The Q&A Archives: Fruit Trees in Central Vermont

Question: We have never planted fruit trees and would like to do so. We are interested in apples and pears but would also like something more exotic, like "pear-apples" or asian pear type fruits. What types are suitable for our climate, when should they be planted and in what type of soil/location? Finally, can you recommend a good resources for fruit trees that suit our climate and a good reference book on growing fruit trees for a home garden? Thanks.

Answer: National Gardening Magazine's March/April issue featured an article on "Growing Apples Naturally," written by Michael Phillips, author of The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist (Chelsea Green Press, 1998). He suggests apple varieties 'Easygro', Priscilla', and 'Redfree', all resistant to major apple diseases. He also recommends getting these on dwarf or semi-dwarfed rootstocks to simplify maintenance. As for Asian pears, Miller Nurseries (5060 West Lake Rd., Canandaigua, NY 14424; ph# 800/836-9630) has a good selection of productive dwarf varieties to choose from. They'll also provide you with complete growing guides with the trees you purchase. Local nurseries may also have the types you're looking for.

Another great fruit tree guide is The Orchard Almanac, by Stephen Page and Joe Smillie (Spraysaver Publications, Rockport, ME 04856). Both will give you a solid foundation of the "whys and whens" of tree care.

I've heard that the soil in your area tends to be heavy clay that drains poorly, and this isn't favorable for fruit trees. Hopefully, you have some areas that have soil that is lighter and more pourous that drains well. Choose these for your trees. If clay is your only option, you may have to install drainage tiles to provide fruit trees with the soil environment they need to grow well and produce. There are rootstocks that are more tolerant of poor drainage. I suggest that you consult with your Agricultural Extension office (ph# ) for a soil test and recommendations for rootstocks. Of course, if you're growing dwarfed trees, you can grow them in containers, too, and avoid the soil problem altogether!

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