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Before you plant fruit trees this winter, there are a few other steps we recommend first.

We usually get lots of questions about soil prep in Autumn. That’s probably because it’s an excellent time for soil improvement and preparation before you plant new fruit trees in winter.

There’s usually enough of a gap between when the harvest of summer fruit has finished and when planting happens in winter, to allow for planting an autumn green manure crop, for example.

However, before you even start thinking about soil prep, there are a few other steps you need to do.

The 5-step process

  1. Review how your fruit trees did this summer

Did you get enough fruit to meet your goals? If not, why not — was it because of disease, lack of pollination, or just not enough trees? We recommend you keep a fruit tree diary to track how well your trees are doing.

If you haven’t kept a diary before, it’s a really good habit to get into. In our experience, it’s very hard to remember what happened with your trees from one season to the next. (Truthfully, sometimes it’s hard to remember from one week to the next).

You can check out our Fruit Tree Diary template (with instructions), or come up with your own system.

Even though we always preserve enough fruit to see us through winter, we still keep adding more trees!
Even though we always preserve enough fruit to see us through winter, we still keep adding more trees!

2. Decide whether you need to plant more trees 

After doing step 1 you’ll know whether you’re going to need more trees to help you grow the perfect amount of fruit to suit you and your family.

There’s no point in buying and planting more trees unless you actually need the fruit. In fact, having trees you don’t want or need can just become a liability.

As a fruit tree owner, you have a responsibility to make sure you’re not creating pest or disease problems for your neighbours, so the trees still need looking after even if you don’t use the fruit.

3. Decide which varieties will help you achieve your goals

You may have discovered that you have a gap in your harvest. If you’re aiming to have an ongoing supply of fruit throughout the season you might need to choose varieties that ripen in your harvest gap. This will help to balance out the periods of glut and scarcity.

Your local nursery, our nursery, or our Fruit Tree Database can help you track down the likely ripening dates of different varieties.

If lack of pollination is causing low yields, you may need to add a variety that can act as a pollinator for an existing tree.

Or, you may want to add a type or variety of fruit that you normally have to buy.

4. Now choose the right location in your garden

Having chosen the varieties you’ll be planting, now think about the best location in your garden for those varieties.

For example, apricots and almonds need the most frost protected spots. They also do well in windy spots because they need to be able to dry quickly after rain. Pears are relatively frost tolerant and will do well in soil that tends to get wet. Citrus trees need warmer spots, for example on north facing slopes or shed walls.

Once you've decided whether you need more trees and where you'll be planting them, you can start the soil preparation
Once you’ve decided whether you need more trees and where you’ll be planting them, you can start the soil preparation

5. Order your fruit trees

When you’re looking for particular varieties of fruit trees to plant in your garden it definitely pays to look for them early in the season. Some varieties can be quite rare and hard to track down.

If you happen to live in central Victoria Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery here on our farm is a good place to start. Orders usually open in April and close in June. However, we don’t deliver. So unless you can pick up from the farm, look for a nursery closer to home, or one that does mail-order.

Now that you know what you’ll be planting and where, you can get started with your soil prep!

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