Often by mid-summer, many think they’ve missed the opportunity to plant fruit trees. However, this is Michigan and we’re in Zone 5 – which means you can plant trees between July and September that, given some love, will bear fruit in two to four years!
Many of us dream of walking into our backyards to find shady trees bearing summer fruit for salads, pies or our own canned preserves.
Let’s make those dreams come true.
While the safest time of the year to plant fruit trees in Michigan is April-June, the smaller dwarf and medium trees can handle planting a bit later – the key is to baby them with a lot of water so the roots can handle this hotter time of the year. Or, you can wait even until September.
First step. Decide your favorite fruit. For planting July through September consider Apricot, Dwarf Apples Trees, Peach or Nectarine trees to get fruit within two to four years. Cherries and plums will take about five to eight years. While that may seem like a long time, the trees will still be a pleasure during the waiting process: colorful flowers adding pop to your backyard and shaded spaces to place a pretty concrete or wooden bench underneath.
Next, designate the area to plant – you want an area that is 60 percent sun – 80 percent is even better (think 6-8 hours of sun minimum). So, spend 24-48 hours tracking a few spots that are not too close to any structures so your tree can grow and spread out. You may want to consider if your tree will make lawn mowing a hassle – opt for creating a bricked border around it. Make sure it’s an area that has sandy or loamy (equal parts of clay, silt, and sand) soils. Heavy clay soil is a Michigan fruit tree’s enemy.
Make sure you have great drainage or plan to build a berm or mound to prevent water from pooling and causing root rot. If you are planting more than one tree, you need plenty of feet apart between each.
Your local nursery can recommend disease and pest resistant fruit trees so that you can reduce the number of pesticide sprays that will be required. Plan to stalk your new tree since it takes a while for roots take hold in the ground.
Prune your tree once you plant it to encourage the limbs to grow in the areas that you want it too, and reduce stress by making sure it’s not too top heavy while it gets cozy in its new backyard home.
Michigan State University Extension Service is at the fingertips for Michiganders needing gardening and even farming advice.
A few years of care now and you can have Michigan apples, peaches, nectarines and more to share. Imagine, by 2022 or 2023 you may be picking apples for Thanksgiving pie, or peaches to enjoy right off the tree.