Choosing Your Plants

You need expert advice about what combinations to buy. pollinators: Some nut and fruit trees, and vines (such as kiwi), can't make fruit alone; they can be either male or female, and they need another tree to be a pollinizer for them. Other trees are "self-fruitful" or "self-fertile" or "self-pollinating." There are trees that are kind of in-between; they'll produce some harvest, but only a small crop unless they get cross-pollinated by a different plant. Trees that are to be wind-pollinated should be planted within 100 feet of each other.

late Frosts: If there happens to be a freeze while fruit or nut flowers are blooming, there will be no crop of fruit. Having as large and diversified a fruit patch as possible guarantees that, although frost will probably catch some of your trees in bloom (and pests and diseases may take a toll on others), lots more will still make it through, because different kinds of fruit and different varieties of the same fruit have different blossoming dates—earlier and later. Furthermore, if late frosts are a problem in your area, you can avoid trouble by seeking out varieties that bloom late enough to be fairly safe.

Size: Dwarf, Semi-Dwarf, and Standard: One of the main questions you have to ask when shopping for a tree is, "How big will it get?" Little seedlings can grow into awesome 100-foot giants. Don't choose a size you'd have to keep amputating to live with. Better to go with a genetically smaller one. You'll often have a choice between dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard-sized trees. The big difference in the trees is the rootstock. If you decide to do your own grafting, you will be offered a choice of dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard rootstocks, and as the rootstock is chosen so the tree will grow.

Dwarfs are, of course, smaller, so most growers can spray, prune, or pick fruit easily. Dwarfs don't need nearly as much room to grow as standards. If you have a small yard in a city, the obvious choice would be to divide the area among different kinds of dwarf fruit trees for as much variety as you could get for the given area. Many years ago dwarf trees were more expensive. That was when they were becoming popular and demand was greater than supply. Now at the nursery I go to, dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standards are exactly the same price. Production Time/Amount. Somebody wrote and asked me, "What trees produce the fastest and largest quantities?" The answer is: not the same ones. That's the big decision in dwarf versus standard. Dwarf trees bear fruit sooner. A standard apple tree may not produce fruit for 6-8 years, whiie a dwarf may in 2-4 years. (Apple takes the most time.) The fruit is the same size on either tree. However, standards produce the largest quantities of fruit per year per tree once they get going, and they will live longer than dwarf varieties. A dwarf tree will live for maybe 25 years, a standard tree for maybe 40. Semi-dwarfs are a compromise between the extremes. You have to make your own decision based on goals for your family and your orchard and then get the appropriate kind of tree.

Transplanting "Wild" Trees: Evergreen seedlings can usually be transplanted. In fact, curious but true, forest conifers that have already been transplanted once tend to have stronger roots and grow better when transplanted a second time. At the other extreme, most nut trees, wild or domesticated, have a central taproot that grows straight down. Any tree with that sort of taproot will not transplant successfully if the taproot is cut or broken off, or even bent over, when replanting. Thus nut trees over 6 feet are a high risk to transplant—whether from the wild or the nursery.

Continue reading here: Tree Fruit Propagation

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