How to buy a good fruit tree

If you’re going to plant fruit trees this winter (and haven’t ordered any from Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery), then it’s time to be either getting your order in (they close on June 30), or thinking about buying trees from a nursery.

To give you an idea of the average size of a new tree, this is what a bare-rooted tree will usually look like when you buy it (these are plum trees we’ve grown in our on-farm nursery):

A plum tree that's just been dug up out of the nursery
A plum tree that’s just been dug up out of the nursery

There’s a number of things you can do to give your fruit trees the best possible start in life, and choosing a good tree at the nursery is the first step.

Most nurseries are reputable, and most trees you buy are in excellent condition, however there are still things to look for to help you choose the healthiest trees available.

If you buy fruit trees at a market, make sure the roots haven't been allowed to dry out

If you buy fruit trees at a market, make sure the roots haven’t been allowed to dry out
  1. Check the roots – they should look moist, and not dry. Be careful buying bare-rooted trees at markets for example, which may have had their roots exposed for long periods. Even if the roots look wet when you buy them, it’s worth asking how long they’ve been out of the ground, and how they’ve been looked after between markets (because the trees may be going to multiple markets before they’re bought).
  2. Check the age of the tree – trees that have been at the nursery for more than 1 or 2 years are at increased risk of transplant shock when moved. Be cautious with trees in pots, as this is often what happens to left-over trees from previous years.
  3. Are the buds healthy?
  4. How much did the tree grow last year? This is a good indication of health.
  5. Does the bark look healthy and free of disease?
Trees waiting for collection with their roots wrapped to prevent them drying out
Trees waiting for collection with their roots wrapped to prevent them drying out

When you get your trees home, ensure the roots are kept moist and covered until you plant them.

If you don’t have time to plant your trees straight away, you can also use a method called ‘heeling in’ to keep them in good condition.

You’ll find guidance on the next step towards a healthy mature tree, which is how to plant your tree correctly (including a video), in our Plant New Fruit Trees the Right Way online short course.

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