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It’s official. Your “Green Thumb” is making your neighbors “green” with envy. Your magnolias are magnificent, your tulips are tumultuous and your wisterias are without equal. So why not up the ante? While everyone is enjoying the “flowers of your labors,” the “fruits of your labors” will guarantee much sweeter returns. You’ll be saving money, saving the environment and, imagine how much better your morning grapefruit will taste when you know that it came from your own garden.
Types of Fruit Trees
Apple trees are the most popular types because they are adaptable, easy to grow, and, well, a lot of people like them. Most apple varieties, including disease resistant ‘Liberty’ and “Freedom,’ are adapted to cold hardiness, but if you are in mild inner climates, you will be better off with low chill varieties like ‘Anna’ and ‘Pink Lady. Since trees grow better next to compatible pollinators, you will want to begin with two trees to guarantee a good fruit set. Mid and late season apples generally have better flavor and store longer than early season types.
Cherries can be of a sweet or sour subset and range in color from bright yellow to nearly black. They need fertile near neutral soil and good air circulation. Twelve-foot tall cherry trees will be easy to protect from virus and birds because the smaller trees can be sprayed with sulfur or kaolin clay and can be covered by a protective net.
Citrus hybrids, like kumquat, Mandarin orange, satsuma, and ‘Meyer’ lemon are the easiest fruit to grow. The fragrant oils in citrus provide built-in pest protection, although some varieties may require extra care in the cold weather. ‘Nagami’ kumquat, ‘Owari’ Satsuma, and ‘Meyer’ lemon may need to be covered in blankets in the extreme cold, but winter citrus harvests may be worth it.
Planting Fruit Trees
Choose a sunny site with well-drained fertile soil. Dig a hole that’s two times the size of the root ball of the tree. Spread the roots in the hole, and fill with soil. Trees should be set at the same depth as they were in the nursery and care should be taken not to bury any swollen areas on the trunk. Water generously and install a trunk guard to protect the tree from rodents, scalding, and physical injuries. Stake the tree to hold steady. Mulch over the root zone with wood chips or slow rotting mulch. One year after planting, fruit tree should be fertilized. Rake back the mulch and scratch an organic fertilizer into the surface of the soil. Add a wood based mulch to a mulch depth of about 4 inches in a 4-foot circle surrounding the trees. After two years, switch from trunk guards to coating the trunks with a white latex paint, Sand will keep away voles and rabbits.
Pruning Fruit Trees
You should begin pruning fruit trees to shape them in their first year of growth and then annually in late winter. Keep in mind that pruning too much is better than too little.
Harvesting and Storage
Except for pears, fruit trees should be harvested just as they are approaching full ripeness and should be kept chilled. Apples and pears can be kept for several months in the fridge, but softer stone fruits, like nectarines, peaches, cherries and plums should be dried, frozen, canned, or juiced within the first days of being harvested.
Pests and Diseases
Apply sulfur sprays early in the season to prevent brown rot and diseases.
Are you thinking of adding a little citrus and fruit to your garden? Let us know how it’s going! We love to get your comments and suggestions.