Fruit trees are a long-term investment. Don't let tempting catalog pictures and descriptions lure you into quick decisions on which ones to plant. Instead, spend some time planning. Call your local nursery or county Extension Service agent to find out what weather problems and fruit diseases are troublesome in your area, and which types of fruits, varieties, and rootstocks are best adapted.
Carefully access your soil conditions, choose the best sites in your yard for fruit trees, and sketch a landscape plan. Consider the following questions when choosing the types of fruits and varieties you'll grow:
Do your favorite fruits grow well in your area? Can you count on a crop almost every year, or much less often due to frequent weather problems?
When do the varieties you're considering ripen in your area? It's nice to have fresh fruit ripening continuously from early summer to late fall.
How will you preserve some of the harvest? Some fruits are better than others for cooking, canning, and freezing.
How much space do you want to devote to fruit trees? Remember that fruit trees are beautiful flowering trees as well. You can plant beds of flowers and herbs underneath and/around them or espalier them (train them along a fence or trellis) to save space.
How many varieties of each type of fruit do you need? Some fruits are self-pollinating so only one variety is needed; others require a second variety nearby in order to set fruit.
How much time do you want to devote to tree care? All fruit trees require yearly pruning and some pest control, and all large fruits require some fruit thinning.
What tree qualities are important to you? Dwarf size? Quick fruit production? Long life? Disease resistance? All of these qualities vary with the species of fruit tree, the variety, and rootstock.
Article published on June 23, 2008.