How to Plant and Prune New Fruit Trees

Deciduous fruit tree planting time is here! Before you get planting, be sure of the best spot and appropriate spacings.


  • Dig a 20 litre hole
  • Open clay soil by puncturing the bottom of the hole with your garden fork.
  • Hold sandy soil by lining the bottom of your hole with wet newspaper
  • Mix the excavated soil 50/50 with compost.


Soak potted trees in a bucket of water until bubbles no longer appear. Remove the stake and tape – these are pot support only. Slit the bag open and lightly tease out the roots. Trim overlong ones back to match the others.  

Plant bare-rooted trees right away. Create a hump of soil in the hole for the roots to rest on and sit the tree on the hump. Trim any roots that are too long roots for the hole.

  • Position the tree in the hole, so it’s standing straight. Ensure the graft is above the soil line.
  • Backfill with the soil mix. Use your fingers to push the soil in firmly around the roots.
  • Give the tree a tug to be sure it’s well planted.


Drive a robust stake into the ground about 20cm away from the trunk on the windward side. Affix the tree to the stake with soft stocking tie – firmly, not rigidly. Allow a bit of freedom to move to stimulate root development. More roots = the ability to source a wide range of nutrient and support giving it the best shot at being drought proof, wind proof and heavy crop proof. Remove the stake when the tree’s holding its own after 2/3 years.

Trees on dwarf rootstocks need permanent stakes, which is why I prefer a bigger rootstock – independence is a character I do so admire.

Feed + Water

  • Spread a little compost on top, add a full spectrum mineral fertiliser plus a handful of gypsum.
  • Water gently until the soil is barely moist.
  • Liquid feed with seaweed.
  • Lay cardboard and spread mixed woody mulch on top.

Remove the label!

A plant label is a strangle hold moment if left wrapped about the trunk. Whip it off and attach it to the stake or tie until you sketch it onto your plan.


Cut your tree at hip height or about 1m, above a bud. I know you’ll find this hard, but this easy, simple cut is what is going to have your tree be reachable, compact and full of fruit in a small space. So go on – be brave. If your tree is close to this height already – just leave it be.

Remove any branches. The new ones that grow over summer will all be of the same age and have good balance.

You find this scary because you think this is the end, but my friends – it’s just the beginning! The first scaffold of branches and the leader will spring from this point for a nice low centre of gravity. Trust me here.

For more help on how to train and prune your fruit trees – check out my pruning book.

Mother Earth Living
Mother Earth Living
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