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I have a quarter-acre property, and by the time we implement our garden plan, we will have 21 fruit trees! Can you imagine being able to grow your own fruits at home? I have quite a few friends who are also growing fruit trees now and more that are looking into it for their properties. Whether you want to grow apples, peaches, pawpaws, or oranges, there are a few things you need to consider when selecting fruit trees to your garden.
The first step is knowing what will grow in your zone. If you live in eastern Pennsylvania as I do, you can’t grow plants that are accustom to growing in Georgia. They just won’t be happy and productive here. And that goes for everything in your garden, not just fruit trees.
After that, there are five main things to consider specific to growing fruit trees on your property.
Be aware of the size of your fruit trees! For most home gardeners, you will want
Dwarf trees are the smallest, typically growing to a height of 8′-10′. If you have limited space, dwarf trees can be grown successfully in containers, which means even if you live in an apartment, you can grow a fruit tree on your patio!
Semi-Dwarf trees are the next size and typically grow to a height of 12′-15′. These are the perfect size for most yards, and if you are limited on space, you can still grow them in containers. The average semi-dwarf fruit tree will produce almost twice as much fruit as a dwarf tree without taking up much more space.
Standard trees are the largest fruit trees and are the only ones that are not grafted. They are on their own original
Grow what you like to eat. This may sound like a given, but unlike growing a new veggie as an experiment, when you plant a fruit tree you are going to have it for years, possibly decades! A full-grown tree will produce a lot of fruit, and you don’t want to be stuck with something you don’t like and won’t enjoy. If you need to have a pollinator, select a pollinator variety that you also enjoy. Most fruit trees have more than one variety that will work as the pollinator, so you have lots of choices!
Consider the pollinators needed, and I’m not talking about bees. Many fruit trees need to have a second tree as a pollinator in order to produce fruit. Some fruit trees are sterile and require a pollinator, but don’t pollinate anything else in return. As a very general rule of thumb, stone fruits and tart cherries are self-fertile, where fruits that have a core and sweet cherries require a pollinator. I use the guides on Stark Brothers to select my tree varieties and find out what pollinators they need before I shop.
What about multi-graft trees?
I prefer trees that, at most, have 2 grafts. A graft is where the original tree is spliced together with another tree. This is how you get dwarf & semi-dwarf trees (single graft), but it’s also how you get trees that grow multiple varieties of fruits on a single tree. If you purchase a fruit tree that has 2 varieties, the two varieties will pollinate each other so you will only need 1 tree instead of two to produce fruit, which is great if you are limited on space. However, “fruit cocktail” trees that have 5 or more fruits on a single tree are much more of a challenge to grow, are only available as bare-root, and often receive poor reviews because they don’t grow or produce as well.
Where should I buy my fruit trees?
You have a lot of options on where to shop – Lowe’s & Home Depot, privately owned nurseries, or even mail-order catalogs. I recommend going where you can shop in person and purchase a potted tree vs online where you get a bare-root tree.
Bare-root trees cost about the same amount as a potted tree, but they take 3-5 years before they begin producing fruit. A potted tree can start producing fruit by the second year.
When purchasing a potted tree, look for bright green leaves, and a tree that has a nice shape that won’t require pruning right away. Avoid trees that are weeping sap, or have bug-eaten leaves as you don’t want to bring that pest home with you. If you purchase a potted tree before it has