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Fruit Tree Planting Guide

Whether you have room for a few fruit trees incorporated into your garden or a couple of rows of them, then to a degree, you have an orchard. And with just a few trees, or many, they will more than pay for the space they use in providing health promoting produce and in saving you money. 

Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is essential to sustain a balanced and healthy diet, although many argue the figure should, and the traditional Mediterranean diet does, include between eight to ten. What a better way of ensuring fresh and well ripened fruit, which has not travelled thousands of miles in cold storage and been treated with numerous chemicals in its lifetime, is there than growing your own organic fruit. The joy of harvesting fruit when it is season has been largely removed by the availability of most fruits all year round on supermarket shelves and growing your own brings back the enjoyment of seasonality to your diet.

Trees do need room to grow but once established they mostly look after themselves with only the need for some pruning, feeding and control of pests and diseases. If space is limited you could consider espalier or fan training trees to grow against walls or fences or fitting a few trees into a traditional garden layout. 

We are fortunate to have enough space for a decent size orchard and the area was already occupied by four well established olive trees that are providing us with lovely olives. The orchard measures 28 metres by 33 metres and we now have 42 trees  planted which are about 3 metres apart in all directions. 

There are numerous fruit trees, with many varieties, which are suitable for the Mediterranean area, so choose carefully. Make a plan of you space and plant the most suitable trees for your soil and region, whilst utilising the space to fit as many trees in as possible. Also consider the possible harvests, for instance,some varieties of lemons will provide fruit all year round whilst a cherry will only fruit for two months and an apricot for one. 

Buy your trees from a recommended seller in your area, as purchasing an inferior fruit tree may not be apparent for two to three years. Before buying trees to plant, research the varieties that are growing locally, what is and what is not suitable in your area, the soil requirements and the pollination needs of each tree. For example, plums and apples need another variety close by for pollination purposes to set fruit. It is also worth considering the age of trees to buy, although this may depend on how much money you have available.
Trees can be purchased as young, older or mature and each has advantages and disadvantages. Young trees have the advantage of allowing you to control their shape but it may be a few years before you start enjoying any fruit. Older trees, two to four years old, will fruit much sooner but their shape is less controllable and their cost may be three times that of a young tree. Mature trees, from seven to ten, will have an instant impact in your orchard and will fruit the same year but the cost, in comparison to a young tree can be ten times or more. 

Growing your own fruit organically, will ensure that you are not ingesting chemical residues that are found in the majority of non-organic fruit sold. Many of the chemical residues have penetrated the fruit and washing and peeling will reduce your exposure but cannot totally remove traces of residues present. The only way of being totally in control is to grow your own. 

The following information provides some general guidelines on trees that can be planted in the Mediterranean area, with details on soil needs, planting, watering, after care, pests and diseases, harvesting and nutritional benefits.

General Information:  Before providing guidelines for each tree it is worth generally considering how to plant and care for them. The traditional time for planting trees in Cyprus is October which ensures they benefit, during their settling in period, from the rainy season and milder temperatures. 

All fruit trees have a wide spread of roots to collect the moisture and nutrients they need to grow and remain healthy. It is therefore recommended that a hole, for young trees, of 100cm square and at least 50cm deep is dug. The under soil can at the same time be loosened by forking to assist drainage and well rotted compost or manure added, depending on each trees requirements, before refiling. It is also worth allowing the soil time to settle, for at least 10 days, before planting your young trees.  

The distances between trees recommended is mostly that aimed at commercial growers, to maximise size, yields and allow access for tractors, but many trees can be planted a lot closer, as long as their size is controlled by pruning. When growing your own, it is more important to utilise the space available to provide a variety of fruit, harvests over a longer period and yields that are adequate for your needs. Closer planting will reduce the trees ability to grow large and will make it easier to prune, net against birds and harvest. We would, therefore, recommend a three metre distance where trees are spaced to fit as many trees as possible into the area you have available.

Follow instructions for individual trees on planting, but in all cases; (a) create a watering circle by providing a circular soil ridge around each tree which is wider than the trees spread; (b) before planting insert stakes for young trees to protect from wind damage; (c) water in well and then follow instructions for individual trees regarding watering but all young trees will need regular watering until well established for about 2-3 years; (d) do not prune young trees until well established and (e) don't add any extra feed, if you have prepared your soil then it will be not be needed.

Apple: Harvest August to October. Prefers a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. You will need to plant at least two varieties, for cross pollination, for apples to fruit. Plant as same depth as the pot. Newly planted trees will need watering three times a week for the first two weeks and then weekly but stop watering from mid-Autumn to mid-Winter. Mulch in March for the first 2-3 years but keep mulch away from the trunk. Fertilise in winter and keep weed free by shallow hoeing to avoid root damage. Prune in the winter to remove any overcrowded branches and remove any suckers. Apple trees can be affected by a numbers of pests and diseases. Some of the most common which affect the fruit are: (a) the codling moth which results in grubs inside the fruit and can be combated by hanging a solution of 1 cup of vinegar; a third of a cup of dark molasses; a pinch of ammonia and 4 cups of water. The moths lay their eggs in the mixture which needs to be changed every 3 weeks between March and April (b) the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water.

Apricot: Harvest May to June. Prefers a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0. Newly planted trees will need water twice weekly for the first two weeks and then at regular intervals until established but cease watering from mid-Autumn until mid-Winter.  Mulch but keep away from the trunk. Provide fertiliser every winter. Can be propagated by cutting off healthy branches and rooting in water. Cut out suckers as they emerge and as low as possible. Once established, winter prune to maintain an open structure and to remove any weak or dead branches. The most common pest which affect apricot fruit is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water. 

Avocado: Harvest October to June and are normally picked unripe and ripened as needed. Contain more potassium than bananas and vitamins B, E and K. Prefers a pH of between 6.2 to 6.5. Newly planted trees will need watering twice weekly for the first two weeks and then at regular intervals throughout the year until established. Benefits from a mulch of leaf and wood chip. Take care when weeding as has very shallow roots. Only prune to remove dead or damaged wood and to stop the tree at the height required, as avocado's are very fast growers and can reach 24m.  If you live in an area with high winds your avocado may need some protection to stop branches breaking. 


Banana: Harvest September to March. A difficult tree to grow successfully unless you are in a coastal Mediterranean area as it dislikes extreme hot, cold or strong winds. The tree needs nine to fourteen months of frost free conditions to produce a flower stalk; v
ery high temperatures will burn its foilage and high winds could blow the tree down.  Prefers a pH of  between 5.5 and 6.5. Planted from a rhizomes, they will require very rich soil and lots of water. Remove dead leaves and fruited stalks in May. Bananas have very few pests and diseases outside tropical areas.

Carob: Harvest the long large flat pods from August to October. Grows in most soils and can tolerate a pH from 6.2 to 8.6. The tree can grow to 10m. Traditionally carob is used in Cyprus as either an animal feed or to produce carob syrup which was known as Cyprus's black gold due to the importance of carob exports to the local economy.  Very drought tolerant, therefore, allow to dry completely before watering. Carob is also frost tolerant. Prune, once established, in January to remove any overcrowded branches, deadwood and to maintain a desired shape and size. 

Cherry: Harvest May to June. A difficult tree to grow successfully in the Mediterranean but it grows very well in the Troodos mountain villages where the cooler climate suits a tree which dislikes extremely hot temperatures. Prefers a pH of  between 6.2 and 6.8. Cherry trees have a life expectancy of about twenty years. Water new trees two times a week for the first three weeks and then at regular intervals but stop watering from mid-Autumn until mid-Winter. Cut out suckers as they emerge and as low as possible. Once established, winter prune to maintain an open structure and to remove any weak or dead branches. Will need netting to prevent birds taking all the fruit.

Clementine: A hybrid between a tangerine and bitter orange which is seedless. Its fruit can be harvested between September and February.  Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.0 and 8.0.  Place young trees in a bucket of water for an hour before planting. On planting new trees, water well twice weekly for the first three weeks and then regularly throughout the year. Only prune to remove weak growth and to retain the shape and size desired. Apply a well rooted manure mulch in the winter but keep it away from the trunk. The most common pest which affects the clementine is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water. 

Date: Harvest from September to October. Dates do not contain much vitamin C but they are rich in iron and fibre.  Very tolerant of most soil types and has a range in pH needs of 4.8 to 8.0. Very slow growing but can grow to large height. When young, prune in the winter to maintain your desired shape and size. You will also need to remove suckers which will be produced for the first five years after planting. Very drought resistant but does benefit from watering in very dry periods until well established.

Fig: Harvest  from August to November and only pick when ripe as figs will not ripen if picked immature. Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.0 and 6.5.  Plant figs purchased in containers at the trees level in the pot. When planting new trees water deeply twenty-four hours after planting and keep well watered until established but stop watering from mid-Autumn until mid-Winter.  Benefits from a mulch to retain moisture. Fertilise annually and only prune in late winter to remove dead, damaged or overcrowded wood. Fig trees have a life expectancy of over one-hundred years and one in walled part of Famagusta, in front of the entrance to the Lala Mustafa Mosque (St Nicholas Cathedral)  is claimed to be over seven-hundred years old. 

Grapefruit: Harvest from October to March. Prefers a pH range of between 6.0 and 8.0. Newly planted trees will need watering three times a week for the first two weeks and then weekly throughout the year.  Mulch in winter and using well rotted compost or manure to the spread of its leaves but keep the mulch away from the trunk. Larger fruits will be produced if you thin out the number of fruits on the tree. Cut out any suckers as they appear and as low as possible. Once established, prune in February to March to remove deadwood and to prevent overcrowding but remove whole branches rather than just shortening. The most common pest which affects grapefruit is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water. 

Guava: Harvest from July to August. Prefers a pH in the range of 5.0 to 7.0. Guava is an evergreen tree with shallow roots so take care when weeding to avoid root damage. The tree can survive a few degrees of frost but its best to cover the tree over the winter period. Newly planted trees will need watering three times a week for the first three weeks and then only when completely dry but throughout the year until established. After which the guava is very drought tolerant. No pruning as a rule but prune if necessary to keep its shape. Remove suckers in the winter.as close as possible to the base. Fertilise regularly and at least one month before undertaking any pruning.

Lemon: Harvest lemons all year round. Prefers a pH range of between 5.5 and 6.5. Place young trees in a bucket of water for an hour before planting. Newly planted trees will require watering deeply twice weekly for the first three weeks and then regularly throughout the year. Fertilise in the winter with well rotted compost or manure but keep it away from the trunk. Only prune to remove weak growth and to retain the shape and size desired. The most common pest which affects lemons is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water. 

Lime: Harvest between October and November.  Prefers a pH range of between 6.0 and 8.0.  Newly planted limes will need watering three times a week for the first two weeks, then weekly for the next month and then at regular intervals throughout the year.  Fertilise in the winter with well rotted compost or manure but keep it away from the trunk.  The most common pest which affects limes is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit.  This can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water. 

Loquat: Harvest from April to May. Different varieties can produce either sweet or a sharper flavoured fruit. Both can be eaten raw but the latter, unless you like sharp flavours, is best used to make jam or jelly. Prefers a pH range of between 5.5 and 6.5. Before planting trees purchased in containers, remove the soil from around its roots with a hose and spread the roots carefully in the planting hole. Newly planted trees will require watering well, three times in the first week and then at regular intervals until well established, after which the tree is quite drought tolerant. Fertilise twice a year and only prune to remove dead or damaged wood.

Mandarin: Harvest from December to May. Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.0 and 8.0. Place young trees in a bucket of water for an hour before planting. Newly planted trees will need watering well twice weekly for the first three weeks and then regularly throughout the year. Cut out any suckers as they appear and as low as possible. Once established, prune in February to March to remove deadwood and to prevent overcrowding but remove whole branches rather than just shortening. Fertilise in the winter with well rotted compost or manure but keep it away from the trunk. The most common pest which affects mandarins is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. This can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water. 

Mango: Harvest from August to September. Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.0 and 6.5. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and plant the tree to the same level as in the pot. Mulch with strawy material but do not fertilise for the first few years. Newly planted mangoes will need watering daily for the first week, weekly for the first two months and then at regular intervals throughout the year. Can grow very tall, so prune to the height desired. Cover in the winter to avoid frost damage. 

Medlar: Harvest from September to October. Prefers a pH of between 6.5 and 7.5. Only prune to remove dead wood and reduce any overcrowding of branches. Needs minimal watering but keep moist until established. Fertilising will assist in fruit production. Keep weed free and provide a deep mulch of well rotted compost or manure which will benefit the tree and keep weeds at bay.

Mulberry: Harvest  from June to July. Prefers a pH in the range of between 5.5 and 7.0. Fruit, depending on the variety, can be white, red or black. Newly planted trees will require watering twice weekly for the first three weeks, after which mulberries are very drought resistant, but will produce a heavier crop of fruit if watered regularly. However, do not water between mid-Autumn and mid-Winter. Benefits from deep mulching of well rooted manure or compost but keep away from the trunk. Only prune in the winter months and only to remove broken, damaged or overcrowded branches. Generally free from diseases but birds find the ripe fruit very attractive. 

Nectarine: Harvest from May to July. Prefers a pH in the range of between 4.5 to 7.5. Soak newly purchased trees for six hours before planting. Newly planted trees will need watering weekly for the first two weeks and then at regular intervals until established but stop watering from mid-Autumn to mid-Winter. Prune to keep an open structure in the centre in early spring. Treat with an organic fungicide in early spring to prevent leaf curl. Provide a slow release organic fertiliser in spring, mid-summer and late autumn. In April thin fruits forming to allow remainder to become larger. Once established, trim branches in June when they reach 1.2m to encourage side branches to develop. 

Olive: Harvest from November to January. Prefers a pH of between 5.5 and 8.5. Olive trees are very hardy, drought and disease tolerant. The olives root system is very robust and they are very long lived. Olives can cope with severe pruning and are usually pruned in February and March with whole branches removed to keep and open structure and low, to make harvesting easier, and encourage new branches to develop. Branches should be cut above a bud facing the ground at a 45 to 60 degree angle. After a heavy pruning fertilise the tree to its spread. Newly planted olive trees should not be pruned for the first two years. The most common pest which affects olives is the olive fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water.  The two most common diseases (a) olive knot which results in rough swellings on twigs, branches, trunks or leaves and the best solution is pruning and (b) olive knot disease which results in green and black circular spots on the leaves which fall prematurely. Any diseased leaves should be collected and burned to stop the disease spreading.     

Orange: Can be either sweet or bitter varieties. Harvest from between October and June. Prefers a pH of between 6.0 to 8.0. Place young trees in a bucket of water for an hour before planting. New trees will need watering well twice weekly for the first three weeks and then regularly throughout the year. Cut out any suckers as they appear and as low as possible. Once established, prune in February to March to remove deadwood, achieve the desired shape and to prevent overcrowding. Apply manure in the winter but keep away from the trees trunk. The most common pest which affects oranges is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water.   

Peach: Harvest from June to September. Prefers a pH of between 6.3 and 6.8. Soak the tree for six hours before planting. Newly planted trees will need watering weekly for the first two weeks and then at regular intervals until established but cease watering from mid-Autumn until mid-Winter. Prune to keep an open structure in the centre in early spring. Treat with an organic fungicide in early spring to prevent leaf curl. Provide a slow release organic fertiliser in spring, mid-summer and late autumn. In April thin fruits forming to allow remainder to become larger. Once established, trim branches in June when they reach 1.2m to encourage side branches to develop. 

Pear: Harvest from August to October. Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.5 to 7.0. Newly planted pears will require watering three times a week for the first two weeks and then regularly during the dry period but do not water between mid-Autumn and mid-Winter. Do not fertilise for the first three years. Prune in the early spring to achieve the desired shape. Pear trees can be affected by a numbers of pests and diseases. Some of the most common are: (a) the codling moth which results in grubs inside the fruit and can be combated by hanging a solution of 1 cup of vinegar; a third of a cup of dark molasses; a pinch of ammonia and 4 cups of water. The moths lay their eggs in the mixture which needs to be changed every 3 weeks between March and April. 

Persimmon: Harvest from September to October. Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.5 and 7.5. Take care when planting as the roots are very brittle. Newly planted trees will require watering twice weekly for the first three weeks and regularly until established but stop any watering between mid-Autumn and mid-Winter. Once established the tree is very drought tolerant. Prune once fruit has set to reduce the size of the crop and permit larger fruits.

Plum: Harvest from June to July. Prefers pH in the range of between 6.0 and 7.0. Dig the planting hole at three times the width of the root ball, twice as deep and refill leaving sufficient room for the root ball. Plant at the trees level in the pot. Newly planted plums will need watering three times during the first week and then at regular intervals until established but do not water from mid-Autumn until mid-Winter. Provide a mulch of well rotted compost but do not allow the mulch to touch the trunk. Remove suckers as they emerge. Once established, summer pruning to shape and to stimulate the following seasons fruit buds can be undertaken. The most common pest which affects plums is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water.   

Pomegranate: Harvest from September to October. Prefers a pH in the range of  between 5.5 and 7.0. Water well after planting but allow the soil to dry out completely before re-watering. Prune to avoid overcrowding and remove suckers as they appear. Fertilise, in the early spring an late autumn, with a slow release fertiliser but keep away from the trunk. Pomegranates are relatively free of pests and diseases.


Satsuma: Harvest from September to January. Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.0 to 8.0.  Place young trees in a bucket of water for an hour before planting. Newly planted trees will need watering well twice weekly for the first three weeks and then regularly throughout the year. Only prune to remove any weak growth and to retain the shape and size desired. Apply manure in the winter but keep away from the trees trunk. The most common pest which affects satsumas is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water.   

Tangerine: Harvest from November to January. Prefers a pH in the range of between 6.0 to 8.0. Place young trees in a bucket of water for an hour before planting. Newly planted tangerines will need watering well twice weekly for the first three weeks and then regularly throughout the year until the tree is established. Only prune to remove any weak growth and to retain the shape and size of tree desired. Apply manure in the winter but keep away from the trees trunk. The most common pest which affects tangerines is the Mediterranean fruit fly which results in leaf curl and grubs inside the fruit. These can be combated by regular spraying with a strong solution of ecological washing up liquid mixed in warmish water.   
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