Thinking Of Growing Your Own Fruit?
Recently I read an article that stated how vegetable plant sales really increased at garden centers in 2008 due to the economy. But how about fruit trees? If more people are now growing their own vegetables, are they attempting to grow fruit as well? If so, what should they be looking for when purchasing fruit trees?
Growing fruit in the backyard is becoming a lost art. People over forty years of age will probably remember the big standard sized apple trees in their grandparents yards when they were children. Never mind that most of those trees seldom or never got sprayed for insect/disease problems. Back then people were just glad to have the fruit and didn’t mind cutting out the wormy parts of the apple. They just ate the worm free part!
Today I see many garden centers with NO fruit plants for sale. Worse yet, I see many retail chain stores in my area offering fruit trees that are either not cold hardy for my planting zone or their fruit ripens too late for the length of our growing season. A good example is Granny Smith apple. While a great apple, the tree survives our winters but the fruit seldom ripens before a hard fall frost ruins them.
The home orchard situation is really in trouble. Home fruit growing declined in the past due to lack of time. Now I fear it is from lack of knowledge.Today, many garden center sales staff have little or no experience with growing fruit. While they may sell fruit trees, they often do not know what rootstock they are on, how far apart to plant them, what pollination requirements are needed, how to prune them ect. What is the American homeowner to do when they want to try raising fruit in their backyard? Wrong varieties and lack of information from some “garden center professionals” doom them from the start.
From all the fruit inquiries I get, I feel that the public is starved for any decent information on raising fruits at home. Budget cuts now have caused the demise of many County Ag Extension Agent programs. With these experts gone, one of the few sources on fruit growing left to the homeowner is the local garden center. From what I see and hear, most of them are doing an extremely poor job of it.
Wake up America! Yes you can grow fruit successfully. There are many state universities offering information on growing fruits in their region. This info is available in printed form or via the internet. Spray charts, variety trials, rootstock info ect is available. Since this information varies by region due to climate & pest issues, it is best to follow the guidelines put out by your nearest university that offers such information. Here is a link to an excellent publication from the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Growing Apples in Wisconsin.
Yes there are some garden centers doing an excellent job with fruits. Be sure to ask the right questions when purchasing. If the staff is knowledgeable, they will be able to answer your questions or at least get back to you with the correct answers. Planting varieties suitable for your area, allowing for proper spacing at planting time and knowing how to control any insect/disease issues will get you on your way to a successful and rewarding crop of luscious fruit.
Growing fruit is not rocket science. I find nothing more rewarding than the joy of eating tree ripened fruit from my backyard. You can have the same experience. Just be sure to avoid being scammed. Purchasing quality fruit trees suitable for your area from a reputable nursery/garden center is a good way to start.
Paul Schwabe is a salesman in our Contractor Sales division. He holds a degree in horticulture and will be writing about some of his favorite and underused plants.