Some fruit tree questions (Zone 7)

caracaraMarch 13, 2010


I've never grown fruit trees before. I live in SE PA (think I'm Zone 7[B]). I have a very tiny yard. I'd like to plant either dwarf (preferred) or semi-dwarf apple and peach trees.

I saw a few beautiful, in-flower peach trees at Home Depot the other day. Should I buy them now, and plant them, or can I put the pots, with the trees in them, in a sheltered place outdoors until I can plant them (I could keep them in my garage, but I'm afraid the blossoms will drop, & my cats will eat them--they eat any flower and plant!--and are the flowers poisonous?)? I shouldn't plant them this week, as we're having 2-5" of rain this weekend, and the ground is very, very wet now. (The reason for the haste in buying is that we have to rent a pick-up truck tomorrow in order to transport building materials, and I thought I could transport the trees, too--they are about 5-6ft tall.)

Are all peaches self-pollinating? Also, I assume the fruit develops after the flowers, so, if the trees are profusely flowering, can I expect a crop of fruit this summer? One tree offered is semi-dwarf; 1 is dwarf. They are about 5-6" tall, I'd say.

If I buy apple trees, can you tell me what types need to pollinate together? Thanks!!!

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glenn_russell(6b RI)

The CaraCara-
Welcome to the forum!

Ill take a stab at this: I would stay well away from any trees that you find at Home Depot. I know this is not what you want to hear, but keep reading:

1.) The big box stores (like home Depot) are notorious for screwing up their varieties. Many times here on this forum youÂll see people complain that they wasted X (1-7) years on a tree only to find out that it wasnÂt even a Y (apple, pear, peach, etc) tree. To invest that much time only to find out it was all for nothing can be very disappointing.

2.) The big box stores are notorious for selling trees which wonÂt grow in your zone. TheyÂre happy to sell you a variety which doesnÂt have a chance of fruiting before winter sets in.

3.) Although a person new to fruit trees would look at a HD tree and say "Hmm, that seems healthy tree which is off to a good start", upon closer inspection, a fruit tree connoisseur would see problems right off the bat. A.) The trees almost always have poor crotch angles (which means branches that come off the central leader in a more vertical manner... these are much more likely to split later.) What you want are branches that come off at about 75 degrees which are stronger and much more fruit productive. B.) Scaffolding branches have not been planned at all. C.) Physical damage from being thrown in the trucks. These scars/injuries are good places for disease and insects to enter later. D.) The trees often have serious or even fatal diseases before you even bring them home.

4.) The people working there know nothing about fruit trees and canÂt help you.

I was actually at Home Depot tonight and actually looked at their trees. Issues 3A, 3B, 3C, and perhaps #2 were obvious and rampant. As for 1 and 3D, only time will tell. (While I'm at it, stay well away from their carton'ed raspberries/grapes/etc. But that's another post!)

But, donÂt worry, you can still get what you want. Just not from Home Depot.

1.) If I were you in PA, I would go to the Adam County Nursery or Cummins Nursery . Both specialize in fruit trees and are second to none in quality. Myself and many other people on this forum use them regularly for our fruit trees. If you venture to any other nursery, check with others here as there are some real ripoff nursery websites out there.

2.) Your apples and peaches do not want to come in to your garage for the winter. They need to go dormant for the winter.

3.) Peaches are self-pollinating, but apples need two varieties to cross pollinate and then give you fruit. (ItÂs a little more complex than that, so write back once you start thinking about varieties and people here can show you how to tell if Apple A will cross pollinate with apple B) If you only have room for 1 tree, then consider a multigrafted tree (multiple apple types on 1 tree!). To check them out, go to Rain Tree Nursery and then search for 5x1, 4x1, 3x1, or 2x1 and then "apple".

4.) Keep in mind, that as romantic as these trees seem, itÂs not just plant then harvest. You will need to spray these trees or you will just get worm-ridden disease invested fruit trees. The spraying is doable, and people here can show you what to do, but you just need to be prepared for it.

Let us know what your thoughts are, and IÂm sure people here can help you more. Hope this helpsÂ

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 9:31PM
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Yep, what Glen said. There are other good nurseries though if the local ones don't have what you want. If they don't have what you are looking for try the link below.

By the way you should know what you are looking for before you start buying. You should also know.....

The difference between a good tree and a bad tree as Glen mentioned.

Where you are going to plant.

How well the soil drains.

How many hours of full sunlight the area gets before you start looking to buying too.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 11:18PM
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misterbaby(7a/b TN)

Please heed the above posters. No Big Box. Misterbaby.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 9:53AM
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maryneedssleep(5a (PA))

Cara, I'm a fruit tree newbie, but I have friends who have bought from the big box stores, and those trees look terrible and don't produce. The time spent on online and book research, and the extra cost of good trees, are worthwhile investments.

There are thousands of varieties of apple; most will pollinate each other, but it depends on bloom time in your area. You'll have to look up the varieties you are interested in. You can find online lists of "bloom groups," but they are regional and not very comprehensive lists -- but in most places there's a lot of overlap between bloom groups, so most trees will pollinate each other, unless the apple is triploid -- so google your variety. A good nursery will help you out.

For future reference, here are some links about plants poisonous to cats:
Plants Not Safe for Cats -- especially lilies!
Foods Not Safe for Cats (esp. grapes/raisins, onions, avacoados)
ASPCA Poison Control

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 12:34PM
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austransplant(MD 7)


Here's a suggestion if you are within a short drive to Lancaster PA and would like an enjoyable day trip. The Backyard Fruit Growers club is having a grafting workshop on the afternoon of March 27 at the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster PA. For $25 you can attend, learn how to graft fruit trees, make two new trees for yourself, which you can then plant. There will be an enormous range of varieties to choose from and a lot of very knowledgeable people who can discuss with you what would be best for you to grow given your interests, space constraints, etc.

If you have time, you could also visit the White Oak Nursery in near by Strasburg. This is an Amish run nursery. There is no web page but the nursery has a very good reputation (Amos Fisher, who runs it, is member of Backyard Fruit Growers) and specializes in varieties that will do well in SE PA, including all the major fruits -- apples, pears, peaches etc. Their phone number is: 717-687-8861.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Bill, I have a question on a new cherry blossom tree. I am attempting to get it growing?? I bought them before flying back from Ga. I pplanted it in a small box and two little buds began...then they fizzled out.
Now I only have a stick, and it is only 3ft from dirt to tip and not even 1/2 inch around. Since it is summer here in Phoenix I am keeping it indoors until the heat breaks(3 mths). The bark looks good, has that cherry, kind purplish healthy look. A little B1, moisture control dirt and water is all I have used. Any suggestions to get some leaves to bud out, and a good root ball to form up would be most appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 7:48PM
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