Fruit and Nut Trees
Growing your own fruits and nuts is like having a seasonal fruit stand in your backyard. Grocery store produce can’t compare to the flavor of freshly picked fruits and nuts. Learn how to grow your own backyard crops.
Types of Edible Plants
The terms “annual” and “perennial” refer to how long a plant lives. Annual plants like melons live for less than one year. Perennial plants like berries and fruit trees live much longer. In general, annuals are planted from seed or transplant and perennials are planted from transplants.
What Should You Grow?
If you are a new gardener, plant a few of your favorite things to eat first. Establish your garden slowly, adding a few new plants each year. You’ll want to make sure to give your plants enough space, and to take time to learn about each crop you grow.
For example, if you are a fan of peaches, did you know that you could have peaches all season long? There are varieties that produce fruit in early, mid and late summer. If you choose the correct varieties, you can have peaches all season long.
Which Variety Should you Grow?
Dave Wilson is a supplier of fruit trees for California and other areas, and has some recommendations. You can start with their Top 50 Top Home Garden Variety Fruit Trees to help you decide.
Planting Fruits and Nuts
To learn or review planting basics, read Planting Trees, Planting Transplants and Planting Seeds. Many trees and plants are available year-round, however, to save money you’ll want to purchase them during the bare-root season.
When to Purchase Fruit and Nut Plants and Trees
Bare-root season (winter) is the best time to purchase plants for your food garden. These young, bare-root plants are less expensive than that those that have been cared for throughout the year.
Money Saving Tips
- Many nurseries allow gardeners to pre-order bare-root trees and plants at a discount in October or November. Plants are picked up in winter after they arrive.
- Bare-root fruit and nut trees include only deciduous plants; they do not include citrus trees which are evergreen.
- Berries and grapes are also sold during the bare-root season in winter.
- Strawberry plants are also sold bare-root in winter, and are also sold in early spring as young plants.
- Citrus trees tend to go on sale around late summer at local nurseries.
- Many fruit trees and plants go on sale at the end of bare-root season, but there are less varieties to choose from.
- Purchase your plants from a reputable local nursery or garden center for the healthiest plants. Your plants may be more expensive but they will be healthier.
Training and Pruning Trees
Be aware that semi-dwarf fruit trees can get very tall. The only true dwarf trees are dwarf peach and dwarf apple and will be labeled as such. All fruit and nut trees require training and pruning when they are young, and each kind of tree may be pruned differently. In fact, if you aren’t careful you can ruin certain types of trees by pruning off the fruiting wood.
If there is a local nursery in your area, sign up to take a pruning class. If you can’t take a pruning class, I highly recommend my good friend Ann Ralph’s book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree.
In fact, in most cases fruit and nut trees grow so fast that people are surprised and unsure of how to deal with the tree. Sadly, these tall trees bear fruit way up high and people either don’t have a ladder or time to spend picking the fruit or nuts. This means most of the produce ends up wasted.
Pruning and training new fruit and nut trees correctly is a crucial step to having a successful orchard, so make plans to learn what to do as soon as you plant (or before you plant) your tree.
Always follow fertilizer instructions if you choose to use fertilizer. Using too much fertilizer or fertilizing at the wrong time of year can harm your plants and attract pests and diseases. Read Fertilizers for more information.
Pests and Diseases
If you suspect your plant has a pest or disease problem, take a sample to your local Master Gardener office or to a certified nursery person at a nursery or garden center. Make sure you deep water (Gardening 101) your trees on a regular basis, as stressed plants are more likely to attract pests and diseases.
If you live in an area where you can grow tropical fruit, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for more information.
For specific, climate-based information contact your local Cooperative Extension Office. This site has links to all U.S. states as well as Canadian Provinces.
Pages on Fruit and Nut Trees
This site will be continuously updated as posts about specific crops are written. Links to posts will be found below.