Community Fruit Tree Care Guide
Congratulations! You are the host of a Community Fruit Tree! Through love and care, you will be able to provide a priceless amount of fruit for the people of your community including you and your family. We are so excited to be on this journey towards a happier, healthier and more sustainable community with you.
Hosting a Community Fruit Tree is pretty easy and requires minimal work, but it does come with some responsibilities. We have written a this guide for you including planting, watering, mulching, pruning, when to harvest fruit and more resources to help ensure that the trees grow healthy and produce a bounty of fruit. This guide is written specifically for Central Florida and following it will greatly increase the chances of these fruit trees surviving and thriving.
We are here to help you along the way. Please join the Community Fruit Tree Facebook group to stay up to date on the project as well as ask questions to us and the community. If you have any problems or questions with your tree you can always email us at [email protected] or post in the Facebook group. Please post photos of updates on your tree as it grows, flowers, fruits, and adds joy to your neighborhood.
All community fruit trees need a caretaker to help them establish and grow to a bountiful fruit tree. The time commitment for fruit trees is extremely minimal considering the potential they have. A handful of hours of work each year can produce enough fruit to feed and bring joy to dozens of people.
How we chose which trees to plant
The trees that we have planted as Community Fruit Trees include Mulberry, Loquat, Peach, Avocado, Pomegranate, Persimmon, Suriname Cherry, Fig, Pineapple Guava/ Feijoa and Starfruit/ Carambola. We chose the trees that are the easiest to grow, take the least management, and have the highest yield. Basically, the trees that are the least likely to do poorly or die and most likely to thrive and produce a lot of fruit. Most of the stewards to a Community Fruit Tree are not experts of fruit trees, so we didn’t choose trees that take excess care and skills.
The factors we took into account when choosing which fruit trees to plant included
-Cold tolerance. We mostly chose trees that could handle freezes in the winter and the heat of the summers. Freezes are uncommon here, but one freeze can kill many fruit trees that are not adapted to freezes. Orlando is not tropical, so trees such as mango, lychee and longan are risky to plant here.
-Pests and disease. We chose trees that have the fewest number of pests. We did not chose citrus because of Citrus Greening disease for example.
-Yield. We chose trees known to have a high level of productivity. We didn’t choose speciality fruit trees that may be delicious, but don’t produce much fruit.
-Management. Some trees take more skill to prune correctly. We focused on trees that take minimal pruning and management.
-Taste. Of course we chose fruits that taste great! But ease of management came before this. Luckily, many trees are easy to manage AND delicious!
How to Plant a Community Fruit Tree
- Choose a location that is fully accessible to the public, preferably right near a sidewalk. A good standard is to plant the tree about seven feet from the sidewalk. If the tree has a tag, you can check the average width to decide how close to the sidewalk to plant. For example If the average width of the tree is twenty feet, then plant ten feet from the sidewalk.
- Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the pot that the fruit tree is in. (Example: Most trees we are planting are in three-gallon pots. A three-gallon pot is approx. one foot wide and 10” deep so you would dig a hole that is two feet wide and 10” deep.
- Remove the roots, grass, and vegetation from the soil that you dug up.If you want to reduce weeding later, also remove all grass for approximately a two to three foot radius around the hole.
- Take the tree out of the pot. If the tree was not sitting in the pot for too long prior to planting, you won’t have to touch the roots at all. If there’s an obvious ball of roots, that is circling around inside the pot gently untangle them and massage the root ball to loosen it up. If the tree was sitting in the pot for a long period of time the root ball will need more untangling. If the tree was in the pot for a short period of time, it may not need any untangling and massaging at all.
- Place the tree into the center of the hole. The top of the soil of the potted tree should be about 1-2” above, or even with, the top of the soil line of the ground where you are planting it.
- Fill the hole with the ONLY the same soil that you took out of the hole, even if the location you are planting in is nearly completely sand, which much of Central Florida is. Do not add any amendments such as top soil, manure, fertilizer, or peat. Add water to the hole as you fill it back up with the soil. This helps to settle the soil firmly and ensure that no air pockets exist.
- Add compost to the top 1-2 inches of soil. Put a 2” layer of compost on top of the soil.
- Use the excess dirt to make a mound around the hole. The mound should be shaped like a donut around the tree. This helps create a basin, where water can sit and sink into the ground to the roots, and not flow away.
- Add a 3-4” layer of mulch around the tree in a donut shape. Place the mulch so that none is touching the trunk of the tree. We recommend mulching about two to three feet around the tree. Remember donut shape, not volcano shape. When watering the tree make sure that the water doesn’t push the mulch up against the tree. If mulch is pushed up against the tree, pull it back away.
- Remove any plastic bands that are holding the tree to the stake and make sure to not miss any at the base of the tree. If the tree is not able to support itself you can use a soft fabric such as cotton to loosely tie the tree to the stake. Make sure to do it loosely so that it does not impede tree growth. If the plastic stays on it can damage the tree trunk. We do not have exact information as to when to remove the stake. Some say one growing season, others say six months. We recommend removing the stake as soon as the tree is self-supporting, and not leaving it on any longer. If the tree is in a windy area it is more likely to need the stake for the three to six months after planting.
How to Water a Community Fruit Tree
Frequency of watering:
-Water daily for the first 2 weeks or atleast 5-6 days/ week
-Then water every other day up 2 months from planting
-Then water weekly up to 6 months from planting
-After 3-6 months the tree will be established and should need very little watering. During the wet season you may not need to water at all. During extended dry periods, such as a few weeks without rain, you can water once per week.
Volume of water:
– Approximately 3 gallons of water per watering (half of a five-gallon bucket). The key is to let the water soak deep into the ground. Rather than dump a large amount on quickly and let much of the water flow away, it’s better to slowly add the water so that it can soak in. Two methods to help the water soak in are:
Set the hose into the basin and turn the hose on a low setting and let it flow for 5-10 minutes.
With a bucket, take a few minutes to slowly pour the water into the basin.
Neither rain or sprinkler irrigation will provide a deep enough saturation for establishment. Rains only reach the top few inches of soil and do not establish deep roots. Rains are extremely beneficial but are not ample for establishing your tree.
Mulch and Compost
If we planted your Community Fruit Tree, we have top-dressed it with mushroom compost and mulch. Mulch helps to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and build soil life. Generally, the trees will benefit from bing re-mulched once per year.
Please make sure that you add mulch and compost in spring of next year, or earlier if needed. We hope to have a mulch and compost drop in a central location where you will be able to pick it up. This will reduce cost and the impact of transportation. We will send out a notification via our Facebook group and email newsletter.
Keep the mulched area weed free. Weeds compete for nutrients and water. It’s best to pull the weeds out from their roots, to keep them from coming back. Weeding once per week will only take a few minutes, and you will prevent weeds from establishing.
We will provide a sign to let everyone know that this is a Community Fruit Tree. We will be in contact soon about this.
When will these trees start producing fruit?
Most of the trees will produce fruit in about two years. See the Community Fruit Tree Information Sheet for the details that we have found on the different fruit trees.
Pruning: Most of these trees require very little pruning. More details coming soon on the Community Fruit Tree Information Sheet
Pests: Coming Soon on the Community Fruit Tree Information Sheet
How to know when to harvest fruit: Coming Soon on the Community Fruit Tree Information Sheet
Information for Each Fruit Tree
In this section we have provided links that we could find for each of the fruit trees. These links give you a good general idea about the tree and fruit and some of the links go much deeper in discussing care, pruning, pests and more.
Avocado information from A Natural Farm– includes a full care guide
Peach information from A Natural Farm– includes a full care guide
Persimmon information from A Natural Farm– includes a full care guide
Pineapple Guava/ Feijoa
Congratulations again on your Community Fruit Tree! We are confident this project will send positive ripples all over the community and we are so happy to be on this journey with you! We are here to help you along the way. We encourage you to ask us questions through the Community Fruit Tree Facebook group or via email at [email protected]. We will not know every answer but we will do our best to find the answer for you.
A special thanks to the Live Like Ally Foundation for providing us with a grant to plant these trees.
Central Florida Fruit Society is a local group of people very passionate about fruit trees. Meetings are on the 3rd Monday of the month from 7PM – 9PM. You can post and meet people in their Facebook group as well.
UF/ IFAS Extension is an amazing resource for everything to do with gardening in Florida. It’s hard to even sum up all they have to offer. Pertaining to fruit trees they offer IFAS FruitScapes which is a great source of information including how to plant, select, and care for fruit trees. They offer guides specific to some fruit trees including a few of the Community Fruit Trees we planted- Avocado, Starfruit/ Carambola, Peach, and Persimmon.
Floridata– A plant encyclopedia for Florida with great information on many fruit trees.
Growables– A source of information for growing Florida edibles, focused on South Florida, but still very helpful for fruit tree information.
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles book by Robert Bowden (Executive Director at Leu Gardens)
Orlando Permaculture is an amazing group of local permaculturists. “Orlando Permaculture exists to disseminate the knowledge of Permaculture as it applies to the urban setting of Orlando, Florida.” Their Facebook group, and Facebook page, Orlando Permaculture, will provide you with many opportunities to learn and get involved. Orlando Permaculture hosts meetings on the 2nd Tuesday of every month where you can meet many experienced fruit tree stewards.
Nurseries to get fruit trees from
A Natural Farm and Educational Center offers a large variety of fruit trees at the farm or delivered, fruit tree workshops on the farm, and an abundance of information and care guides on their website.
Greens Nursery offers a large number of fruit trees and can order some trees that they don’t have.
HEART Village Nursery offers a few varieties of fruit trees and a plethora of perennial plants at very low prices. They also offer tours of the nursery and host a few events.
South Seminole Farm & Nursery offers fruit trees for purchase as well as classes.