Susan Poizner's picture
Posted by Susan Poizner /
Apricot - Prunus armeniaca
With the surge of interest in the local food movement, more and more Torontonians are planting fruit trees in their yards, school grounds, or in their local parks. After all, why should we import fruit from around the world when we can grow it in our own communities? With proper care and nurturing, a fruit tree can feed us for up to 50 years or more.



The best time to plant an orchard is now – especially considering it will take three to five years until you will get a harvest. Plus, LEAF is offering new Edible Garden Kits, which include a mix of fruit trees and bushes. But before you rush to order, remember that in order to thrive, fruit trees need hands-on care.



Spring pruning is the best thing you can do to help your fruit tree thrive. Annual pruning, beginning the first year your tree is in the ground, helps to shape the tree so the branches will grow strong enough to support the fruit. It also encourages vigorous growth. If you’re in Toronto you can learn to prune at Growing for Green’s Beginners Fruit Tree Care Workshop on April 22, 2012.



Like native trees, fruit trees need regular irrigation in the first two or three years after planting. For fruit trees this is even more important because a stressed young tree will be vulnerable to pests or disease that can stunt its growth. Water the roots (be careful not to splash the trunk) twice a week during the growing season. Consider circling a drip hose around the tree base and putting it on a timer so you don’t forget.



Each spring, spread quality compost or well-rotted manure around the roots of your tree and cover it with mulch. Growing for Green mulches our orchard trees with alfalfa hay, which gives the trees an extra boost of nutrition as it decomposes. Avoid mulching with wood chips as they can draw much needed nitrogen out of the soil.


Ben Nobleman Community Orchard


Thinning the Fruit

In the first two to three years you will need to carefully remove all young fruit from your tree so it can reinvest its energy into its roots. From the third year on you can thin judiciously, leaving some fruit though not enough to weigh down the branches. Thinning in this way also ensures the remaining fruit will grow to a significant size.


Learn More

Once you’ve learned the basics you can sign up for an Intermediate or Advanced Fruit Tree Care workshops and learn how to recognize signs of disease, and how to graft or bud fruit trees. At Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard we always welcome new volunteers, so come out and get your hands dirty. Growing fruit trees is so rewarding. Give them a little love and nurturing, and they’ll reward us with abundant harvests for generations to come. Most of all enjoy your new fruit trees! 


Susan Poizner is the Coordinator of Growing for Green, one of the founders of Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard. For more information and a list of upcoming fruit tree care workshops visit or e-mail her at



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