Spring is in the air. The apples are blooming, bees are buzzing, and the threat of frost has passed. There is nothing better than the spring blooms on an apple and eating a piece of fruit fresh off your own tree in the fall. There are few rules to keep in mind when selecting fruit trees for your landscape.
The words location, location, location have never been more important than with the site for your fruit trees. The performance of the fruit tree all depends on how well their growing requirements are meant. Fruit trees require full sun, at least 8 hours a day. They also require enough space between the trees so shading isn’t an issue. Low lying areas, or frost pockets, should be avoided. These areas can allow cool air to settle, and increase the risk of frost or cold damage. South facing slopes with some earlier blooming fruit trees, like apricot, should also be avoided. These slopes warm up faster in the spring, which could mean an earlier bloom that is susceptible to frost damage.
The use of the crop is another factor to consider. On average a dwarf apple tree can produce 50 to 150 pounds of fruit and tart cherries can produce 40-120 pounds. The use of the crop, whether it’s fresh, cooking, canning, or freezing, will make a difference in the amount of fruit you can utilize before it goes bad. Start small, you can always plant more trees later.
After the perfect location is selected and the number of trees is decided; cultivar selection is the most important task. Fruit tree cultivars should be selected based upon their vigor, productivity, climate adaptability, fruit quality, disease resistance, and personal preferences. All fruits are susceptible to insect pests and disease organisms. Some cultivars of apples and peaches are productive only under the careful use of a regular spray program of a combination fungicide and insecticide product. Spraying at specific times throughout the growing season may be needed because many pests attack different fruits multiple times. If ‘grocery store’ quality fruit is your goal, be prepared to apply the fruit tree sprays routinely throughout the growing season to protect the fruit on those susceptible cultivars from pests. If less-than-perfect fruits are okay or resistant cultivars are selected, the spray schedule could be omitted.
Apples are commonly infected by cedar apple rust and apple scab. There are several options to preventing cedar apple rust in apples. One option is to remove all cedar trees within a 2 mile radius of the tree. Fungicide applications can also be applied to the cedars, apples, or both routinely when the fungal fruiting bodies are present. The last option, and the easiest when planting new trees, is to select a cultivar of apple that is resistant to those diseases. Some cultivars that are both apple scab and cedar apple rust resistant include Liberty and Enterprise.
Peaches in Nebraska are a fruit that everyone wants to grow. The sad part is that peaches are not long lived in Nebraska. In a commercial setting a peach tree will live, on average, 8 years. They also take a couple of years to become productive and are susceptible to peach tree borer, oozing bacterial canker, and late spring frost damage. If you decide to try a peach, Redhaven, Reliance, and Madison are the most commonly planted cultivars.
Fruit trees can be grown successfully in Nebraska. Proper site and cultivar selection are just a few important considerations to keep in mind when picking out fruit trees for your landscape.
For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at firstname.lastname@example.org, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.