Whether you only have room for 1 fruit tree or an orchard, no plant gives a nicer return on your investment of labor and time than a fruit tree. From beautiful flowers in the spring to relaxing shade in the summer to bountiful harvest in the fall, fruit trees have something to offer year round. Mother Earth News recently discussed the best trees to plant if this is your first attempt at fruit tree gardening.
Check with your local extension office to see what is recommended in your region and stick with self-fruiting trees if you don’t have room for more than one or two trees, though even self-fruiters do better if there is a second tree nearby.
Apples are a good choice because most varieties are cold-resistant and suited for zones 4 through 7. They are easy to care for and most people like the taste. Those that produce fruit for mid- to late season fruit usually have the best taste.
Cheery trees provide a wide range of colors in both the fruits and the flowers. Decide if you want sweet cherries or tart before buying. These are also suited to zones 4 through 7 and prefer fertile, well-drained soil and good air circulation.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits grow best in zones 8b through 10. The fragrant oil in the fruit and rinds helps reduce pests but the plants are not cold hardy at all. You may need to cover trees if the temperatures dip below freezing.
Peaches and nectarines are a bit fussier. They need excellent soil and good pest management practices. They thrive in zones 5 through 8 when the soil is not compacted at all. You may have to replace them every 10 years because of wood-boring insects.
Plums can be challenging because they often bloom early and then lose their crop to a late freeze. They are rated for zones 4 through 8 and when they do produce, tree growers get a bounty. They need at least one other variety to cross-pollinate with.
Pears do well in zones 4 through 7 and are similar to apples in their care needs.
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