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Grow Your Own Fruit

February 17, 2015 by Kristen Hansen, Nursery and Garden Center Manager

While your idea of fresh fruit might be buying it at the store, this doesn’t have to be the case! Growing fruit right in your backyard could be the perfect solution for fresh produce at your fingertips – literally! There are many advantages to growing a fruit bearing tree on your property:  

  • Fresh fruit that trees bear in warmer months is a healthier and fresher alternative to imported fruit that has been in cold storage for months.
  • Growing your own fruit tree turns out to be much cheaper than buying fresh fruit regularly.
  • A fruit tree is a fun way to get children involved, from planting to picking, and to get them educated on the benefits of healthy eating.
  • Growing fruit trees is fairly simple, even if you have a small yard.

Fruit trees that are bought at garden centers are usually about 1 to 2 years old. The average bearing age of fruit trees varies depending on the species of fruit and the cultivar. On average, the bearing age of an apple tree is four to five years.

Selecting the right type of tree requires some careful consideration …

Consider Iowa’s climate
Iowa is known for harsh, cold winters, and only hardy species will survive. Apple and pear trees are the hardiest for such weather, and they can successfully be grown throughout Iowa. Sour cherry, plum and apricot cultivars can also be grown throughout the state. Peach trees are marginally hardy; while they can survive most winters, they might not be able to fare well if faced with a bad winter like the one we had in 2013.

Consider the space
Determine where you want your tree located but keep in mind the soil texture, drainage and sunlight that spot offers.

Fruit trees come in dwarf (8 to 10 feet), semi-dwarf (10 to 20 feet), and full size (20 feet and higher). The amount of space you have is very important in determining your selection, especially because some fruit trees require cross-pollination for fruit to develop.

There are self-pollinating trees and cross-pollinating trees. For self-pollinating trees, you only need one. However, I do recommend planting a few of the same cultivars together as most self-pollinating fruit trees will produce more fruit if you plant more than just one. Cross-pollinating trees on the other hand do require planting two trees that are different cultivars from each other. For example, you could plant a Honeycrisp apple tree and a Sweet Sixteen apple tree together, as you need the pollen from two different flowers of two different cultivars in order for the tree to produce fruit.

Consider the future
Think about outside factors that might affect the tree you choose. Will it grow into power lines once it gets full size? Will it cast a shadow on your garden? How will it grow in relation to your house and foundation? Will it get in the way of future landscaping projects?

While there are many considerations when choosing a fruit tree – or any tree for that matter – make sure you consult the experts. Give me a call at 515.987.3609, and we can help you make the best choice for your wants and needs. This spring, our Garden Center will be carrying pear trees, plum trees, sweet and sour cherry trees, and a variety of apple trees. If you are limited on space, we have a new brand of apple trees called Urban Apples®. They mature at 8 to10 feet tall but less than 2 feet in diameter. Another new variety we will be carrying this year is a combination apple tree. It has two different cultivars grafted into one tree, so instead of planting two trees, you will only need one.

If you have a request for specific fruit bearing trees not listed in this post or want to find out what else we’ll have in stock come spring, give me a call at 515.987.3609, or email me by the end of February!

We’re excited to announce that our Garden Center opens April 17 – stop by early for the best availability!