Fruit trees are quite popular among homeowners. The fruit can be eaten fresh, used for baking, for preserving, and in ice cream. Some fruit trees are easier to grow than others are, but all require appropriate care for them to bear fruit. Figs, apples, pears, and peaches are the most widely planted.
Figs are relatively easy to grow. They need to be planted in full sun with fertile, well-drained soil. They can grow 20 to 30 feet in height; however, pruning the trees in late winter will help them stay at a manageable height. Avoid excessive fertilization which can reduce fruit production. Two popular varieties are Celeste, which has light brown to violet small fruit, and Brown Turkey, which has a larger bronze colored fruit. They do not require another variety for cross pollination.
Apple trees require full sun since shade will reduce fruit production. You should purchase two or more varieties that flower at the same time to get cross-pollination for fruit to form. Several varieties thrive in our area, including Gala, which is red and ripens in mid-summer and Red Delicious, which ripens in late summer to early fall. Prune the trees in February or early March to keep them growing in an upright pattern. Remove branches that are growing downwards, suckers, crisscrossing ones, and broken or damaged ones. Thinning the fruit, which is removing several of the small fruits leaving only one every six to eight inches, is required to produce a good crop each year.
Pear trees are similar to apples in regard to pruning, fertilizing and site requirements. Most varieties require another for cross pollination. Pear trees can be somewhat difficult to grow since they are susceptible to the bacterial fireblight disease. The preferred varieties for our area include Orient and Waite, both of which have resistance to fireblight, and Spalding with fruit that ripens early. Bartlett pears, which are the most well-known variety, do poorly in our climate and should not be planted.
Georgia is known as the peach state. Surprisingly, growing peaches are somewhat of a challenge for a homeowner since many pests trouble peach trees and they require a spray program. Peaches are self-fruitful meaning that they do not require another variety for cross pollination. Many varieties thrive in our area. After planting, prune the crown of the tree at a height of 18 to 24 inches from the ground, and remove any lateral branches. Choose branches that grow laterally from the trunk and not in an upright pattern. This will encourage a low branching growth pattern. In the summer, select four or five branches that will be the scaffolds of this tree. Remove other shoots from the tree. Like apples and pears, thinning of the fruit is also necessary to promote a good crop.
If given the proper care, these fruit trees can produce abundantly. When choosing fruit trees take their maintenance requirements into consideration and provide the appropriate growing conditions to ensure fresh fruit for your dinner table.
Winter is also a good time to decide on what to plant in your yard. The Gwinnett County Extension Plant Sale has some excellent plants, including several fruit trees, are available for sale this winter. Go to the Extension website at www.gwinnettextension.com to download the order form or call the Gwinnett County Extension office for a form to be mailed to you.
Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.