Enjoying The Homegrown Fruits Of Your Labor

KatphotoBy Kathleen Harvey, Owner, Plant Artistry, LLC

Imagine plucking ripe, luscious fruits from trees in your garden. Enjoying fresh peach salsa, poached pears, or spreading homemade plum preserves on warm bread is the epitome of a gardener’s reward. As fall approaches, the air is cool and apples ripen. Pull an apple from the tree, hear the crisp snap as you bite into it and taste the sweet tangy flavor as the juice spreads over your taste buds.

No plants give sweeter returns than fruit trees. Cold-hardy apples, peaches, cherries, pears, and plums can all be grown in our area. Growing fruit trees is possible with the proper amount of care and attention.

Just how do you grow a fruit tree at home? There are many types of fruit trees, and with a little research, you can easily find the best variety for your soil type, weather, and tastes. Try growing apples for homemade cider or cherries for a heavenly summer treat. After selecting the type of tree, pick an area in the garden that gets full sunlight. Partial shade is acceptable for certain varieties, so verify which variety is best suited for the area where it will be planted. Most fruit trees prefer soil that is neutral to slightly acidic to enable nutrient uptake. Soil ph can be determined with litmus paper, such as that used for backyard pools.

Something else to keep in mind: some trees are self-pollinating, and certain varieties are cross-pollinating, which means they will need other varieties of the same species planted nearby to promote fruit growth.

In nature, most plants are in splendid isolation, trying to spread unnaturally fast to beat competition from nearby plants. Our job is to prevent shrubs and trees from outgrowing their position in a yard, while keeping fruit accessible without climbing a tall ladder. Judicious pruning helps plants develop into sound structures without over-stressing their limbs. Also, maximum flowering and bountiful fruit are only possible by pruning. If you make a mistake, plants are very forgiving. You may lose a season of flowers and fruit, but the plant will likely recover for the next year.

Pruning is only occasionally needed for a fruit tree, in order to maintain its natural shape plus an open canopy to support proper fruit maturation. Prune trees during their dormant period, right before spring growth begins. Occasional pruning at other times of the year may be done to remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches.

On apple and other fruit trees, cut upright sprouts back to their connecting stem. These vigorous shoots soak up the plant’s energy and bear few or no flowers or fruits. Preserve fruit production by removing weak branches and undesirable shoots originating from the tree base to save food reserve for healthy parts of the tree.

Watering should be done as needed. The amount is dependent on a few factors: fruit tree species, weather, and surrounding plants that want their share. Allow the soil to dry some before watering. Fertilizer should be used approximately once every few weeks until mid summer to encourage strong growth. Compost and composted manure is best. If synthetic fertilizer is used, avoid the tree spikes, which may burn roots if not placed correctly.

Like everything worthwhile, growing fruit trees takes some work, but can be very rewarding!

Happy Earth Day!

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