the feeding system that helps the tree produce ample fruit. After the first year, you probably will not need to irrigate the tree, except in periods of exceptional dry spells.

At time of planting, Agriventures recommends using Espoma Bio-Tone Starter, formulated with beneficial microbes, humates and mycorrhizae to kickstart root growth. Bio-Tone can be planted directly into the hole with the root ball or around the drip line of the tree.


Q: Do I need more than 1 tree for pollination?

A: Although there are some fruit trees that are self-pollinating, most do require a pollinator.  We recommend planting  within ¼ mile from other trees to increase chances of pollination. When it comes to hardwood trees such as apples and pears, most require a pollinator. Be sure to check tags on trees because in some instances such as a European pear, they will NOT pollinate with Asian pears, only European varieties. In order for two trees to pollinate each other, they must be in flower at the same time.


Q: How (and when) do I fertilize my fruit tree?

A: Fruit trees should be fertilized twice a year, in early spring and again in the fall.  Do not fertilize your trees if the soil is frozen. You can use a granular, slow release fertilizer or fertilizer spikes. Agriventures Agway recommends Espoma Tree-Tone because it is slow release, safe for organic gardening, and also formulated for all types of fruit and ornamental trees.  Be sure to follow the bag directions for how much to use based on trunk size.

You can also use a tree spike formulated for fruit trees.  At Agriventures Agway, you will find Miracle-Gro or Jobes brand.  Be sure to follow the directions for how many spikes to use for your tree based on drip size.

Q: What are all these fruit tree sprays I see? Do I need them?

A: Agriventures Agway sells a variety of fruit tree sprays.  Many products on the market now are multi-use products that will help control insects and diseases!  Be sure to thoroughly read the instructions for mixing and application information. With all products, especially those that are oil based, it is recommended to spray later in the day, once the sun has gone off the trees.  This is to help prevent the oils from sitting on the leaves and burning. Spraying oil based sprays at night will also protect important pollinators that your trees need!

  1. Bonide Captain Jacks Fruit Tree Spray
    1. An effective biological fungicide, insecticide, miticide and nematicide.
    2. Safe for organic gardening
    3. Can be used up until the day before harvest
    4. Kills insects by smothering and also by ingestion, most effective if sprayed before insects are present
    5. For disease control spray before diseases are present
    6. Spray in the early spring when plants are still in the dormant stage and anytime before temps reach 85 degrees
    7. Can be applied as a foliage spray or as a soil drench depending on the insect and disease you are trying to control, follow the package guidelines.
    8. Can be sprayed every 10-14 days as needed
    9. Avoid spraying when the trees are in blossom to protect pollinating insects
  2. Bonide Captain Jacks Orchard Spray
    1. Controls a wide range of fungal diseases and insects
    2. Safe for organic gardening
    3. Can be used up until the day before harvest
    4. Contains sulfur and pyrethrin making it extremely effective
  3. Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Oil
    1. Controls insects & diseases
    2. Safe for organic gardening
    3. Can be used as a growing season spray, a dormant spray up until leaves begin to push through
    4. Controls overwintering insect eggs that hatch in the spring
  4. Bonide Fruit Tree & Plant Guard
    1. Protects fruit trees & plants from insects & diseases
    2. NOT used for organic gardening
    3. Apply once the tree hits the green tip/pre bloom stage
    4. Stop use within 14-21 days of harvest (depending on insect/disease being controlled)


Q: how do I prevent pests that could damage my fruit tree?

A: Apply one of the fruit tree sprays listed above is your best prevention for insects and diseases. 


Q: Do I need to prune my fruit tree?
A: Yes, for ideal fruit production, it is best to regularly prune your fruit trees.  When and how to prune varies by the type of fruit you are growing.

From our friends at Hollybrook Orchard:

We can not stress enough the importance of regular, annual, aggressive pruning. It is essential to maintain the ongoing vigor of the tree and to maximize the production of fruit.

First year pruning sets the eventual shape of the tree. If your tree is taller than 4-6' above ground, after it’s planted, trim it down to that height. Thin out the inward growing branches and any branches which are crossing over each other. This aids in creating more airflow between branches which will in turn prevent fungus. Trim off the tips of the larger branches to encourage growth. See the illustration below for a before and after look at the branches.

Any shoots or branches which come from BELOW the “bud union” should always be pruned – now and in the future. Brand new stems that grow out of the ground, from the root systems are called suckers. If you see them, simply cut them off at ground level. When the tree matures, suckers typically diminish.

If your trees set fruit this first year, pick off some of the immature fruits, spacing them about 8" apart on the branches. This will encourage proper ripening, allow the spray to cover well, and improve vegetative vigor. Fruit thinning in the future is also important for the very same reasons. Less is more. If you don’t thin, you will get many more fruits than the tree can handle, resulting in broken branches and small tart fruits. So don’t be afraid to thin. The resulting fruits will be fuller and much nicer.

In later years, it is helpful to “shape” your tree. Apple, pear and cherry trees are best trained to a central leader (uppermost upright limb). Peach, nectarine, plum and apricot trees should be trained to a vase shape (no central leader). See the drawings below which show what your mature tree should look like. As you prune, bear this shape in mind and prune accordingly. Don’t be shy; it’s really hard to overprune a fruit tree.

When to Prune

Apples and Pears - It is generally best to prune apples and pears when they are dormant. So pick a nice pleasant, sunny winter day and enjoy this part of orcharding. Summer pruning is helpful to slow tree growth. So if the tree is growing very aggressively and getting taller than you like, take it back in July to control this growth.

Cherries - It is generally best to prune cherry trees when the weather is hot. Do not prune in the winter or late fall or early spring. Bacterial diseases are present in all non-arid environments and are particularly detrimental to sweet cherries. These bacteria are most active in cool, wet weather. So wait until the tree has leafed out and the warm late spring weather patterns are well established – usually by the end of May - to prune your cherry trees.

Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots - The best time to prune peaches, nectarines and apricots is in the early spring. Try pruning after the last frost date for your area. At this time, most of the winter damage can be trimmed off and you will minimize the effect of late frost damage to your buds and blooms.

Plums - As plums are very vigorous growers, you will want to prune aggressively. Bear in mind that summer pruning, when the trees is still growing, will help contain the spreading nature of your plum tree. You cannot over-prune a plum tree. So do clean up pruning in the winter, to get rid of broken and dead branches and shape up the tree. Then in July, prune again to maintain a manageable size.

Go to the appropriate page for each fruit type (apple, peaches, pears, etc.) to see more detailed instructions.


Q: Is the a one-stop-shop for all my fruit tree needs?

A: YES! Agriventures Agway!!

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