How to Select Fruit Trees

In order to choose the right fruit trees for your specific location, there are site specific considerations, such as hardiness/growing zone and soil characteristics. However there are also other important considerations that relate to the tree’s characteristics. In order to better know how to select fruit trees, here are five tree characteristics such as fruiting, pollination, tree size/rootstock, chill hours, and disease resistance.

Fruiting

Yield
  • It is important to know the expected yield when determining how many fruit trees you will plant so that you are better able to process all the fruit. If you do not have the storage space or the ability to preserve the fruit, you may want to plant less trees or have a plan for donating the fruit.
  • Additionally, if all your fruit trees start to bear fruit at the same time, you may not have the capacity to eat, process or store all the fruit. Therefore, it is a good idea to choose varieties that may bear at different times.
  • Additionally, you can store and preserve the fruit in different ways, such as canning, drying, juicing, baking, freezing, and storing. While you can store fruits such as apple in cold storage (some varieties longer than others), others like plums don’t do as well.
Precocity
  • Precocity measures how early the tree will start to bear fruit from the time the tree is planted.
  • Dwarf rootstocks are usually more precocious than semi-dwarf or standard rootstocks, which means they will bear fruit earlier. For example, dwarf apple trees tend to bear fruit in 2-4 years while standard apple trees bear fruit in about 5-8 years.
  • However the fruit cultivar can also influence the precocity of the tree.

Pollination

  • Most stone fruit and tart cherry trees are self-fertile/fruitful and don’t need another tree in order to produce fruit. However their yield will greatly increase with the presence of another compatible fruit tree.
  • However other trees with fruits with a core and sweet cherries do need another tree in order to cross-pollinate and produce fruit.
  • Moreover, some trees may not only need a pollinator but are sterile and won’t pollinate others.
  • Fruit trees can pollinate others in the same blooming period or in the range of their flowering group. For example, an apple tree with a flowering group 3, mid-season, can be pollinated by groups 2, 3, and 4, also mid-season.
  • However fruit trees that bloom early in the season can be more at risk of damage by a late frost.

Tree Size – Rootstock

  • In addition to affecting the disease resistance and cold hardiness, the specific rootstock also determines the size of the tree. In fact, generally fruit trees have three sizes.
    • Dwarf – They grow to 8′-10′ and are easy to maintain and harvest. In fact you can even grow them in containers. Generally you should plant these trees about 5 -7 feet apart, however the spacing depends on the specific fruit tree. Moreover commercial orchards tend to plant trees closer to one another to maximize yield.
    • Semi-Dwarf – These trees grow to 12-15 feet and produce almost twice as much fruit as a dwarf tree without taking up much more space. In fact for most backyards, they are the perfect size. Generally you can plant these trees about 10 -15 feet apart. However the spacing depends on the specific fruit tree.
    • Standard – Standard apple, pear, and plum trees usually reach about 20-25 feet while standard peaches/nectarines only reach 12-15 feet. Moreover, while standard trees may take longer to fruit, they will produce in larger quantity. However, you will need a ladder to harvest all of the fruit. 

Chill Hours

  • Chill hours are the number of required hours between 32-45 °F that the trees need in order to start to bud and grow in the spring. By ingeniously counting the number of chill hours, the fruit trees will bloom in the correct time after the threat of a frost and not when there is a warm spell during the winter. When a tree doesn’t get enough chill hours, the flower buds might not open at all or may open unevenly.
  • Moreover, each fruit tree type and also variety varies in their required chill hours. When you choose your fruit tree, be sure that your region has around the same chill hours as the tree’s required chill hours. If you grow a tree that needs only 300 hours while your region has 500, it will bloom too early and become damaged by a frost.
  • In general apple trees need more chill hours than peach trees. This is why growers grow more apples in colder states and peaches in warmer states.

Disease Resistance

  • There are some varieties of fruit trees that are either naturally resistant or which growers have developed to be resistant to certain diseases. While spraying and maintaining a tree can help fight off diseases such as scab, cedar apple rust, canker, and rot, at the end of the day growing a resistant variety may save you from heartache.
    • Moreover, certain regions may be more prone than others to diseases. For example areas with long periods of rain may cause fungal diseases like scab and tree canker. Therefore, growing scab-resistant varieties, rust-resistant varieties, or other disease resistant varieties is helpful.

We hope that these five factors help you better understand how to select fruit trees better. If you would like to discover fruit trees, explore our fruit tree catalog or shop page.

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