Growing fruit trees

Planting fruit trees can be a very rewarding, easy way to grow food for you, your family and friends.

A bunch of pears hanging on a tree.

Pears are a great choice for Wellington!

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What grows in Wellington

Our climate and high winds mean that fruit trees need to be hardy in order to grow well.

Choose a tree

Find the right site

The right site is an important factor – soil, sun, water availability, frost susceptibility and wind exposure all affect the success of your tree.

You'll need to know:

  • what type of soil the site has
  • the direction of the sun and how much sun your site gets
  • if there are regular frosts
  • what the prevalent winds are.

Some air movement is good, but the best sites will be sheltered from strong winds and salt. You can grow hardy shelter trees and create 'sun traps', these will create a good spot to plant your future fruit tree. Feijoa are wind tolerant and can be used as a wind break in this situation.

You can read more about choosing a tree and finding a site in the International Society of  Arboriculture's Tree Selection Guide (1.3MB PDF)

Three children stand next to an espaliered tree, photo by Jim Eden.

An espaliered tree (Jim Eden)

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Don't have much space?

Urban backyards are often small – in this case you could espalier your fruit trees (train them to grow flat against a wall), or buy trees grown on dwarf rootstock which reduces their size.

Be aware of the mature size of your tree – make sure you don't plant too close to your house or neighbours property.

Note: trees planted on road reserves without permission will be cut down.

Planting

Taking care when planting a tree pays off, the right steps now will mean your tree will be healthy for generations to come.

For the best results:

  • dig a square hole to plant in – this helps to promote the spread of roots with hold the tree in place
  • place a layer of seaweed from the beach or sprinkle plant food available from any garden store over the bottom of the hole – this adds extra nutrients to the soil to help your tree establish itself
  • plant your tree into the hole, and add compost mixed with soil around the roots.

You can read more about planting trees in the International Society of Arboriculture's New Tree Planting Guide (1.2MB PDF)

A young tree that has been grafted to rootstock - image by Scot Nelson.

A tree grafted onto rootstock (Scot Nelson)

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Did you know?

Most fruit trees are grafted (which means a cutting is grown onto the root of another tree). The root the tree is grafted onto is called the rootstock. Ask your nursery for advice on the right rootstock for your tree and site. 

Bug hotel.

Bug hotels draw pollenating insects

Pollination

Bees and flies pollinate trees, leading to them fruiting. Pollinators are more active on sites sheltered from wind. Planting pollinator-friendly plants such as borage, lavender and phacelia around your trees will help with pollination.

Some trees also require other ‘buddy’ trees of the same species planted around them to help promote pollination. Applepear and plum trees have the most needs, and may require up to three varieties of the same or similar variety planted around them to fruit well.

  • Self-fertile
    Self-fertile can pollinate on its own but will benefit from another variety nearby.
  • Self-sterile
    Self-sterile need another tree for pollination. This can be of the same variety or of a different suitable variety as outlined in the pollination notes of relevant tables.
  • T Triploid
    T Triploid need three different varieties to be planted together. Only a few of our apple tree recommendations require this.

Caring & maintenance

Staking new trees is important, especially here in windy Wellington. The stake will hold the tree steady so the roots can grow into the surrounding soil. Don't make the ties too tight – this might restrict growth.

Protect your tree by using natural insect and pest repellents like Trepel, and install fencing or tree guards to keep possums, lawn mowers and kids away.

Buddy plants surrounding a young fruit tree.

A herbal ley supports young trees 

Plant a herbal ley

Herbal leys are an understory of plants. Growing these around your new tree will attract beneficial insects and loosen the surrounding soil. Learn more: Learn ley of the land - NZ Herald

On-going care

Mulch your fruit tree to keep the soil moist for longer. Mulch also helps to stop weeds. After a few years of mulching, well planted fruit trees only need watering in extreme conditions.

Feed your tree at least once a year with compost, and ideally every few months with organic fertilisers.

Prune once a year so that your fruit tree grows into the best shape for fruit production. Learn more: Fruit tree pruning guide - Tui Garden

Many community gardens run fruit tree workshops over the winter months – get in touch with them to find out when.

Adding fruit trees to your garden is part of creating a biodiverse backyard.

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