tell me about fruit trees (Boston area)

leira(6 MA)March 14, 2010

We'd like to plant a fruit tree this year. I think the top contender is a peach, but we're open to suggestions.

We live in the city, so our yard isn't very big. Because of this, we probably only want one tree, and we probably want some sort of dwarf variety. I say that we only want one tree, but it's also true that our neighbor, with and even smaller yard, has 3 trees...so maybe I'm more conservative than I need to be.

I know that certain types of fruit trees, such as apples, require a second tree (or a grafted tree) for pollination. I understand that peaches don't require this, but I also know that apples keep a lot longer than peaches, which is one of the reasons that I keep coming back to that.

We also don't expect to be in this house forever, so getting a tree that will start producing fruit sooner rather than later is particularly attractive.

I'm also a little unclear about "dwarf" and "semi-dwarf" and other things such as "li'l big" that I've seen in some of the gardening catalogs. I'm sure I don't want a full-sized tree, but beyond that, I don't quite know what I should aim for. I'm not even quite sure where to start.

Is there any place in the greater Boston area (preferably to the north rather than to the south) where I could go buy fruit trees in person, and speak to knowledgeable staff?

Can any of you help me more?

Thanks!

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plympton_ma(z6B MA)

If it were me, I'd talk to the fruit tree specialist at your county extension office---they're a wealth of information. Additionally, it may or may not be too late to get in on some hands-on Spring fruit tree pruning seminars. You'll get a chance to see what's actually involved in growing fruit trees and you would get to see different size trees or the sizes that trees can be maintained at. It's good stuff for a beginner. Walking around an orchard on a cold, wet dreary March morning brings back great memories :-)

From my personal experience, south of Boston,as a person who was inclined to spray minimally, I would guess the pears were the easiest to grow, followed by, in no particular order, peaches (Redhaven was best)Japanese plums, pluots and apricots. The apples were a pain.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 10:43PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

When you buy a fruit tree, the variety that you choose is grafted onto the trunk and root system of another tree (aka rootstock). The height and general size of the resulting tree is controlled by the type of rootstock on which the fruiting part of your tree is grafted. Thus, you can have a full size tree which can range anywhere from 20-40 feet tall, or a semi-dwarf which is roughly 12-25 feet tall, or a dwarf which is around 8-12 feet tall. It's quite common to find fruit trees that are columnar in shape which are roughly 5-10 feet tall and very narrow at approx 2 ft wide.

If you want a tree that serves as both a fruit tree and an ornamental feature to your yard then I would recommend a semi-dwarf. If you are planting this strictly for fruit then you want a dwarf or columnar tree because both are small and you can plant several in a small area which removes the pollination problem. All fruit trees bear much more fruit when pollinated with a different variety. Some trees may not need a pollinator but they will not have as heavy of a crop as with a pollinator nearby. If you have a particular variety of apple that your family likes, a quick Google search will tell you which pollinator that you need for it

You mentioned that you were leaning toward apples because they last longer that other fruit such as peaches. Keep in mind that by canning the fruit, they will last for months. You can also make jelly, jam, or preserves that also last for a long time when canned properly. Canning may sound difficult but it's really not. A Google search will produce pages that give you instructions for doing it.

You may get more bang for your buck by planting some fruiting shrubs such as blueberries or cranberries. You can also build or buy ornamental structures that you can grow fruit on such as a strawberry tower. I use strawberries as a ground cover in one of the foundation beds around my house. It's not a very large bed but I get tons of strawberries from it before the perennials that I have planted there come up and bloom.

I wouldn't bother buying a tree from a local nursery. You can get a much larger variety to choose from online and it's delivered to your door. I've ordered from Stark Bros. and Burnt Ridge Nursery and have received fine quality plants from both of them.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 11:53PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Nourse Farms has a great reputation for fruiting plants. They don't carry tr*ees to my knowledge.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nourse Farms

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 8:59AM
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adrock430(6A)

You can buy an apple tree with two different species grafted on, but I highly recommend espalier method if your short on space...you could have a bunch more trees
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espalier

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 12:51PM
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leira(6 MA)

Thanks for all of the information, folks. I'm not sure that we're any closer to our decision, but you've given us lots of food for thought.

A couple of things: We're definitely looking at freestanding trees, not espalier, interesting though that might be. Also, we already can and otherwise preserve things, but apples still keep longer, which would give a bit of flexibility in the canning schedule.

I called Stark Bros. and quizzed them on various things. I now have relative sizes, spacings, and years-to-first-fruit for various types of trees.

plympton_ma, I'd really like to know why it is that you say that the apples were a pain. What happened? What do I need to know?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 8:29PM
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oldangelmidnight

Tangential to this, how close do trees need to be to pollinate? I'm thinking about getting an apple tree. There are a few apple trees on a lot around the corner from my house.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 5:51PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

That's close enough for pollination as long as the trees around the corner bloom at the same time as your tree does. Any crabapples that might be around will also pollinate your tree again provided that they bloom at the same time.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 7:05PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

It's really pricey, but the UMass Extension has just come out with the 2010 New England Tree Fruit Management Guide (NETFMG)

Claire

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 12:24PM
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adrock430(6A)

another suggestion would be an asian pear, compact habit, and carefree with excellent yield

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 4:29PM
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