Organically grown fruit that can be purchased at health stores and sometimes at grocery stores is far better than commercial non-organic fruit, but is very costly, and is thus a luxury for many families.
And indeed, store-bought organic fruit can sometimes be generic in taste and presentation. Most of us would agree that homegrown organic fruit is luscious and certainly can cost less than fruit bought in stores.
There’s something very rewarding about seeing fruit trees in your yard loaded with beautiful fruit. The same can be said for a well-kept veggie garden bursting with green goodness.
More and more people have decided to grow their own fruit and vegetables: for economic reasons, because it is uniquely satisfying, to maintain independence from the food grid, and for reasons of health and convenience.
Fruit can be grown outdoors in the ground in many locales, depending on climate and sun exposure. It can also be grown in containers using hydroponics techniques, under artificial lighting, in greenhouses and in other settings.
By manipulating crop cycles, lighting, nutrients and other factors, some home growers supply themselves with a supply of fresh fruit year round at a very low cost.
Advanced Nutrients makes the best products for growing your own fruit and vegetables. The company makes formulas that protect fruit trees and other crops. These formulas, such as Scorpion Juice and Barricade, offer systemic protection without the use of poisons. This protection energizes the plants own defense systems, supercharging immune systems so that the plant is better able to ward off problems.
Some of these products will make trees and plants produce more and better fruit. Other products, such as Piranha, provide beneficial microbes that enhance root zones and protect plants from pathogens.
Please note that agricultural conditions vary depending on your locale; please contact your local agricultural service or a trusted nursery to determine the specific fruit trees that will grow best in your area.
Also, note that while it may seem that we are only discussing fruit trees, that there are also fruit shrubs and vines.
Where we use the word trees, read it to be understood that we are referring to trees and plants that produce fruits.
LOCATION IS EVERYTHING: WHERE TO PLANT FRUIT TREES
The first consideration you need to examine regarding growing fruit is what kind of fruit you want to eat. There may well be fruit trees that grow well in your area, but they may not be the kind of fruit you like to eat. You need to know what will grow well in your area before you plant fruit trees.
Fruit trees can be useful as ornamental trees, but for economic and practical reasons, it’s best to plant trees that produce fruit that you and your family will eat.
The next step is to determine where on your property you intend to plant the trees. This involves knowing how big the tree is likely to get, and whether its size and/or roots will interfere with power lines, fences, sidewalks, driveways, visual aesthetics, swimming pools, neighbor’s property, other trees, and other infrastructure. This includes an estimate of tree height and width, as well as the spread of roots.
Many growers inaccurately estimate these factors, and this causes problems when tree growth cause cracked driveways, downed power lines, etc.
There are many important environmental factors to consider when you are planting fruit trees. Using evaluative techniques derived from the Permaculture approach to land use and agriculture, you should measure the pH, porosity, drainage, moisture-holding, nutrient value, temperature/humidity, wind conditions, and sunlight exposure of areas where you intend to plant fruit trees. You must also consider seasonal variations.
FRUIT NEEDS A BIG CHILL
Many fruit trees need a specific amount of cold weather if they are to produce well. This is called “chilling hours.” Although it sounds like something from a vampire movie or a slang expression from youth culture, it is actually a crucial fact about the effects of temperature on the ability of fruit trees to set fruit.
For some fruit trees, such as apples, peaches, plums, and pears, an adequate number of hours below 45 degrees F during the tree’s dormant period are required to trigger the development of leaf and flower buds.
Each variety of fruit tree has its own specific requirement that has been quantified by researchers. After the adequate number of chilling hours has accrued, the plant will bloom and leaf whenever warm weather occurs.
If the chilling hours do not accrue in sufficient quantity, both leaf and fruit production will be severely decreased.
Obviously, it is essential that fruit trees you select must be matched with the likely amount of chilling hours that are needed by that type of tree.
A complicating factor in this is global warming, which is causing higher winter temperatures in some locales and affecting the number of chilling hours that occur.
Calculate the possible effects of global warming on the number of chilling hours in your locale’s winter before you select fruit that is chilling hour sensitive. Also, note that some fruit trees and plants cannot tolerate a chill.
Take the data you derived from these measurements, and compare them to the needs of fruit trees. You will often find that you would have to make significant if not impractical modifications to a certain site in order to make it ideal for a particular type of fruit tree.
You could in that case substitute a tree that is better suited to that site, chose a more appropriate site, modify the site, or otherwise change your planting template.
HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU GET LOTS OF FRUIT - THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
It is important to consider the issue of pollination when considering the planting of fruit trees. In many cases, trees must be within 200 feet of each other and of similar but variable variety so that pollination can take place.
Many advisors say that at least three different varieties of a specific fruit should be planted together to ensure consistent pollination; if one tree is lost, the presence of two or more other trees is useful to continue pollination.
Pollination happens when pollen is transferred from the stamen (male part) to the pistil (female part) of a fruit tree’s flower.
There are two types of pollination: self-pollination and cross-pollination. When pollen transfers from the stamen to the pistil on the same tree, this is called self-pollination and the plant is called “self-fruitful.”
Some trees are not able to pollinate themselves, so that they require pollen from other trees. This is called cross-pollination, and occurs when pollen from one variety is used to pollinate the flower from a tree of another variety.
Bees and other pollinators handle the majority of pollen transfer, but in some cases, wind can also achieve pollination. It is important to know if varieties of fruit that you intend to plant as cross-pollinators, or varieties that are nearby on other people’s properties, are compatible for the purposes of pollination.
Citrus, nectarine, tangerine, blackberry, and raspberry are able to pollinate themselves, but plum, apple and pear require cross-pollination from another source. It is interesting to note that figs and persimmons can produce fruit without pollination.
In some areas of North America and across the world, pollinators such as bees, wasps and other insects are in short supply due to loss of habitat, and the use of poisons and genetically-modified crops.
Inquire of local agricultural experts about the availability of pollinators, and about the spacing requirements, about the varietal aspects of pollination and other factors that ensure your trees will be pollinated. If they are not pollinated, they will not bear fruit.
WORKING TO MAKE GOOD FRUIT HAPPEN
As you are considering which fruit trees to plant, please note that some trees and berry bushes require lots of attention, while others require less attention. With trees like apples, plums, peaches, cherries and others, a considerable amount of expertise, time and inputs are necessary if you intend to receive a good return on your fruit-growing endeavor.
Not all fruit-bearing comes from trees. A significant number of berries, such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, come from plants or vines. We use the term tree interchangeably to refer to all “plants” that produce fruit.
Some dwarf varieties of fruit trees and other types of fruit trees and bushes can produce fruit within a year or two after planting, but most will not be productive for several years. Take into account the long-term nature of this enterprise.
If you plan to move within a couple of years, you might never see the fruits of your labors. On the other hand, the existence of established, properly-trained fruit trees that will bear fruit in future years may increase real estate values and be seen as a benefit worth money to those considering purchase of your home or land.
After you have carefully examined your land, consulted with agricultural experts, and decided what types of fruit you want to grow and where you want to grow it, you are ready to prepare the site for planting.
SECRETS FOR PREPARING SITES FOR FRUIT TREES/SHRUBS
The following instructions are generic, and may have to be modified depending on what you are planting, but are useful instructions for most trees.
It is useful to dig a hole that is several times larger and deeper than the root ball of the young tree. The larger the hole the better, providing you have the proper materials to fill the hole with. Successful growers place a large amount of finished compost material in the bottom third of the hole.
Then you bring in rich soil matched for the pH and nutrient ratio most appropriate to what is being planted.
Insert the young tree’s root ball into the hole so that its root ball is properly situated, not deeper than it was planted in its container, and with care not to disturb roots other than to remove any netting or other restraint placed around them.
The young tree, its root ball and the entire volume of the hole should be thoroughly watered, but not overwatered.
Initial watering settles the root zone material and provides moisture for young trees. Water again in two days, unless rain has fallen.
Then, you should apply horticultural products that will provide a variety of benefits to your newly-planted fruit trees or shrubs.
These products include Advanced Nutrients No Shock, which helps ease the effects of transplanting from the start-up container into the ground.
To eliminate transplant shock, some growers cultivate dwarf fruit trees in containers using hydroponics techniques.
This eliminates many of the problems, including transplant shock that happen when trees are depotted and placed in the ground.
Another product that cushions transplanting shock and pruning shock is called Organic B, which provides B vitamins that are known to cushion transplant shock.
Beneficial microbes provide protection against harmful microbes that can damage roots. They form a symbiotic relationship with roots to expand root mass, which furthers the absorption of water and nutrients, thus spurring rapid establishment of the new planting and faster growth.
Other products that can be applied during the first two months after initial planting include Seaweed Extract, which provides a variety of helpful substances derived from seaweed, and Barricade, which provides potassium silicate necessary for cell growth and strong internal infrastructure that resist drought, pathogens and insects.
PRUNING, TRIMMING,& THINNING FRUIT TREES
Fruit tree yield depends on many of the same factors that influence yield in other crops, but yield is also affected by the way tree branches are trimmed, thinned and maintained.
Historically, fruit trees were maintained by pruning, which is the removal of various limbs and/or parts of the trunk. Another method of changing a tree’s structure involves the process of “training” trees into a desired shape and form.
It is essential to begin training your trees within the first year after they have been planted. Pruning usually takes place after the first year, because it is harsher for the tree. Training and pruning are done to maintain trees, to tame them to a needed height and girth, and to preserve and increase yield.
Without training and pruning, fruit trees will not develop proper shape and form. Properly trained and pruned trees will yield high quality fruit much earlier in their lives and live significantly longer.
A primary objective of training and pruning is to develop a strong tree framework that will support fruit production. Trees that are not properly pruned and trained have upright branch angles that can result in branch breakage when there’s a heavy load of fruit.
Proper tree training opens the tree canopy to maximize light penetration. Flower buds in deciduous fruit trees develop during the previous summer, and light penetration is essential for bud development and maximal fruit set, flavor, and quality.
Although a mature tree may be growing in full sun, it may have a dense canopy that prevents light from reaching all parts of the tree.
Opening the tree canopy also permits adequate air movement through the tree, which promotes rapid drying to minimize disease infection and promotes good aeration that aids transpiration from the leaves.
Pruning of young trees establishes the shape of the tree so scaffold limbs will be well distributed up, down, and around the trunk. Limb breakage and trunk splitting later in the trees life can be avoided with proper initial pruning.
Pruning stimulates new growth in mature trees, which can increase yield by rejuvenating a mature tree that has begun to decline. Pruning removes diseased, injured, weak, and dead limbs, which are vectors for disease and which waste the tree’s energy and plague its immune system.
Inoculate pruned trees with Barricade, Scorpion Juice, No Shock, and small amounts of Revive; these products are made by the Advanced Nutrients company, and will help trees recover from pruning stress as well as increase their resistance to disease.
PRUNING YOUNG AND MATURE TREES
If pruning is carefully done when trees are young, little pruning will be needed, as the tree gets older. Hence, the first several years are essential for developing the structure of the trees scaffold branches.
It is also important to take a comprehensive approach to pruning strategy:
Before making any cuts, take the time to notice the location of the plant to be pruned and consider its future growth.
Does growth need to be curtailed, so the plant will not outgrow its space in a few years? Should the bottom growth be raised so a mower can be operated under the lower limbs? Should height be controlled so a ladder is not necessary for harvesting the fruit? How big will the tree be when it is mature?
Before you start pruning and training, decide on a maximum height and girth image for the tree, and then carry out your pruning and training to match this profile.
Mature trees are usually trimmed during dormancy, but modern growers believe it is best to trim during early spring before new growth starts.
The time of year when trees are pruned makes a difference in how trees respond to the process.
When trees are pruned during fall or winter (dormancy), the trees maintain their energy reserves and do not send out new shoots to replace that which has been pruned.
If a portion of the tree is pruned during the winter while the tree is dormant, its energy reserve is unspent. If the tree is pruned during spring, however, the tree produces new shoots that drain its energy reserves and inhibit proper development.
There is a good deal of folklore about the timing of pruning. Apple and pecan trees should be pruned first, followed by cherry, peach, and plum trees. A good rule to follow is to prune the latest blooming trees first and the earliest blooming last.
Tree age is another factor in dormant pruning. Within a particular fruit type, the oldest trees should be pruned first. Younger trees are more prone to injury from early dormant pruning.
Summer pruning takes away a great deal of energy and fruit production, and will result in a decrease in tree growth and fruit yield. Summer pruning begins as soon as buds start to grow, and should be limited to removing the newest growth of the season.
Summer pruning should not be done after the end of July, so that the tree does not enter fall and winter with unhealed cuts or wounds.
FRUIT TREE PRUNING TECHNIQUES
There are various types of pruning techniques:
A thinning cut removes an entire shoot. A heading cut removes only the end of a shoot. This type of cut promotes the growth of lower buds and terminal buds below the cut branch.
When lateral branches are pruned with a heading cut on young wood, the headed branch becomes much stronger and better able to hold fruit. This type of cut also produces lateral secondary branching.
Young trees and branches that have been subject to heading cuts are referred to as “headed.” A bench cut is a pruning cut that takes away vigorous, upright shoots to open up the center of the tree and spread the branches outward. The bench cut is considered a major cut that should only be used for major re-shaping.
Improper pruning can greatly damage a tree by leaving a wound that attracts disease or insect attacks. A correct pruning cut should be made flush with the adjacent branch without leaving any stubs.
If horizontal cuts are made, they should be slightly angled so that water will not gather the cut surface, allowing the growth of rot and disease organisms.
There are sealing tinctures and compounds that can be used as wound dressings, but a prophylactic treatment of Advanced Nutrients Scorpion Juice (which helps trees and plants to prepare for and recover from stress, disease and insects) is advisable before pruning sessions.
Pruning is an important tool, but the training of trees is as useful if not more useful than pruning. Training involves the managing of the central trunk of the tree so that lateral branches grow out from it leaving space to move about at the bottom of the tree, as well as space up the central trunk so that light can penetrate and to facilitate picking.
Pruning and training of the central leader of the tree (as the central trunk is sometimes called) is best conducted during dormancy.
Dormant pruning should eliminate dead, diseased, and damaged wood. Unwanted growth, such as upright growing shoots and laterals with sharp branch angles not removed during summer pruning, should be removed at this time.
Unbranched lateral branches should be headed by approximately 1/4 of their length to encourage side branches and stiffen lateral branches.