April 30, 2012

Tree fruit can be challenging for home gardens

Johnny Appleseed was one of the best marketers of all time.

It seems one of the first things new homeowners want to do is plant a couple of apple trees in their yard. I know, because that's what we did when we bought our house, too. We gave them away to friends within a year or two and haven't looked back.

Of all the food crops you can grow at home, tree fruits are among the most challenging. First, let's get some terminology cleared up. Tree fruits are those that grow on trees as opposed to bushes, vines or leafy plants, such as blueberries, grapes or strawberries, respectively.

There are two main types of tree fruits. The pomes are the apples and pears and are the most winter-hardy type of tree fruit. The others are the stone fruits and include plums, tart cherries, peaches, sweet cherries and apricots, in rough order of winter hardiness.

Stone Fruits

With the winter temperatures on a warming trend, maybe the stone fruits will become more reasonable choices for us. However, for now, I still recommend considering this group as a bit of a gamble. I know many people who have been successful growing hardy varieties of plums and peaches in our region, so it's not out of the question, but I also know even more people who have tried and failed. So, by all means, give it a try if you like, but don't expect success to be guaranteed.

In addition to winter hardiness, the stone fruits have a number of common-disease problems, including black knot and brown rot as well as insect pests. Then, sooner or later, a canker sets in, causing a thick ooze from the bark. This canker is the beginning of the end for the tree.

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