Few things compare to the satisfaction of walking into your backyard and picking a piece of fruit fresh from your very own tree. In our subtropical climate we can grow a variety of fruit trees, guaranteed to make breakfast better than ever. (Of course, you may have to check with the rules of your HOA to see if fruit trees are allowed.)
Follow these tips for growing local fruit trees and to cultivating a successful harvest – year after year.
Adding Fruit Trees to Your Landscape
Most people purchase fruit trees as saplings. Once planted, they will need careful tending until they are well-established, typically between 2 to 3 years.
You will want to stake your freshly planted fruit trees into the ground. Stakes should be of similar height to the sapling to keep them from leaning or falling over. Stakes are necessary for the first 12-18 months while the root systems grow, eventually creating a sufficient anchor for the tree.
After planting and staking the sapling, spread 2-3 inches of mulch in a donut formation around the tree immediately. Be sure to maintain the mulch throughout the year. The donut shape is critical—if you allow the mulch to pile against the trunk, it will hold moisture to the bark and cause rot.
During this initial period, pay close attention to any indication of nutrient deficiency, infestation, or disease. Look for signs such as leaf discoloration, holes bored in leaves or bark, or mold growing on the tree. Pruning regularly may also reduce susceptibility to disease or infestation. However, be sure to research the specific pruning requirements for your trees. Citrus trees require little to no pruning, while other types of fruit trees benefit from constant removal of dead branches.
Which Tree is Right for You?
When choosing fruit trees, consider how the tree pollinates. Some fruit trees are self-fruitful or self-pollinated—they have both male and female organs on their flowers, and thus can pollinate themselves. Others have separate male and female trees, so they require cross-pollination. To get fruit from those species, you would need to plant one male tree and one female tree about 20-30 feet apart, allowing wind and insects to assist with pollination.
Here are some fruit trees that grow exceptionally well in our south Florida climate.
Avocados: These trees can grow to a maximum of 60 feet, so prune often to keep them within reach. Avocado trees flower at different times throughout the year. Therefore, by planting multiple varieties you can harvest avocados all year long. These trees require cross-pollination, so be sure to plant at least two trees of the same variety to get fruit.
Guava: This tree is mostly self-fruitful, though some varieties produce higher-quality fruit when cross-pollinated. Plant guava in areas with full sun and well-drained soil.
Citrus: South Florida is known for its quality citrus fruit – oranges, key limes, lemons, and grapefruit. Citrus is also self-fruiting, so one tree will provide you with plenty of fruit. These even grow well in containers if you have limited space, though the trees and fruits will be smaller than those planted in the ground.
Figs: These delicious Mediterranean fruits enjoy the Sarasota climate. Plant them in full sun and leave plenty of room (about 12-15ft) around for maximum production. Some varieties are self-fruiting while others are not, so choose a variety that works best for your yard.
Bananas: These staples grow year-round in south Florida, but do best when planted in mid-spring once afternoon storms return. There are many exciting varieties of banana besides the ones we are familiar with—try multiple varieties or plant a single tree, as these trees are also self-fruitful.
Growing fruit trees can turn into your favorite hobby. If you need the tools or the products to make sure they thrive, come visit us at Big Earth Landscape Supply. We have 4 area locations – or you can shop online!