VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

How do I care for my fruit trees?

by the Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

How do I care for my fruit trees?

 As a baseline, fruit trees generally benefit from some fertilizer and some pruning each year.  However, fruit tree care and maintenance is not one size fits all. Before you begin, some things you should know are:

  • What type of fruit tree is it? Is it a dwarf or regular tree? Is it a multi-graft tree? Please note that pruning for tree fruit differs from pruning fig trees.
  • What is the age of the tree? Has it been pruned every year, or has it gone through a long period without pruning?
  • What kind of soil is the tree growing in? Is it acidic?



Fruit trees and bushes benefit from an application of compost and/or complete organic fertilizer spread over the soil. However, this is more important in young fruit trees than older, established ones. If your tree is healthy and free of leaf-borne diseases, allow its fallen leaves to remain around the tree -- do not rake them up. This provides natural mulch and weed suppression.  If you have acidic soil, you may want to spread lime in the spring or fall.



Fruit trees can be pruned in the winter when dormant, in the summer during the growing season, or both. Consider your objectives before deciding when to prune. If you have an older tree that has not been pruned in a number of years, go slowly. You want to reshape it gradually over a few years rather than cut it back all at once.

If you want your tree to grow larger/faster, prune in the winter. This stimulates growth in the spring. If you want your tree to stay smaller and more compact, prune in the growing season (after end of July). Always remove broken and crossed branches, thin out crowded branches, prune back branches that are much longer than others.

If you have a dwarf tree, you only prune at the start to establish the framework of the tree.