All About Growing Fruit Trees

Growing fruit trees organically is possible with the proper amount of care and attention. To bite into a fresh peach, or spread homemade apple butter on warm bread, is the epitome of a sweet, sweet reward.


| February/March 2014



Illustration Of Peaches, Apples And Cherries

There are many types of fruit trees, and with a little research you can easily find the best variety for your region and tastes. Try growing apples for homemade cider or growing peaches for a heavenly summer treat.


Illustration by Keith Ward

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

No plants give sweeter returns than fruit trees. From cold-hardy apples and cherries to semi-tropical citrus fruits, fruit trees grow in nearly every climate. Growing fruit trees requires a commitment to pruning and close monitoring of pests, and you must begin with a type of fruit tree known to grow well in your area.

Choose varieties recommended by your local extension service, as some varieties need a certain level of chill hours (number of hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit). For complete details on planning and maintaining a home orchard, we recommend the book The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips.

Types of Fruit Trees to Try

Even fruit trees described as self-fertile will set fruit better if grown near another variety known to be a compatible pollinator. Extension publications and nursery catalogs often include tables listing compatible varieties.

Apples (Malus domestica) are the most popular tree fruits because they are widely adapted, relatively easy to grow and routine palate-pleasers. The ideal soil pH for apples is 6.5, but apple trees can adjust to more acidic soil if it’s fertile and well-drained. Most apple varieties, including disease-resistant ‘Freedom’ and ‘Liberty,’ are adapted to cold-hardiness Zones 4 to 7 (if you don’t know your Zone, see "Know Your Cold-Hardiness Zone” later in this article), but you will need low-chill varieties, such as ‘Anna’ and ‘Pink Lady,’ in mild winter climates. No matter your climate, begin by choosing two trees that are compatible pollinators to get good fruit set. Mid- and late-season apples usually have better flavor and store longer compared with early-season varieties.

Cherries (Prunus avium (sweet) and P. cerasus (sour)) range in color from sunny yellow to nearly black and are classified in two subtypes: compact sweet varieties, such as ‘Stella,’ and sour or pie cherries, such as ‘Montmorency’ and ‘North Star.’ Best adapted to Zones 4 to 7, cherry trees need fertile, near-neutral soil and excellent air circulation. Growing 12-foot-tall dwarf cherry trees of either subtype will simplify protecting your crop from diseases and birds, because the small trees can be covered with protective netting or easily sprayed with sulfur or kaolin clay.

robert
8/5/2017 2:34:31 PM

We started gardening and we were gone wrong. We could not figure out why we were not getting the beautiful vegetables we were hoping for. People suggest to spray chemicals for vegetables and fruits but is poison and it is not organic vegetables. My lab professor referred a guide it helps me to grow my gardening as what we like, you can get the guide from here >> ( http://go2l.ink/plants ) <<. I have recommended this system to all of my friends and family. We got good organic natural vegetables and fruits in the next harvest, one of the beautiful products in the market.....*


punky
4/9/2014 7:40:31 AM

After planting a young pear tree, my dog rapped his dog tie around the trunk and in distress, started chewing the trunk. I put tree tar on the damaged area. Are there any thoughts from anyone on this? Will the tree Heal itself from this damage since it is so young?


alexm
2/26/2014 7:28:47 AM

I've got a question about netting. Last year I moved into a new house, which has a cherry tree in the back yard. A week or two into the summer it was clear I was going to lose most of the fruit to birds, so I put up netting. Six weeks later I had to go rescue a squirrel that had gotten caught inside (I guess I didn't fasten it tightly enough at the bottom), and a week or two after that I had to rescue a robin that had run into the net and gotten tangled. Is there a better kind of net to use, that won't trap bird wings? Frankly, if the choice comes down to "having cherries" or "not killing the local wildlife", I'd rather just buy fruit at the store.


tenthacrefarm
2/23/2014 3:59:54 PM

This really gets me in the mood for spring! I've never heard of a sand plum, sounds very interesting. I'm looking forward to increasing my pruning skills this year, too! Seems every year I gain more confidence. We've had great results using permaculture-style guilds with our fruit trees for pest resistance and fertilizer, using herbaceous plants and ground covers. Our http://tafarm.us/1e8oWMq have been fun to work with over the last several years.


hannahk
1/28/2014 8:42:24 AM

Love this article! What beautiful illustrations, too. :)






Crowd at Seven Springs MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Sept. 15-17, 2017
Seven Springs, PA.

With more than 150 workshops, there is no shortage of informative demonstrations and lectures to educate and entertain you over the weekend.

LEARN MORE