Trees differ in their pruning and fertilizing needs. A container tree will need more fertilizing than an in-ground tree, for example. Feed container trees every two weeks, from blossoming to mid-autumn, using a high potash feed such as liquid seaweed. In-ground trees should be fertilized just before they bud, and up until June. Fertilizing too late in the season can promote late season growth, which will be damaged or killed by frost.

The amount of fertilizer your tree needs will depend on how much it grew in the previous year. Organic fruit tree fertilizers are sold at most garden stores, and will include instructions on how to determine the right amount.  Pruning also depends on the type of tree. Apples and pears, for instance, require regular pruning each year to encourage fruiting, and this is done in the winter; plums, on the other hand, are only pruned in summer. Cordoned and espaliered trees will need to be pruned and maintained to ensure they are growing into their desired shapes.

Research what is recommended for the type of tree you’ve planted, and see if any neighbors or local orchard owners can provide guidance. As a rule of thumb, prune your tree to have four or five main branches growing from the trunk at a 45-degree angle, and don’t let it get too crowded with minor branches. This can be done once a year. Once your fruit tree is established, it will require very little maintenance aside from watering, seasonal fertilizing, and occasional pruning.

Title: How to Protect a Fruit Tree During the Winter

Equipping and Staking
Supplies for Protection
Protection from Animals
Watering Your Fruit Tree

After planting, watering will depend on a number of factors including the weather, your soil type, and how fast the tree is growing.

Generally, young trees need more water in order for roots to get established; however, you don’t want to overwater your tree, especially if you have slow-draining soil. As a rule of thumb, you should water your tree when the soil around it is on the verge of becoming dry; you can check moisture by digging a small hole near the trunk with your finger. This might be daily during a particularly hot or dry spell, but most likely weekly in most weather.

Title: How to Properly Water Your Trees
Author/Source: The Arbor Day Foundation 
Description: Very basic information regarding properly watering trees (all kinds, not just fruit). Discusses frequency and amount, and includes a video about how to tell if your tree needs watering.

Tree Watering Needs and Depth 

A tree should receive 1 to 1.5 gallons of water for every inch of trunk caliper; the caliper is determined by measuring the trunk diameter at 6 inches above the ground (for diameters up to 4 inches) or 12 inches above the ground (for diameters more than 4 inches). You can set up a drip hose around your tree to water regularly and evenly on the desired schedule.  During a tree’s winter dormancy, normal rain and snowfall in Westchester County should provide sufficient water. You might need to water during an extensive dry spell, however.  You can get a sense of your tree’s water needs by checking its leaves; overwatering tends to cause yellowed leaves while under-watering causes curled leaves. After a few seasons, you will have a better grasp of how your soil, the local climate, and your variety of tree all factor into its watering schedule. 

Title: How Much Water Should One Give a Fruit Tree?      
Author/Source: SF Gate                  
Description: A fruit tree-specific guide to watering.


Equipping and Staking Fruit Trees

Tree staking kits are available at most nurseries and home improvement stores, and are beneficial for young trees. They provide support, protection from strong winds, and help the tree grow straight.

You can also make your own stake using untreated landscape lumber, a length of rope, and a piece of rubber hose or other bendable pipe material. Drive the lumber into the ground at an angle away from the tree in the direction you’d like to train it (if the tree lists south, for instance, place the stake north of the tree). Feed the rope through the hose; wrap the hose around the trunk just above the lowest, strongest branch; then secure the rope to the stake, tightening until the tree is straight. Do not tighten the rope too much; the tree should be able to move with the wind.

Title: Espalier: How to Train Fruit Trees 
Author/Source: Gardens Illustrated
Description: Step-by-step instructions for training fruit trees into espaliers and other shapes. Includes pictures.

Title: How to Espalier Fruit Trees 
Author/Source: Gardener Scott
Description: A 10-minute explanatory video discussing how to train and prune fruit trees into espaliers.

Fruit Tree Protection Supplies

Tree guards can be purchased in a variety of materials (from plastic to metal) and should be placed around the trunk of young trees until they outgrow them, usually when the tree is between 3 and 5 years old. Make sure that the guard you choose is not installed too loosely or too tightly around the trunk of the tree, which could deprive it of moisture and room to grow.  For added protection, you can create a small enclosure using fence posts with deer fencing, chicken wire, or bird netting around the tree in a diameter wide enough so that deer can’t easily reach the leaves and branches. If you are growing soft fruit (such as blueberries), you might drape the bush in bird netting when it’s producing.  Some tree protection supplies can be found at local garden supply stores. In addition, some online suppliers may specialize in this type of product. Examples are below.

Orchard Innovations -  offers products designed to protect fruit trees from animals, insects, and weeds, as well as other supplies for training and supporting trees and berry vines.

Many local hardware stores carry tree protection supplies.

Prevent Animals and Insects From Damaging Your Fruit Trees

Since fruit trees take so long to grow and produce, it is especially frustrating when young, tender branches get eaten by hungry deer, or your berry harvest is devoured by birds. Potted trees can be kept in an enclosed garden (as long as they don’t shade other plants) or greenhouse for protection, but in-ground trees will need some further protection from deer, mice, feral cats, and other animals. 

Title: How to Protect Fruit Trees from Animals
Author/Source: WikiHow
Description: There are various methods to protect your fruit trees, depending on the problem animal and your personal preference. This article discusses options such as repellents, traps, and tree guards.

Most insect problems can be avoided by pruning your tree, not over-fertilizing it, sticking to a proper watering schedule, and replacing its mulch each spring to deter overwintering pests. If that doesn’t work, you can still address the problem without resorting to pesticide sprays; try removing the insects by hand (if possible), or “bag” the fruit to allow it to mature undisrupted. Bagging involves sealing individual immature fruits in paper bags, then removing them about two weeks before harvest.  There are a variety of oils that can be sprayed on fruit trees, either while dormant or during the growing season, that smother and kill pests and their larvae. Chemical pesticides, such as pyrethrin, should only be used as a last resort and should always be applied at dusk, to avoid harming bees and other pollinators.

Title: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County
Source: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County 
Description: Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators are available to answer questions about vegetable and flower gardening, and home and garden pest management practices for county residents. Horticultural Hotline (914) 285-4640. Also: .