zone denial and fruit growing

fabaceae_nativeNovember 2, 2011

Am I the only one to wish I lived in a climate where I could grow a really wide variety of fruit outdoors?

I have a bit of zone denial, so in addition to the usual temperate zone apples, stone fruits, grapes, cane fruit, currants, watermelons and melons from the garden, I have begun experimenting with pomegranates (in pots for now -- perhaps in the ground with protection eventually), American persimmon, jujube, various cactus fruit, and several Elaeagnus species. I also grow a variety of tropical stuff indoors.

I know I could probably continue trying some new hardy fruit each year until I die and not exhaust the possibilities... BUT how many of them would be as tasty or useful as a clementine, avocado, or papaya, not to mention a plethora of other fascinating and delicious tropical and subtropical treats?

Well, every climate has its advantages and disadvantages from a growing perspective, right? Probably, but would I really be bummed if I lived in coastal Southern California and could not grow pears? No, because I would be too into trying to grow dragon fruit, lychee, or guava, I would not even think much about pears, apples, or pretty much any of the common (read: a little boring) fruits.

On this forum I have noticed a preponderance of fellow fruit lovers from say, zone 8 and colder. Not that many from zones 9 and 10. Is this due to the smaller geographic area encompassed by these warmer climates (but huge populations)? Maybe due to the California or Florida gardenweb forums?

I doubt there are fewer folks growing fruit in their yards in these warmer places, but I always feel it's a shame when I see block after block of nothing but ornamentals, or worse, citrus trees laden with fruit that will never be picked.

Am I crazy? I'd love to hear how others feel about all this...


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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Not to make you feel worse but much of coastal CA is pretty good to great for apples, along with all that other stuff.

Many people want to grow that doesn't fit their area. I've never gotten the tropicals bug because I haven't been exposed to that fruit much. Most of what I've had wasn't very good except for pineapple and I'm growing that now.

If you can't move the solution is to modify your growing environment. Santa Fe gets lots of sun that's a huge start. I've also been looking at the high intensity grow lights that pot growers use. I think they could make me a year around grower of many fruits. That and a freezer set at 40F with potted plants and I'm into all year many fruits.

The trouble with many tropicals is they need warm nights all year for high fruit quality. Not sure I want to go that far.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 11:51AM
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I am in zone 6 and currently have 5 banana plants in my living room along with an assortment of other tropicals at three large windows. It will take more than two hours to move them outside this spring. Wife will kill me if I invest in a greenhouse, but it is on my agenda. I envy fruitnut and his operation.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 12:35PM
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Like you I am growing a lot of unusual fruit for my area (zone 7b, Raleigh NC). Some years the weather is good for one type and the next year it's somebody else. My attitude is - if I'm gonna have potted tropicals on the deck anyway, they might as well produce a crop. That and I also am trying to build a collection of fruiting plants that provide something every month of the year - so much is at peak in late summer/early fall.

One reason there might be few zone 10 posters on this forum is because they're all over on the Tropical Fruits forum.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 1:13PM
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Thanks for the quick replies. I also envy fruitnut's operation, and dream of someday building everything I need to grow what my heart desires, if I'm not by that time living in Southern California!

In the meantime, I'm really excited about the possibility of potted deciduous fruits that can be overwintered in the garage (no competition for sunroom growing space), and set out in the summer. So far, pomegranates have shown real promise for this, and I'm considering Asian persimmons, fuzzy kiwis, and purple mombin. Most of these would not be a huge stretch outside in my zone, but still worth it. Anybody have other ideas for tropical/subtropical deciduous fruits that could be grown this way (fruit needs to be able to ripen by October)?

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 1:57PM
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We always seem to want what we cannot have. Alas.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 2:16PM
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They said you couldn't grow apriums here in zone 5, but I noticed that the new map placed me over the line into 6 and decided this was license to plant a Flavor Delight. Got fruit from it this year.

It doesn't hurt to try.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 2:39PM
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I have grown and fruited (rooted outside) bananas ~1000 kilometers north of where they want to grow, and currants ~1000 kilometers south.

It was fun but now too much trouble. I now want in-ground plants no less than marginally adapted (say, will lose some of the branches in a freeze once a decade or two). I don't even want to have to spray plants much or at all, though I will have to get better at this.

I think the subtropical fruit folks post more in other forums in simple fact because this one is =

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 2:47PM
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Some got cut off:

"I think the subtropical fruit folks post more in other forums in simple fact because this one is =

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 2:58PM
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I was surprised and enjoyed my 'Li' jujube this year (its first). I won't be planting more of them since I was the only person that liked them, but an easy care fruiting tree.

I do well with guavas - normal, strawberry and pineapple guavas, but they all fruit in the late summer/fall when everything else is fruiting. Pineapple guavas can be grown in the ground here.

My fuzzy kiwi's suffer from late winter frosts right when they want to leaf out but after a couple of months of warm weather you cannot tell they were ever in trouble. The vines are monsters and can produce a ton of fruit so even though they are 'iffy' in this area, I don't mind. A man can only eat so much kiwi.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 2:59PM
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I have my cake. My brother in law has a house in fl. He has a brown thumb but an extra 3 bedrooms. winter in Maine is not a rush time for marine mechanics. An airline 15 miles from my house and 20 miles from his has a last call fare of sometimes $75 round trip. You have to have a bag packed and be able to stay 3-10 days. I have grapefruit, lemon, lime , orange, and tangerine in his yard. in January Feb and march it is fun to fly down for a weekend and garden. This year I will have to figure out a watering system I can control from maine. He can't flip the switch if it is a week without rain. plane is a 3 hour direct flight but if you see the fare drop at 4 pm you have to be on it at 7pm.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 3:34PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I can grow things in pots. It works really well so far. Having an attached garage with a lot of room helps. I may build a greenhouse (i'm collecting windows), but not sure how big I can go and if I would heat it or not (tough to do when its -20F outside. I do have a woodstove in the garage that I could put in there? I'd love to grow oranges, blood oranges...

What's crazy, is if you go to France, at the same latitude as I live, you'll find palm trees growing... Even here in Wisconsin, if you live right next to L Michigan, you rarely go below 0F in the winter. Not where I live.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 6:38PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Forget the oranges in a greenhouse in WI. Your winter is too cold unless you want a big heating bill. Most other things you'd only need to heat to the critical temperature. You could grow 90% of what I grow and only need to heat to about zero in mid winter. Do that and your heating bill would be about like mine, ~$300 per year for 1700 sq ft.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 7:11PM
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I bought a house back in February in San Jose (z9). It's nice living in this zone, picking citrus right of the tree is great. I think currants are a problem because of chill hours but everything else can be grown in ground up through sub tropicals. Tropicals are hit or miss. Here is a video of my passionfruit to show you what you might be missing :)

Link is below

Here is a link that might be useful: Passionfruit in San Jose

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 12:22AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Fruit-Yeah...I'd be useless in Nov-Dec-Jan with so little sun light. Days are just too short. Better off bringing plants in the house. If I insulate my garage a little better (the walls are insulated, but the ceiling is open) I could easily keep it 0F or above in winter. I'll post a picture when I moved everything inside.

California would be awesome. All the fruits I love seem to grow great in that climate (oranges, avocados, pistachios, guavas, even bananas and mangoes). My sister used to live in Redlands and then Rancho Cucamonga before moving up into the mountains (Wrightwood) ...I loved it when we visited. Talk about a million different climates in a short distance (ocean/desert/mountain).

I couldn't do Florida. Too much humidity for me and no mountains. Plus even tropicals are iffy down there with the winters they've had lately. I was there the one night it dropped into the low 30's in Key Largo and remember seeing a lot of burnt plants in the morning.

The problem with these places is overpopulation. Just way too many people. Give me a big honking greenhouse in Wyoming and you could grow probably anything, especially if you could tap into some geothermal heat. They grow bananas in Iceland.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 9:25AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Potted fruits are very versitile. You can move them anywhere for heat, light, chilling, shade, whatever. I'm moving to all 5 gallon for all fruits, mostly berries, pome and stone fruit. The big downside is watering every day. With a greenhouse, high tunnel, or possibly high intensity grow lights one can grow fruit all year.

I'm thinking a couple 1,000 watt grow lights would provide much of a houses heat in winter. That and a lean to greenhouse on the south side of a home. I get 90% of my heat now from a 10 by 18 ft sunroom. That in a very favorable climate for solar heating. I have figs ripening and blueberry blooming in the sunroom as we speak.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 10:01AM
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melikeeatplants, that's a great video of your passion vine. I'm on my second trial of potted passion fruit indoors, still no fruit anytime soon, so yeah, that does show me what I'm missing... a variety of interesting possibilities I guess, and especially in years like this one, when late frosts killed all fruit tree blossoms for miles around. Thank goodness for melons, watermelons, and cane fruit.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 10:10AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

You're soo lucky. Passion fruits were one of my faves in Venezuela where they grow like weeds. There are also larger melon sized ones called parchas that are spectacular super climbers.
Nothing like cutting a passion fruit, putting a tsp. of sugar in the 'goobers' and eat em straight. Or make the best punch for parties.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 7:58PM
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Let's face it, we're all nuts. Just in a better way than most people. I don't watch TV or waste money at starbucks because I'm too busy with my plant obsession. I've had total cultural deficit disorder since I started my garden. At least my wife knows where to find me.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 4:38PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)


I need to get a hoop house erected (maybe this weekend I could get the frame up ...12x24) just so I can let my kids play in there on sunny days this winter.

I want to grow pluots and Japanese plums, but am worried about zone (too cold) and rot (too wet/humid). A high tunnel would fix both things, although I still worry about how to deal with it during cold spell in January (warm days/very cold nites inside a tunnel).

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 5:17PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


In mid winter the high tunnel would need to be open any time the temperature is above the critical temperature. Critical temperature is that temperature that would damage the trees and buds. By open I mean the ends or sides would be open to natural ventilation. You want it as cold as possible but not too cold.

Trying to combine a warm play area with fruit trees is questionable. Now if your trees are potted and held inside, then warm up the high tunnel for something else.

Humidity issues could be a problem in a high tunnel. Ventilation is the key again.

Basically the high tunnel needs ventilation at all times except when the trees will freeze. You can gain 10F or as needed when it's sunny by controlling the degree of ventilation.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 5:42PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

That makes a lot of sense. I kind of figured 70F on a January day, with the night temp probably dropping below 0F (outside temp -20F) would not be good for any tree. Leaving both ends open would probably keep it cold enough. Some to investigate this winter.

No trees this winter...I'd just put it up so they could play in there...the trees would be next year. I'm divided... I can put them in pots and move them in and out of the garage or in the ground in a tunnel... I could also use the tunnel for something else (tomatoes/peppers/very early veggies)...

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 7:55PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Pots are very flexible except for the watering. One of the biggest advantages is that the trees only need to go into the shelter when they are ready to fruit. If they set no fruit one year they can be replaced by something that does have fruit or anything else like vegetables. If you don't like the fruit it's gone. Extra pots can be ready with new varieties. It's just a lot more flexible system.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 9:06PM
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Hi y'all,
I've had fun reading this thread; sounds like we're all a little nuts, but I'd rather be an obsessed grower than obsessed with a whole lot of other [non constructive, non life giving] things!!
How well have everyone's plants and trees survived the winter?
Currently, I'm suffering from some serious "zone denial", and wanting to grow passion fruit. I'm aware that there are hardy varieties, and that they are beautiful grown as ornamentals and houseplants, but why sacrifice that wonderful fruit? The "hardier" varieties don't sound as tasty, so off I go on another "quest"!
Has anyone ever heard of planting tender tropicals in an old ice chest with holes in the bottom? [I'd enclose it with something decorative, like cedar of course, or bury it.] Someone on another forum mentioned it, and I'm wondering whether it might be a good way to give the roots some added protection.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 8:30PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Try and grow it and see what happens! You never know with "global warming"...hahaha

Yes in my area we have citrus on the tree all year long. They grow so high you can pick them out of your two story window. Most of the fruit never gets picked and falls to the ground. Its hard to ride a bike or walk around my neighborhood because the sidewalks are thick and black and sticky with fruit. Dragon fruit is so abundant that people fence off their front yards ang grow rows of them. The vines overflow over fences. When people want dragon fruit scion they just go look for it and chop it where they find it. Peach and nectarine around here looks like the Washington DC cherry trees when they bloom. I live in the heart of "little saigon" and we love our fruit trees!

From my backyard I have access to my neighbors 40' avocado tree(not so productive lately) my other neighbors 30' orange tree and 3 different pomegranates plus all that I can see that I cant reach. Im not bragging but I grew up with all these fruits. Summer break was great because we would lose ourselves in different peoples yards for peaches, plums, green apples, pomegranates, guava, dragon fruit, citrus, the list goes on and on. Before I knew how to grow fruit I thought fruit trees had fruit on them all year round. The sad thing is is that most people around here let their trees grow out of control and dont prune or spray for anything and let the fruit go to waste:-( When I walk or ride my bike just on this block I can fill many bags of with many different fruits just from what I can reach that is overgrown the fences. It makes me mad though that people take their trees for granted and let them grow and disease.

I would like colder and longer winters to grow a red delicious apple and different types of trees. We are somewhat limited to what we can grow. Other climates might not be able to grow a variety but they have more selection of a certain type.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:09PM
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Wow, blazeaglory, folks like you make me jealous!! I can understand your indignation at folks letting all that fruit go to waste. Seems like the least people could do is donate it to a food pantry, or Salvation Army or something, it's a shame.
I guess I'll give it [passionfruit] a try and if it's a fluke, i just need to remember all the "forgotten" fruits that we can grow here, like pawpaws, for example. Delicious! .....and lots of different kinds of berries, apples, pears, plums, peaches, and even some figs.
One of my favorite breakfasts is freshly picked, ripe figs dipped into homemade, organic whole milk yogurt. Tree ripened plums are good that way too, but figs are my favorite. You won't get that at the local diner, lol!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:35PM
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I really am not interested in growing tropical fruit. I hope global warming doesn't get any worse, or my Honeycrisp will taste terrible and my gooseberries will die! I can understand wanting things both ways, though. I have a friend in the Virgin Islands that is getting in to gardening, I look forward to more visits during our cold winters!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:50PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Yeah. Im looking at places on the map that can accommodate every type of tree to some extent. I think I might have narrowed it down to Prescott

It makes me sad when I want a certain Apple, Apricot, peach or blueberry variety only to find I cant grow it here due to the high chill needed. We only had about 400 chill hours this year. A good year we would get 500 at the most.

Im not into tropical fruit either. Maybe only pineapple (is it tropical?) and dragon fruit. Passion fruit is OK but I have only had it in the Vietnamese deserts that they serve here. Its pretty good. Oh and maybe a banana tree or two ;-)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 12:26AM
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You're kind of backwards... most of us outside of warm places wish we could grow all sorts of tender things, but you it sounds like, just want to grow apples and stone fruit. But even if you don't like tropical fruit, there are loads of subtropicals to grow as well...

To make you feel any better about the things you can't grow, in places with enough chill many years a late frost will destroy the crop anyway. Oh, and I'm seeing more and more stone fruit that are low chill (400 hours range). Bottom line: I would trade my growing climate (pears, apples, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums have all set fruit this year here) for Southern California's (preferably inland San Diego) anytime.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:14AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Yes there are many wonderful places in southern California to grow. But the problem is becoming worse by the decade. See people that dont live here think its nice and beautiful all the time but its not. Now dont get me wrong it is great place to live and better than the frost that you are describing. But there are many factors that make me want to at least buy a different property out of state. Thats why I narrowed it down to Zone 2b-3a in Arizona. Best place east of the rockies for growing fruit they say.

The political climate in California is getting BAD. Taxes are getting higher and laws are becoming more stringent! We are bankrupt and spending our childrens future with borrowed money. All of our politicians seem like they have no clue on how to run a state properly. They make laws that strangle growth and hurt people. Alot of native Californian are trading good weather for a friendlier atmosphere with less controlling politicians and rules.

Also, if you do find a nice piece of land that you want in a good growing area of California chances are that someone else want it too. Prices are HIGH. land is cheap now but it is still very expensive. I would suggest maybe, if you have enough money, buying a second property out here and trying California on for size first.

Then the people! ALOT of people in southern California are so superficial and self righteous! They think money and looks are everything. People are jerks! Not everyone but a good amount of people are very rude materialistic.

FINALLY the traffic!! LOL. I gave up my car and ride my bike every where. I only drive when Its absolutely necessary. I almost get killed daily.

Now dont get me wrong I love California and I was born here. But the weather is one of the few things that is good about this state. The politicians are ruining it with laws and taxes and the kids growing up today have no values. Now Im not speaking for all of California but ALOT of southern California is not as glorious as the rest of the country thinks. But yes the weather is GREAT most of the year. But thing have changed dramatically in the last 20 years. I say come check us out for a little while and you might think different :-) If you ever get to Orange County hit me up and Ill give you the grand tour:-)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:18PM
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I am so in zone denial I want to grow sweet cherries not sour and peaches not crab apples LOL I tried growing avocado's indoors but we don't have enough light in the winter. I love the idea of growing trees in pots maybe I could try peaches and bring the pot into the garage for the winter only gets to -10 in the garage for the winter none of the nasty -45C Good thing my parents winter in Yuma and I can pick oranges from my dad's grove when I go visit that is. One day I will be back in a zone 5 then I can try tropicals LOL

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:37PM
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Up here in NW Ontario, we get a bad wrap for what we are able to grow. Because the city is right on the west side of the lake, we have a slightly moderate temps here, when compared to even 20km from the lake.

That being said - Plants im trying in general include bamboo, rhododendron, azalea, zone 5 perennials and small shrubs, and this year, musa basjoo. I have a few hardy suculents in trying, and even managed to get yucca filamentosa to survive here.

As you can see ive always purshed the zone here. Recently Ive gotten into fruit trees. I have a Honey gold apple, Toka plum, seedling apricot and apple, and soon some evans cherry. My neighbor is going to trade some plums and cherries for some of my stuff. Iu also have a seedling pear, which has "flemish beauty" grafted on it (first time grafting, not sure if it will work, but Im hopefull.

I have recently read that figs, and possibly pommegranates can be grown like "herbaceous perennials" in zone 5, and possibly 4 with reliable snow fall in winter (I average 2 - 4 feet of snow each winter). IF you feel like pushing the boundries in zones 4 - 6, I would reccommend trying figs, preferably the "chicago hardy" and "brown turkey", which are supposidly more hardy then most.

The next thing on my list is hardy kiwi (fruiting kind of course, not the decorative one).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:42AM
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Wow blazeaglory, that's a really interesting and informative rant on California. I lived there only a few years but have been visiting family regularly there most of my life, and I can certainly relate to what you're saying!

Since I live in Zone 3a (Sunset), I thought I'd throw in my two cents on fruit growing here. Yes, the climate seems to be a good one for many of your temperate zone fruits. Apricot seems to be the best adapted and is naturalized, as are peaches and apples. But good soil, protection from strong winds, and plentiful water are all needed and not always easy to come by.

Pests and diseases are not major problems and plants bloom well, but many things don't often set fruit due to late frosts. That is probably the single most heartbreaking thing about growing fruit here. Pears, apples, and sour cherries, in that order, are probably the most likely to bear from year to year... apricots only in good microclimates or in rare years (such as this one).

Some folks use high tunnels or various other covering contraptions to protect their trees while in flower. I'm planting some miniature peaches that should be a cinch to protect during late spring frosts. Espalier-ing your fruit trees against a south wall that can easily be draped with a blanket if need be is another clever possibility.

So you now probably understand all of the things that go through my mind when I read the Western Garden Book's claim that my zone is the best for gardening east of the Sierra and Cascades. Yes, BUT...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:07PM
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Randy31513(Georgia 8b)

I am in South Ga zone 8b which is kind of in the middle of cool weather things you can grow and hot weather things you can grow but both take special effort.
I grow apples, peaches, tart cherries, plums, pecans, lemons, satsumas, oranges and now bananas.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 8:14PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)


Yes its not always cherries and unicorns on the other side of the fence right?

You mentioned all my favorite fruit too!

What Im trying to do is go back to "simpler" times by trapping my rain water and recycling what I dont use into compost, etc...But I hear you about needing water and windbreaks and good soil. Its like when everyone thinks southern California is always sunshine, NOPE. Im glad to hear from you about the problems of your area as that will give me things to consider in my quest for the best grow zone!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 8:54PM
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Right now I'm feeling like I'm in the perfect fruit growing zone! 5a is cold enough for the temperate things, and killing off some major diseases over the winter. Always plenty of rainfall in the summer, and though it can get hot, its never for more than a week at a time. We're up north so the summer days get really long. Apples, pears, and tart cherries are fine with cold winters, same with lots of small fruits. There are even peaches and apricots hardy to WI, though late freezes are always a danger. Maybe I'll get lucky, and the microclimate in my suburban yard will be good enough most years.

I have to say our current governor is trying to run the state into the ground, but hopefully the recall will stick and we can vote in someone who cares about the people, not his corporate buddies!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:33PM
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