Low Maintenance Tree for 7b/6a, New Jersey

yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)April 28, 2013

Looking for a gift for my buddy & bride-to-be, and would love to give them a relatively low maintenance fruit or nut tree they can grow in NJ, roughly zone 7b or 6a.

They probably won't want to get much into spraying or pest management, but I can probably maybe convince them to do a decent pruning once a year.

Any suggestions?

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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Yukkuri, I wrote up an answer to your question for a local fruit group -- see attached file. Sour cherry is something else that may work.


Here is a link that might be useful: fruit sheet

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 7:40AM
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alan haigh

I read some of what Scott wrote and my experience differs from some of his advice (what else is new- we all have different experiences). I've never found psyla in an Asian pear tree here in south eastern NY (if they are there they aren't harming the trees) and they haven't been a problem on some varieties of euro-pears either- such as Harrow Sweet, Harrow Delight, Magness or even Bartlett. They've been a horror on the likes of Seckel and Bosc.

I would not wait 10 years for any fruit to bear, and although some varieties or Euro pears do take quite a while, some are rather precocious. Both Harrow varieties mentioned previously as well as Bartlett and Seckel often start fruiting well on the fourth year on seedling rootstock for me. In my nursery right now Harrow Sweet and Bartlett trees are loaded with flowers after a single season in the ground there (they were planted as skinny whips last year).

I wouldn't give a pear tree on quince root stock to someone that isn't going to be attentive as it is much less competitive for water then more vigorous root stocks. OHXF rootstocks seem to establish more slowly here than pears on seedling, but given the higher fire blight pressure the further south you go OHXF might be the best choice as it is more resistant.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 9:02AM
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Asian pears are much more susceptible to fireblight than most pears, and it is a constant worry here in PA.

Why not get them a nut tree? Hickory, beech, Carpathian (English) Walnut, all are fairly maintenance free, and provide shade to boot. Grafted varieties make nuts in 5 years or so (no grafted F. grandifolia maybe). Filbert produces young, but needs yearly pruning.

How about something like Amalanchier? They are called Shadblow or June Berries around here, reflecting their production of good tasting blue berries in June. Native, no spraying needed, little pruning. Of course you have to fight the birds for the fruit.......

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 9:15AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Harvestman, I have never had pear psylla myself so I'm just guessing based on what I have heard about it. It sounds like its not worth mentioning as a significant problem on asian pears; its definitely more of a Euro pear problem, even down here.

Quince root has been fine for me here as far as fireblight goes; perhaps not good for a commercial grower where tree loss is money lost but OK for backyard. In general as you may recall I discount the importance of fireblight resistant rootstocks for home growers, I have been swept by thousands of strikes and while the FB susceptible stocks have gotten more hits its a matter of shades of grey, not black and white. On apples there are enough FB resistant stocks these days that growers can put all plants on such stocks, but there is nothing comparable to quince for pears. I agree if they are growing precocious varieties like Harrow Sweet they don't need it, but I have many pears not on quince which have plenty of light and room but just don't want to fruit. Recently I started training them and I am hoping that will help; this sheet is for people not at that advanced level though.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 5:25PM
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alan haigh

Scott, the only reason I am hesitant about quince is that it creates a weaker tree, not in terms of fire blight- just vigor. I like a tree that can get its own water reliably. That doesn't mean it isn't a good option but I always like giving a customer so much information that their head spins too much to make a choice.

I haven't had any problems with fire blighted roots either.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 8:02PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Thanks for replies.

Any thoughts on chestnuts?

I'll be there in a week and will have a better chance to assess the space they have and their level of interest.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 5:30AM
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alan haigh

You need two chestnuts and they take a lot of room as they are full sized forest trees. If you get grafted trees from a specialized nursery like Nick England's you could wind up with really sweet nuts which are almost impossible to keep from the squirrels until trees get quite large. They do begin bearing relatively young for a "nut" tree. They also stink when in bloom- but so do Asian pears.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 5:35AM
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Any of the native fruit trees are going to be fairly care-free. Persimmons, mulberries or paw paws would be good options.

Chestnuts are bad if you need to walk through the area. Their in for a real surprise the first time they step on one.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 7:28AM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

Asian persimmon is also easy to grow, no spraying needed, and they are much smaller trees than native persimmon.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 10:35AM
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Dumb question... What sort of fellow is your friend? Is he a "Grow stuff" sort of fellow - or not? In general - If your friend likes the idea of fruit but has never grown fruit, and you don't really know what he likes... and you REALLY want to get a fruit tree of some sort... Get him a Blueberry... Nearly zero maintenance, they don't get huge, don't make a giant mess, and the odds of getting good fruit are pretty high.

On to the rest of my opinion...

One thing to think about maintenance wise is dumping piles of junk on the ground that your buddy will have to attend to... Your friend may well end up cursing you each fall as they have to go pick up a ton of spiny, bug filled, staining, or stinky debris off the yard....

ESPECIALLY SO with Chestnuts - as a mature tree will dump THOUSANDS of spiny witches eggs on the ground... These are extraordinarily painful to touch - much less if you happen to step on one... Picking them up off the ground requires gloves! Personally... My opinion - don't gift a Chestnut unless your friend really wants a Chestnut and knows what he is in for...

Walnuts produce BASEBALLS with THICK husks that drop all over the place - and their husks produce a ton of black, stinky, permanent staining goo that gets all over everything... Black walnuts are especially bad in this regard... Their leaves also stain EVERYTHING! In this regard - I would consider a Pecan before a walnut..

Mess wise - many "Large fruit" trees can make a big mess if you aren't committed to cleaning up after them.... Think of all he old Apple and Pear trees that folks cut down because they shower the yard annually with apple and pear slime.... More so with Mulberries and their Purple Stain!


    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 10:42AM
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