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Beginner Level Fruit Trees

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Hi all!

Recently I have begun (began?) trying to homestead. 3 years ago I was a plant killer-ferns, flowers, peppers, you name it- I could kill it. After ALOT of practice (and endless faith by my fiancé-despite the turn over rate) I have successfully began to grow my garden! To give you an idea what I'm growing (so you can see what I'm successfully working with): raspberry bush, broccoli, romaine, Danvers Carrot, bloomsdale spinach, burpless cucumber, kale, cilantro, golden potatoes, not sure what kind of tomato, asparagus. I am wondering what first fruit trees would you reccomend? I know it takes YEARS to bear fruit so I would love to start them ASAP. I ideally would like to keep them potted for at least 2 years (we plan to buy 5+ acres within two years where I'd like to plant the tree to continue growing). I do not mind if it has to stay potted forever but my intentions are potting for the first few years until they can happily go into the ground. I am VERY open to anything and everything as we love EVERYTHING lol. We plan to stay in NC/SC area so that being our range of temps yearly.  I am going to be building a small/medium walk in greenhouse. I usually shop at Home Depot but recently a nursery has opened up over an hour away and I plan to make that trip soon!
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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If you are planning to start from seeds, I would recommend tracking down fruit varieties that generally are true to type. For example, Antonovka apple. This is going to be my next purposeful purchase of a fruit tree. (Barring any unexpectedly found deep discounts!) This tree is also often used as a root stock for preferred apple cultivars.

Take note of Redhawk's post in this thread about possible additional apples: https://permies.com/t/54818/true-ish-seed-apple-cultivars

I have not researched the other fruits that tend to be true to type.

Do call your county extention office, ask them what varieties do well in your area. My kid likes Gala, so I purchased one. Cedar apple rust really likes Gala. I cannot escape the rust in my region, as cedar is EVERYWHERE! My mystery apple, nor Granny Smith seam to be affected, apparently resistant. Try to not give yourself extra work in keeping your fruit alive! Plant resistant varieties.
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Hi, Kelsey, sounds like a great project.

A couple of things about fruit trees are really, really crucial, pollination, rootstocks, and chill hours.  Research is really important, and Home Depot may not be the best place to get the best trees for your location.

Some fruit trees are self-pollinating, but most are not.  Let's take apples as an example.  Two of the same type of apple will not pollinate each other.  The pollinating apples must bloom at the same time so the bees can go from tree to tree.  There's usually a list describing which fruit trees pollinate which fruit trees.  You can get a great big healthy fruit tree with no fruit, ever, if there is no pollinator.

In a suburban neighborhood it's possible that other yards will have that pollinating fruit tree, and we can take for granted that fruit shows up on a tree without our pairing them up properly.   But in a rural setting we need to make sure our trees have the proper matching fruit trees.

Chill hours are the number of hours we get each winter that are mid-to-low 30s F.  In warm winter areas sometimes that's only 200-300 hours (Florida, Southern and Central California).  In colder parts of the country that can be 800-900 hours (northern states).  It's crucial that the fruit trees get enough chill hours, or they won't bloom or will have few blossoms, and no fruit.

Fruit trees have big roots that often go twice as deep as the trees are tall.  This makes them strong in windy conditions, and they can pull up more nutrients and minerals to make the fruit healthier.  If they are in containers the nutrition is limited, the soil can dry out, they can be stressed and become rootbound.   If you start them in containers they should be half-barrel sized, and they should only be in them a year or 18 months.   Be prepared to protect the roots and trunks of fruit trees from rodents that will chew the roots, and chew a young trunk right off.  Voles and gophers are a real pain.

If you can find old orchards in the area you plan to have your orchard in, those are tried and true trees, and will be easier to have success with.   Those trees may need to be mail ordered, or if you can get cuttings in the spring you can start them on their own roots.

Take care to research rootstocks.  Trees will live longer on their own roots, but in tricky soils, like heavy clay, they may struggle.  Standard rootstocks allow a tree to grow to it's original height, which may seem too big, but it will be a healthier tree, and you can always trim it to height that works for you.  It might seem  handy to use dwarfing rootstocks, but they do more than just dwarf the size of the tree.  Rootstock trees don't live as long as trees on standard rootstock or on their own roots.  Once you've waited 5-7 years to get fruit, you don't want them slowing down and possibly dying 10 years later, only to have to start over.

Although we know our places are special, we won't be able to fool Mother Nature about plants.  It's all worth it, though, to play it Her way.

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Kelsey Crowe wrote:Hi all!

Hi Kelsey I do not know too much about fruit trees but what little I have learnt I am happy to share,

If your after lower maintenance trees I would select apples or pears, plums or cherrys,( fig trees grow like weeds) and a couple fijoas together pollinate well etc if it is possible look into stone fruit lastly as they are quite prone to the horrid curly leaf which can be a real issue,  if i am not mistaken fruit trees are surface feeders so thrive with good mulch compost around base which keeps other weed competition down also organic matter retains moisture like a sponge which can reduce how often you need to be watering (: anyway there's my 2 cents(: and remember the three D's and C A C when pruning also 1st year growth doesn't bare fruit

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Location: Western Washington
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I was in exactly this position a few years ago. I knew I would be buying a homestead and kept having the opportunity to start cuttings or get cheap bareroot trees. Leaf curl resistant peaches did especially well for me. I had it potted two years. More time might have been a problem but moving it to a bigger pot might have worked. Grafted trees stay pretty small for the first year, which will help in this case if you want to do your own grafting or grow from cuttings, as previouslyviously mentioned. I also grew two apple trees from cuttings and they are very happy and healthy
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Location: san diego ca
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most grafted fruit trees dont take very long to fruit 2- 3 years some the next season like mulberries and blackberries . If growing in containers for that long got to make sure they dont get root bound some how maybe try fabric pots or root pruning containers

i would plant a couple in the ground to just to  

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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Generally, plants thrive or fail due to two simple reasons.  1.  Poor soil.  2.  Adequate moisture.   So before you go too far with selecting and planting trees, I'd put some thought into improving the soil where you'll be planting the trees.  Quite simply, get a lot of decomposing biomass and leave it in the spots where you'll be planting your trees.  A 3 foot pile of grass, weeds, tree trimmings, leaves, veggie scraps, etc. will serve to condition the soil.  Pile it up, keep it slightly moist, and let it decompose.  When you're ready to plant, you can just push a spade down through the center of the pile, hollow it out like a donut, and dig your hole down into the center of it.  Thus, you'll have a great start with your soil, and all that carbon biomass will keep the soil moist once you've planted.

A couple of thoughts about tree selection:

1.  What size do you want?  If you've got the space, select "standard" sized.  You will need to then space them appropriately.  I plant standard trees at least 15 feet apart.  When you are planting bare-root trees, that seems like it's too far apart.  But once they start growing, they will quickly fill the space.  If you plant semi-dwarf or dwarf trees, then plant them 12 or 10 feet apart, accordingly.  Give yourself space to move around them.

2.  You mention Home Depot.  I'm not a big fan of getting my fruit trees from a Big Box retailer.  Here in California, I order my trees from Armstrongs.  They will get me exactly the variety of tree that I want.  At Home Depot or Lowes, they'll have 3 or 4 varieties, but often not the best ones suited for your climate.  You'll have no say about the best rooting stock or size of tree -- just take it or leave it.  Perhaps someone who is from your region can make a better suggestion.

3.  Choosing the variety of trees that you want to plant depends upon a couple of things.  First, the number of chill hours that you get.  Don't order a tree that requires 1000 chill hours if you only get 250.  Where I live (Los Angeles country), I'll get, at most, 300 chill hours.  This past winter, we barely got 150.  So I've had to plant only low low chill varieties.  I've got 5 different apples, 3 different asian pears, a lot of different stone fruits (apricots, apriums, plums, pluots, etc.), 3 different figs, lots of different citrus . . .  and all of them are at about 250 chill hours or lower.  So choose wisely.

Here is where I get my best information from: Dave Wilson Nursery.


4.  Choose trees that will not all ripen at the same time.  What good it is to have 4 peach trees if they all ripen in the same 2-week window in early June, and you can't possibly eat or process them all?  So select trees so that you have a progressive ripening of fruit throughout the growing season.  We've got fruit ripening throughout the growing season --- really, we've got something to eat off a tree 12 months of the year.  Here is a chart that shows when various varieties of fruit ripen.


5.  Select trees that will cross pollinate for best results.  Apples, pears, plums & pluots . . . they do better when there are several other varieties of the same fruit tree nearby.  I plant my apple trees in proximity: Anna, Dorsett Golden, Cripps Pink, Fuji and Gala—the bees don't have to work too hard to move back and forth between them.  Some trees are not self-fruitful, so you'll need to find a pollenizer for them.  For example, I've got Royal Lee and Minnie Royal cherry trees that need each other in order to pollinate.

6.  If you've never heard of Stephan Sobkawiak, Miracle Farm up in Canada, you need to watch his stuff.  He's absolutely brilliant.  https://miracle.farm/en/  

I wish I had heard of him before I started to plant out my food forest.  Never the less, I've gone back and copied so many of the things that he's doing.  Brilliant.  

Best of luck to you.  Take your time and do it right the first time.  I know that you are in a hurry and want to get fruit production as soon as possible, but it makes far more sense to me that you take your time and plan everything out right the first time, buy only the best trees, get your design right, get your soil healthy . . . and THEN plant out your orchard.  In 5 years you'll have more fruit then you know what to do with.

Blueberry pie is best when it is firm and you can hold in your hand. Smell it. And smell this tiny ad:
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