Choose the Right Fruit Tree for Your Garden
Fresh fruits are an important part of our diet and most of us probably don’t eat enough of them. Gardeners with sufficient area in which to plant often include fruit trees in the garden with hopes of enjoying peaches, apples and other fresh fruit with the added pleasure of having grown it themselves. Many times, though, gardeners in our part of the country find it very difficult to be successful with fruit trees. One of the reasons for the lack of success is that we choose the wrong varieties to start with. Could it be that there are some secrets to choosing the right fruit trees for your garden?
One of the common mistakes in growing fresh fruit starts at the point of purchase. Not all fruit trees will work in every area. Case in point. Every gardener has heard of Bartlett pear. When ripe, it is juicy, soft and really delicious. However, it is not recommended for the south because of its susceptibility to a devastating disease known as fire blight. Disease resistance is, therefore, an important consideration when choosing all fruit tree varieties.
The disease is not the only consideration. Someone asked recently about a tree that consistently bloomed early and the flowers were routinely killed by cold weather. That’s because the tree required too few chill hours for our area. Fruit trees bloom after they receive a certain number of hours below 45º F. We call this “chill hours” and the amount varies among fruit trees. Some varieties may flower after receiving a few hundred chill hours and others may need more than 700. If a tree accumulates its required chill hours and then experiences some warm weather, the flower buds will open, exposing them to the damages of freezing weather. Therefore, it is important to choose fruit trees with chill hour requirements that fit a particular geographic area.
Disease resistance and chill hour requirements are two very important items to consider when choosing fruit trees. Another item to consider is performance. A tree with good disease resistance and the right chill hours may not have the best fruit quality, reliability, etc. So how do you know what to choose?
Choosing the right fruit tree for the production
we discussed the criteria for selecting fruit trees for the home garden. We focused on the selection of fruit trees that are disease resistant, adapted to our winters and perform well in our environment. With these ideas in mind, let’s move a little further into the secrets of successful backyard fruit production.
To begin with, let’s “branch out” so that we can include information on plants that produce fruit on vines, canes, and bushes as well as trees. Gardeners should know how difficult it is to raise the particular fruit they are considering. For convenience sake, take a look at the list below regarding the relative difficulty of raising particular fruits.
Fruit considered easy to grow include blackberries, blueberries, figs, oriental persimmon, and quince. Those that are moderately difficult include muscadine, pecan, strawberry, pear, and citrus. The difficult list includes peach, apple, and plum. Easy crops imply that there is very little to be done or just minimal effort. Moderate means that in most cases, pruning along with limited amounts of pest control must be done as well as winter protection for most citrus. Difficult crops take a lot of time and effort. They require pruning in addition to routine application of pesticide for insect and disease control.
By following this thought process, we are first going to consider disease resistance, adaptation to climate and performance of the particular fruit-bearing plant before we ever make a purchase. Consideration of how much time and effort one has to expend to get the fruit (or nut) is important, too. For example, many gardeners find they can buy a lot of pecans for what it costs to grow them yourself. That’s true for many fruits and nuts.
One last consideration is to find out if the fruit-bearing plant you are considering can pollinate itself or if it needs another to help it set fruit. Some plants, like peaches, are self- fertile. Others are self-fertile but fare better if another plant provides additional pollen and still others must have another to pollinate them or they will not set fruit.
Equally important to choosing the best fruit bearing plants for your location is the planting site. Select a site that has full sun exposure. Avoid poorly drained or droughty locations. Adjust the soil pH to 6.5 (except for blueberries). Set the plants at the right distance from each other to prevent crowding in later years and to allow for good air movement.
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