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In The Garden: Get Your Fruit On

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In The Garden: Get Your Fruit On

Growing fruit trees has experienced a ground swell of interest over the past few years. There’s no better time of the year than right now to make your purchases at your local garden retailer, as the selection doesn’t get any better as the season wears on.

In southern Ontario, the apple is the number one fruit tree of choice. The McIntosh apple was developed here. A lonely apple tree, without a mate, might yield some fruit, but it’s advisable to have two apple trees. If there’s an apple tree nearby in full flower at the same time as said tree, both will produce many more apples.

Insects and disease are an ongoing concern, and many people want to know if they should spray. The answer is yes. I have 40 apple trees in my 10-acre garden and I spray them all with dormant spray in April before the blossoms break open, and again after the blossoms drop (around the beginning of June). I apply a combination of End All insecticide, along with garden sulphur or the lime sulphur that comes in the dormant spray kit. These products are safe to use and environmentally responsible.

The cross-pollination category that requires mates to maximize their fruiting also include pear, cherry and plum trees. However, sour cherries, like Montmorency, are self-fruitful (pollinated by pollen from another flower on the same fruit tree). A Canadian introduction called Stella, which is classified as a sweet cherry, does not need a mate.

Self-fruitful fruit trees include peach, apricot and nectarine, and they all need a good pruning after the winter. Each spring I assess the winter damage on my trees and prune out any dead wood. Then I open the tree up to the sun and wind by pruning out the heaviest wood right down into the heart of the tree. This makes for odd looking trees, but great fruit.

Pears are the easiest fruit to grow. They generally do not like to be pruned, and they are the least susceptible to insect and disease problems. For the most part, your tree will be overloaded with fruit every second year.

Canadian-grown fruit trees provide some assurance that the tree is hardy to your area, and suitable for growing in our weather and soil conditions.

Plant all fruit trees in open, nutrient rich soil. Peaches really enjoy a soil mix that is 50 per cent sand. Never plant a fruit tree in a depression where water accumulates, as none of them enjoy wet feet. Plant high, dig a wide hole about a metre in diameter, and use three or four bags of quality planting soil mix. Stake your trees for the first three or four years, and in the fall put a spiral plastic rodent protector on the trunk to prevent rabbit damage.

In her book, Growing Urban Orchards, Susan Poizner explores the ups and downs, as well as the how-to’s, of caring for fruit trees in the city. OrchardPeople.com

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at MarkCullen.com

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