Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
February, 2008
Regional Report

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A fruit tree can be a beautiful, blooming addition to the landscape while providing tasty food, too!

Make Room for Fruit

Fruit trees, vines, and bushes are among the most rewarding and fun plants to grow, and if you've never tried growing fruit before, you ought to consider adding a few plants this year. It's really not that difficult if you provide a few basic requirements. You don't need a backyard orchard area although a mini orchard is a nice addition if you have the space. The plants can be grown in and among other landscape plants.

Fruit trees are generally fairly small and make nice flowering trees in the landscape. This is especially true for peaches, plums, dwarf and semi-dwarf apples, and pears. For some months they are quite ornamental, especially with their orange fruits that remain on the trees into late fall after the leaves drop.

Grapevines work well growing on a fence, or my personal favorite, an arbor. Blueberries do well as a row of shrubs but can also be grown in very large containers, such as half whiskey barrels. This is especially helpful in areas where a high soil pH makes blueberry culture difficult. Citrus trees have wonderfully fragrant blooms and evergreen foliage. Dwarf types, such as kumquat, Satsuma orange, key lime, Mexican lime, and even Meyer lemon, will perform quite well in a large container.

Strawberries may be grown in containers or as a ground cover in flowerbeds. Blackberries can be maintained in a narrow row along a fence line.

Keeping Fruiting Plants Productive
When it comes to growing fruit, the four key factors are sunlight, soil drainage, chilling hours, and pollination. Let's take a quick look at these four factors.

In order for fruit trees to be productive they need to be located in an area that receives good sun exposure. A minimum of six hours a day is required for most types of fruit. Without lots of sunlight the leaves are not able to make enough carbohydrates to set bloom buds or ripen tasty fruit.

Most of all, fruit species like well-drained soil. Shallow soils and poorly drained soil conditions are both very detrimental. If your soil is shallow or poorly drained, build up a large raised mound of soil on which to plant the tree or bush.

Most deciduous fruit plants require a certain amount of winter chilling of around 40 to 50 degrees in order to break dormancy, bloom, and produce fruit. It is very important to choose varieties that have the same chilling requirement as might be experienced in your area during a normal winter. Your county Extension office can help with selecting appropriate varieties.

Many types of fruit are self fruitful. That is, they don't require a second variety for pollination. However, some types of fruit, including apples, some plums, some pears, and blueberries, do require a second variety in order to set fruit. Again, check before buying the plants so you can make sure and plan properly for a fruitful harvest down the line.

Why not give fruit plants a try this year? Consider investing in a few now and prepare to enjoy the dividends for years to come.

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