Best Tips for Growing Fruit Trees |Central Texas Gardener


– Growing your own food is one of the hottest
topics in gardening, and the trees are in the store right now. So, if you wanna make the right picks, we’re
gonna talk to Jim Kamas. Our old friend is gonna be talking about fruit
trees, how to grow them, and the varieties to grow as well. Welcome back to the show, Jim. – Thanks, Tom, good to be here. – And we’re gonna talk about planting first. People will be heading out to the nurseries
during this month, and they’re gonna see lots of those bare root trees that had just come
into the stores. Let’s talk about bare root tree planting. What are some of the best tips for people
to bear in mind? – Well, planting bear root trees is pretty
much a traditional way of establishing fruit orchards and plantings. There’s one adage that’s still held to be
true, that a dry root is a dead root. So, the most important thing is when you’re
handling dormant bare root nursery material, don’t let the roots dry out. You can take that to the extreme as well. You don’t wanna just soak it in water for
hours or days at a time, but you wanna make sure it’s surrounded by moist media like sand
or peat, or something, just to keep the roots moist, keep them from drying out. – Right, and that’s before you plant. – Correct. – So, be on the lookout how they’re stored. When people plant bare root trees, what’s
the best tip in terms of the hole itself? I know when you’re digging, container you
dig it, really, wide and no deeper than the pot, what’s the tip for– – I like to dig a hole probably about 30%
bigger than the root ball that I’m gonna be putting into the ground. That way, you can spread the roots out. You can backfill with lot of loose soil. The other important thing is to make sure
you replant that tree at the same level it was grown at in the nursery. When you’re looking at a bare root plant material,
you could see the distinct color change where the ground line was. Just make sure it stays there. – Okay, very good. There’s been this longtime suggestion that
when you plant them, you should prune them. Is that the best way to go? – Yes, and the reason for that is you have
to think about when the plant was dug out of the nursery, it’s lost a percentage of
its roots. So, we normally think the plant, when you
plant a bare-rooted tree, to cut it back by about 1/3. Now, how you cut it back is gonna depend on
the fruit species, but 1/3 is a good rule of thumb. – For existing trees, this is also the time
for pruning, for example, peaches, right? – Sure. Yep. Any time after a long, hard freeze, you can
prune, but typically, we like to wait as long as possible and be able to get everything
pruned before bud break. So, don’t rush into it. It depends on how many trees you have. – Okay, I can cut the rushing. I like to do that kind of pruning in the end
of January, is that a good time? – It’s perfect. The trees are fully dormant. – [Tom] On pruning existing trees, it’s really
a matter which kind of tree, in terms of the approach, right? – Correct. You have different kinds of trees, we select
different kinds of training systems. The whole idea, though, with all of them,
is light interception. You want to make sure that the bearing surface
where you’re trying to produce fruit gets good sun exposure. – And not all of them have to be pruned. – No, not all. A lot of things like persimmons don’t get
pruned. Many times, citrus doesn’t get pruned. – These are really great tips. Now, a lot of folks out there are anxious
to have fruit. They don’t have deep soil or they may not
even have a yard. They may only have a back patio and they’re
thinking about putting one in a container. What’s the reality about planting fruit in
those kind of tight spaces, raised beds or containers. – I think you have to think in realistic terms
about what you can and cannot do. Things like blueberries with your appropriate
kind of media, or blackberries, strawberries. All of those are very conducive to be grown
in small spaces. When you get the larger-stature trees like
pecans and pears, probably not the best choice. Things like pomegranates can be grown in small
spaces. And where you can, some kinds of fruit species
like plums, you can get dwarf in root stocks. All of those kinds of things help. You can substitute quality of soil for quantity
of soil, but be realistic with your expectations. – Yeah, I have a pineapple guava in a big
pot back home, and that’s a good candidate for something like that. – It sure is, yep. – A shrub, is it, instead of a tree? – [Jim] It is, and something tender like a
pineapple guava, if the temperature’s gonna be really extremely low, you can move it if
it’s in a container. – Okay. You know, other considerations when folks
head out to get fruit trees is pollinators, because some fruit trees require two trees
of different varieties to pollinate back and forth. Others do not. What are some good rules of thumb there? – Well, the pome fruits, apples, pears, and
quinces, while they all may be somewhat self-fruitful, they really all benefit from having another
tree variety blooming at the same time in presence so that pollen transfer between varieties
can take place. So, if you’re choosing an apple or pear, try
and pick one that has the same chilling requirement as the one that’s there so they do bloom at
the same time. – Yeah, well you mentioned chilling requirements
and we’ve been hovering at freezing. – Yeah, two years ago was the warmest winter
in memory. We had around 500 hours of chilling in Fredericksburg. We normally get about 850. This past year, we had over 1,000 hours of
chilling and predictions are for a good chilling year this year. Again, we had talked, our averages made up
of extremes. And while our averages are staying about the
same, we’re seeing our extremes get a little more widespread. – [Tom] And for those who’ve never heard of
chilling hours, just describe why we’re concerned. – [Jim] Inside a dormant bud of deciduous
fruit trees are growth inhibitors that prevent growth during pretty fall weather. What breaks those growth inhibitors down is
cool damp temperatures. Typically, we say temperatures below 45 degrees
Fahrenheit, but the old fruit growers, when it’s like 35 degrees outside and raining,
people say there’s two kinds of people that like that kind of weather. That’s duck hunters and fruit growers. – You know you’re getting a good chilling. – Okay, very good. You could bring your gun out while you’re… Well, for ducks in the orchard. Okay, so, let’s talk a little bit more about
growing the fruit trees themselves. We’ve talked about pruning. A lot of people are very anxious when they
buy a tree or shrub and they want that fruit to come right away. What is the reasonable expectation for some
of the major varieties of fruit? – For things like the brambles, the berries,
raspberries, blackberries, you typically have some fruit the second year after you planted
them. Other fruits species like pears, pecans, some
of those varieties take seven, eight, nine years to come into production. So, I think that’s something good to do to
look into a variety. How precocious is it? Because it ranges all over the map. Grape vines, peach trees, you normally expect
half crop in the third year, full crop in the fourth year. Apples, it depends on the root stock they’re
grown in. Everything is depending on how well you take
care of these trees. – Yeah, I’ve grown peaches and I was really
amazed. By the second year, they were really productive. – Yep, you can. If you are aggressive and grow a big tree,
you can get fruit the second year. – Well, you know, people, when they start
growing fruit, there’s the benefit, the reward of harvest, but there are also frustrations
that people experience. – Oh, yeah. – A fruit drop, or what we term as abortion
of the fruit, – Correct. – That’s something that a lot of people experience. What’s behind that? – Well, it depends on the fruit species and
the year. We can generalize and say it’s stress. So, realize that when a flower blooms, pollination
has to take place, and many times a small vestigial fruit can be there. If pollination didn’t actually take place,
that’s typically where we see the first drop. – Second thing is – It would be small berry-like fruit. – Yeah, the size of your little finger. If pollination does take place, and there’s
a spring frost and it kills the embryo, well, the fruit may be retained for a while, and
then it ultimately will drop or simply not ripen. So, that’s another kind of abortion. When we go to things like figs that are really
fairly fickle and really like stable weather conditions, anything, heat, excessive heat,
excessive cold, or, more specifically, water. Too much water, too little water. All of these things will cause a massive drop
of fruit in the middle of the summer. It catches a lot of people by surprise. – Well, you know, as tough as figs are, that
surprises me a little. – It is. They’re tough. It’s hard to kill one, but keeping the fruit
on them is kind of like a dance. It really is like the porridge. Not too hot, not too cold. You’ve got to have just the right moisture
conditions. For things like figs, many times we recommend
that you heavily mulch them to help maintain a static, constant moisture level in the soil. – You know, one fruit tree that has become
very popular are pomegranates, but there’s a disease that’s impacting them, and you’ve
had experience with this. Let’s talk a little bit about this rot that’s
affecting pomegranates. – Yeah, it’s a rot called heart rot, and in
this part of the United States, it’s called by a fungus called Alternaria. Very, very difficult, and one of the problems
is there are no fungicides labeled for pomegranates in the United States. Actually, there are some biorational fungicides
that have just come on the market – [Tom] When you say biorational, explain
what that means. – They’re derivatives of other fungi that
have antagonistic effects. So, they’re not classical chemical fungicides. They’re biological products that can work
in some conditions, and we did extensive testing of some of these biorational products on pomegranates
this past year and we had very disappointing results. Did not get any control of the heart rot. – Well, I’m sorry about that. And I love pomegranates. Just learning how to eat them, actually, recently. – They can be a challenge to get into, yes. – Interesting, but very tasty once you get
the trick. Real quickly, fertilizing. New trees and existing ones. – The one thing that I would suggest is if
you’re using traditional fertilizers, realize that they’re salts. And the last you want is to have a big salt
shock on a root system of a newly-planted tree. My guess would be don’t get into a hurry. Go ahead and plant it. Get it watered in. Get it out growing where you have four to
six inches of shoot growth. And small, frequent amounts of nitrogen, whether
you use organic sources of nitrogen, inorganic, compost, all of those things make sense. Just make sure that small frequent amounts
of nitrogen. And in terms of other elements, do a soil
test. If you need ’em, you can add ’em later. – All right, well, Jim. We have to wrap it up on that note. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise
with us, – Any time, Tom. Pleasure. – Okay, great to see you. And coming up next, it’s Daphne.

2 thoughts on “Best Tips for Growing Fruit Trees |Central Texas Gardener

  1. Thx for info.Do we do pruning for peach, plum, apricot every year or every other year? When is time for fertilize? How often?what kind is better? My trees are 6 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *