A listener recently asked about growing her own fruit trees right there in her own backyard.
I grow my own fruit, and so can you. Here I have Peaches, Nectarines, Mandarin Oranges, and Myer Lemons.
And no matter where you are there should be some fruit variety that tastes good, and will grow in your area. Even if you are in a cold winter zone there is a way you can still raise fruit like lemons. I’ll talk about that in a bit.
First off, most fruit trees require full sun. This generally means at least 6 hours of pure, unbroken sunlight. While many can tolerate a bit less, it may mean your harvest will be reduced somewhat too.
Soil requirements do vary from variety to variety. When planting your tree, yopu can customize the soil based on the individual needs if required. That’s what I had to do here because of all the clay.
I dug out a hole much larger than needed, and ammended the soil with a custom blend I made up, and removed the soil I took from the hole to another location.
Plant varieties will vary from needs of PH, looseness, etc. Ask your tree supplier what the tree you are getting wants to have.
Fruit plants vary widely on cold tolerance. Temps below this may kill just new buds affecting only the new season, or it may even kill the entire plant.
You can find what the average temps are in your area at http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
The cold hardiness of your plants are one of the most important points to take into consideration.
Some varieties even have a warm days requirement, although these are generally plants for very warm areas like paw-paw and pomegranates.
Next I want to talk about one of the most confusing aspects to many new growers – self-fruitful and self unfruitful plants.
Self fruitful simply means the tree or plant is able to pollinate itself without the help of another tree. Now it still needs the help of pollinators like bees and butterflies, but it doesn’t require the pollen from a different tree.
Self-Unfruitful simply means the plant does require pollen from a different tree. And to confuse matters a little more, some varieties won’t cross-pollinate with their own variety, meaning not only two trees are needed, but also a different and many times specific variety. I believe Some Cherries fall into this category.
Spacing is another important thing to keep in mind. Your plants will grow, and quickly become crowed if you’re not careful.
Again, spacing is highly dependent on the plant species. Generally, Apples are about 20 ft for the full size trees, and 12 ft for the semi-dwarf varieties. Peach, Nectarine, and pears are normally around 15 ft to allow for healthy growth.
One thing to become familiar with is the practice of using various rootstocks. Many trees, especially citrus and apple are grafted onto the root section ( “rootstock) of another variety. This is to give it more cold hardiness, disease resistance, or any number of reasons. Once you start growing for a while, you will even learn about the different varieties of rootstocks and which ones are best for your location.
Since I mentioned Apples, I should also mention that they are among the most difficult to grow successfully. East of the Rocky Mountains apples have a significant pest issue, and all have substantial pruning requirements.
Earlier I mentioned that you can grow fruit even if you are in a cold climate. While you can cover the trees in burlap, and other things, what I like to do is choose some of the dwarf varieties and keep in a large planter. Then as the weather cools, you can bring it inside.
To me nothing beats the smell of a flowering lemon in the middle of winter!
When the plants are kept in the planter, their roots naturally don’t get that large, and it helps to keep the plant size reduce. I alsways had a lemon tree in my kitchen in Texas- the aroma was unbelievable. And, the lemons bloomed year round.
What Fruit will you start with?