Khloe

First, you are making a huge time and energy investment, this is not something to just spur of the moment buy and cram in your yard thinking you wont have to do much work with it and it will soon, on its own, start dropping fruit.

First, think about what the tree is going to look like in 3 to 6 to 12 years. Is it going to add value to your yard and house or detract? Trees do not always add! A peach tree with canker thats half dead and branched over your roof isnt going to help you sale your house. Fruit trees are more prone to pests, infections, rot, basically everything than most other trees, at least that I can think of.

They require alot more maintenance and care.

I bought some from Costco 1-2 months ago for $15ish each. They are the same size as the same variety I bought last year from a nursery for $25-$30. The $15 trees started flowering at the same time as the $30 ones. The only complaint I had about them was there wasn't enough variety. I didn't want apple or multiple variety trees, so there wasn't a lot left.

The general rule of thumb for fruit tree's is 3-5 years before a proper harvest and they don't self pollinate so make sure you get 2 trees or one that has 2 species grafted onto it, or you'll be counting on someone else in the neighbourhood having one for pollination.

Make sure they'll actually grow in your area and make sure you allow enough room in your yard for the full grown tree (so don't plant it too close to your eaves, for example), but other than that go for it! The plants themselves should be fine.

You may want/need to protect it for its first winter (check with local gardeners and/or your local agricultural extension), if it has a small truck I highly recommend using the foam tube stuff they use on air conditioners.

  1. Make sure you know what size tree its going to be. Almost every fruit tree is grafted onto a rootstock. The rootstock determines the SIZE of the tree. ALOT of trees sold at boxmarts do not say if this tree is going to be a standard size tree (~25 ft in diameter, 30 ft tall etc), semidwarf (~12-15 ft) or dwarf (~8ft). Those are HUGE differences. You do not want to buy a tree that is too big for your yard. You do not want to buy a dwarf tree imagining yourself pushing your kids in a few years on a tire swing under its huge canopy...not going to happen. You dont want to be buy a standard size tree imagining a small maintenance free affair that will comfortably sit in the corner of your yard where you can walk up and at shoulder height pick its fruit. Tree size is a HUGE ENORMOUS factor to consider. DO NOT BUY A TREE IF YOU DONT KNOW WHAT SIZE ITS GOING TO BE. Research what size you want and then buy a tree with the right rootstock that will make that size tree (also buy for your soil conditions more on that below)
  2. Most trees require a pollinator. Some are self fruitful (I think they still do better with a pollinator). A self fruitful tree can pollinate itself and make a pretty good crop. A non-self fruitful tree, one that requires a pollinator will make almost no fruit without a pollinator. Im talking like one fruit, if that. The pollinator tree needs to be within like 100 ft. Dont buy one kind of tree and expect to start a fruit stand. Also not all trees will be marked that they clearly need a pollinator. If you only have space in your yard for ONE true you want to make absolutely certain you get a self fruitful variety.
  3. Not all trees can grow in all soil conditions. Cherry trees, of any rootstock, cant stand to have their roots in standing water. If you dig a hole and fill it with water (because you have too much clay for example) and it doesnt drain out in any measurable time youre just pissing money away. If you have soil that is acidic or alkiline and you already know this, then whatever fruit tree you want may actually have a rootstock thats been developed just for your soil type. If youre going to plant a fruit tree then thats the rootstock you want it grafted on. If you have absolutely no idea a good nursery SHOULD know and can tell you, thats what they do. If they dont know then you dont have a good nursery; you just have a good middleman thats good at buying plants other people grew, marking the price up and selling them to suckers like you.
  4. Fruit trees require a certain number of chilling hours. Chill hours are the number of hours in the winter that it gets below freezing (some experts say 45 is close enough, I dont think it is). This means if you live in S Florida and plant a cherry tree it will never get enough chill hours to make squat. Peach trees can vary between 1200 and 200 chill hours. You can fudge these numbers a little bit but if youre too much off then every year that you didnt get enough chill hours will be a year you dont get peaches or whatever fruit. If youre too far off your tree wont go into dormancy and can actually be damaged. So this is a pretty big deal to pay attention to. Your local nursery or your state university will know to a fine science which varieties of whatever fruit will receive enough chill hours in your location to make fruit and go into and out of dormancy without problems.
  5. Pests. Fruit trees are more prone to them. You may live in an area that is particularly prone to certain pests, maybe a trunk borer. What will happen is you will plant your tree, it will do great for several years and right as you are about to have your first real crop, it will get sick and start to die. Some rootstocks inhibit pests. Some things you can do from the get go to prevent pests..such as not pruning your peach trees when its wet to inhibit fungal cankers (can wipe out your whole orchard). The point is youll want to know a little about what your trees are likely to encounter and how to prevent it BEFORE you have it in your yard. A sick tree lessens your yard's value, a healthy tree adds. With a fruit tree there is a very real risk of you putting all this time, money, and energy into a tree that without proper care could very well actually lower your property value.
  6. Pruning. You have to prune most kinds of fruit trees. Some of them you have to thin the fruits or they'll be so fruitful they will break their own branches. 90 degree branches are stronger than 45 but some fruit varieties dont exhibit that kind of growth pattern. Peaches need three or four major branches that you set typically in their second year. Plum trees have a more erect growth form that are pruned differently. I put this here because many fruit varieties need to be actively pruned fairly early on in order to minimize problems later.
  7. Even fertilizing can be tricky. If you fertilize too late in the season you can inhibit dormancy and again actually cause damage to your tree.

I really recommend against going out and buying a random fruit tree and planting it in your yard. Unlike other plants (this may seem obvious but its not always) trees get big and sooner or later they arent so easy to get rid of if they dont work out.

I feel this way about every nursery that offers trees, not just plants from stores like Costco. Generally speaking the quality is about the same, but you need to know what you are planting and why. This is th emost important aspect.