How to Select a Tree Planting Site

Learn what factors to consider when deciding where and when to plant a new fruit tree, including resources on find a spot with the best sun exposure.

| October 2019

planting-trees
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Site Selection

The first question to ask: can you grow fruit trees where you live? What can grow where is largely dictated by climate and weather. Some people use the two words interchangeably, but climate is the way the atmosphere behaves—the weather conditions over a long time period (30 years). Climate does change; for instance, in 2012, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) added 5°F to the low temperature readings for all of its climate zones. When we talk about weather, it’s more about the specific conditions (rain, fog, temperatures, wind, and sun) over a short period of time: today, the 3-to 5-day forecast, seasonal forecasts.

Climate

The USDA assigns each type of fruit a cold hardiness zone, which indicates where in the United States that fruit can be grown. These hardiness zones account for the average low temperatures for different areas. You can figure out what USDA hardiness zone you live in on  the USDA website.

While USDA zones won’t tell you all you need to know about the ability of a particular variety of fruit to thrive in your location, they will at least help you set the parameters for what you can grow in general.



Hardiness zones are pretty cut-and-dried: below X temperature, the tree will die. But heat is also a factor in a tree’s growth. Heat triggers faster, greater growth and fruit development and high sugar content.

Although heat is desirable, too much can be harmful. A sustained series of days with temps higher than 92°F–95°F will be problematic. Partic­ularly in mid- to late summer, a heat wave in excess of 4–5 days will cause the tree to need more water and also can cause heat stress, which makes trees more susceptible to pests. Too much sunlight can sunburn leaves, fruit, and branches. That doesn’t mean you can’t grow fruit trees; overall, the deleterious effects of heat are more subtle than those of cold. (One of the typical ways people deal with the problem of heat is to allow the tree to develop a thick canopy. This offers more shade for the fruit and branches and can minimize heat damage. Another trick of the trade is to sprinkle the trees with water overhead on morn­ings when it’s expected to be hotter than the mid-90s. The resulting evaporative cooling effect can lower the tree canopy’s temperature by 8°F –10°F.)






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