IN THE GARDEN: Picking a fruit tree
Ask yourself several questions before choosing a fruit tree to plant. For example, do you enjoy the rosy-pink petals of an apple blossom? Is apple pie your favorite? Or, do you prefer figs, peeling the skin back to take a bite of the juicy, red fruit? Would you prefer a wanderer such as blackberry or blueberry that you can stitch through your fence to create a windbreak for your vegetables?
A variety of fruits from which to choose include apple, apricot, blackberry, blueberry, citrus (satsuma), fig, peach, pear, persimmon, and plum and many varieties within those types.
Depending on the space you have available, it's also important to know if the variety is self-pollinating (also described as no-pollinating required or self-fruitful.) If it's not, you will need to plant two trees. Next, you will need to choose a fruit that meets the Texas Hill Country chilling hours.
The term “chilling hours” is defined as the amount of time the temperature is between 32 degrees and 45 degrees in order to break dormancy and induce normal bloom and vegetative growth. Exceptions exist and the years vary, but in a normal year — if there is such a thing — most fruit trees will experience 600-800 chilling hours in our area.
Fruit trees have a chilling requirement in order to produce the optimum harvest for a given fruit. All fruits don’t have the same requirements for chilling hours. Some are as low as two to 400 hours; others are as high as 1,000 hours.
When selecting your fruit trees or cane berries (blackberry, blueberry), realize that, if they have a lower number of chilling hour requirements, you might run the risk of them blooming too early and being subject to a late freeze. If the requirements are too high, they might not do well due to our usually mild winters. The best advice is to stay within the designated hours that are normal for the Texas Hill Country (as stated above).
These chilling hours will vary depending on the variety of fruit you choose:
- apple — 200-600
- apricot — 300-1000
- blackberry/blueberry — 300-1,000
- citrus (satsuma) — 300-400
- fig — 150 (but these are hardy trees; worth the gamble if planted close to a structure or receiving passive protection)
- peach — 400-1,000
- pear — 200-800
- persimmon — 200-400
- plum — 250-600
Let’s pick peach trees, for example. How in the world do we choose from so many? Here are a few pointers.
We are going to match the chilling hour requirements with the number of chilling hours available and maybe even gamble a bit, choosing from both high- and low-requirement peach trees.
Then, choose “cling” or “free” peaches. Those terms refer to the relationship the peach seed (stone) has with the fruit of the peach. When the meat sticks to the stone, it is considered a cling peach. Inversely, when the meat pulls freely away from the stone, it is called a freestone or free. It is just a matter of personal preference. Till next time. Keep your souls and soles in your garden!
Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1
"In the Garden" is written by father-daughter duo Bill and Martelle Luedecke and Bill Luedecke. Contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Bill at 512-577-1463 or email@example.com.
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