Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Truth About Fruit Trees

When I was a kid, most of the places we lived had a few fruit trees in the yard. I remember in Indiana we had three apple trees, none of which ever seemed to do very well, but during the summer rains I loved to go out and pick apples. I'd hang a plastic bag from my wrist as I balanced precariously on the low crook of the tree, reaching for the green rain washed apples. They might not have tasted very good, but there was something about the rain that made them taste sweeter to me.

At my current home, I may not be able to pick apples in the rain anymore, but fruit trees have become an even bigger part of garden life. We inherited two wonderfully established green apple trees, a Mandarin orange tree and a lemon tree with our property. Since we've moved in we've also added an apricot tree and a pineapple guava tree to our front yard. I think we've about maxed out our tree potential, but I always have my eye open for a new spot I could wiggle in another one (perhaps an olive or fig).

Even though full size fruit trees offer many of the same benefits of non-fruiting trees, such as shade and beauty, there are a few things to consider before you plant one in your yard. The first is, what are you going to do with hundreds of peaches/apples/pears/etc. that suddenly become ripe in your backyard? Do you make preserves? Do you have family and friends that would like some? Along this last line, trading with family, friends and neighbors who have different fruit trees can be fun. There is nothing sadder than driving by a fruit tree with half it's fruit on the ground because it's owners really don't have a use for it or have forgotten it's even there. I had a friend a few years back who had an orange tree that was brimming with ripe fruit, when I asked her if I could have some for making marmalade she exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, I forgot we even had one. I just bought a bag of oranges at the store!"

The second thing to consider, is the mess a fruit tree makes. Even if you try your best to pick the fruit as it ripens, there will be some that ends up on the ground. If you are planting citrus or apples, this isn't such a big deal as their smell isn't bad and their decomposition is slow. If you are planting stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums, etc. you are in for a different mess entirely. They attract all kinds of bugs rather quickly, have a smell that tickles the nose in an unpleasant way and turn into mush quite fast. I might be being a bit dramatic about this but you should know what your in for and be prepared to regularly pick up fallen fruits.

The last thing I want to mention is dwarf vs. regular fruit trees. I have become a fan of either regular or semi-dwarf fruit trees over dwarf varieties lately. From my readings and personal experience, the dwarf varieties never seem to produce enough to make them truly worth the work. Semi-dwarf trees will still stay on the smallish side and you're getting more bang for your buck; and if you have room a properly trimmed full sized tree will give you even more. Of course if you just want enough to enjoy as a summertime snack here and there (or something that can go in a pot on your patio), dwarf is fine, but if you are looking to can produce for the winter, try to fit in a semi-dwarf or regular.

If you feel you are ready for the above mentioned things then you are ready to try a fruit tree. Just be sure to research the specific needs of the species of tree you're buy so that you are sure to get fruit and no just a sickly barren tree.

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