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

We usually get lots of questions about soil prep at this time of year. It’s true that Autumn is 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’s a few other steps you need to do.

The 5-step process

  1. Review how your fruit trees performed 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 help track how your trees are performing.

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).

That’s why we developed our Fruit Tree Diary. The Fruit Tree Diary template (plus instructions for how to use it) is included in the Learn to Diagnose Your Fruit Trees short course.

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 completing step 1 you should 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 planting trees unless you actually need 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 a continuous supply of fruit throughout the season you might need more trees to fill the gap. This will help to balance out the periods of glut and scarcity.
  • 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 reasonably tolerant of waterlogged soil. 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 sometime and close in June. However, we don’t do deliveries. 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 think about getting started with your soil prep!