A Small Taste of a Fruitful ParadisePosted by in Gardening
Andrew Marvell paints a Bacchanalian picture with his poetic lyrics in “The Garden” as he imagines himself blithely rambling amid a paradise of sumptuous fresh fruit. Create a seventh heaven of your own by planting an orchard of fruit trees in your backyard; you are sure to reap the benefits of an opulent and satisfying harvest, while adding beauty to your landscape as well. Fruit trees like apples, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums take patience and labor to grow, but offer sweet results in the end. Whether you are in search of just a couple of trees or an entire orchard, following these simple guidelines will enable you to pluck some of the finest fruits from your homegrown haven.
You Reap What You Sow
Successful fruit production depends heavily upon where and how you plant your trees. To achieve top quality and yield, make sure the fruit trees are in a well-drained spot, basking in at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight. While bare root trees should be planted during the dormant season (mid November through February in Louisiana), container grown plants can be planted from September through May.
Dig the hole twice as wide and one and a half times as deep as the original container, and then fill the bottom of the hole just enough so that the tree is positioned at the depth it was growing in the nursery. Then, fill the hole about two-thirds full with the same soil initially removed so as to eliminate internal drainage problems—do not add organic matter as a back fill. To help pack the soil, add water until thoroughly soaked and finish filling the hole with topsoil.
As a general rule, postpone fertilizing until new growth has emerged in the spring, at which time you can apply one-half pound of a complete fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or its equivalent. After the initial application, fertilize again during the dormant season, preferably in February.
The Right Kind of Fruit for You
Not all fruit species are suitable to all areas of Louisiana, so you may need to do a little research before planting. Fruits like apples, pears, and plums require at least two varieties to be planted together for cross pollination, while others like nectarines and peaches are self-fertile. Likewise, some cultivars call for a “rest period,” or longer chilling hours for best performance, a luxury not always attained in Louisiana. Most fruit species in fact, not of tropical origin, must have a certain number of hours of cold temperatures below 45 degrees F. Each variety of fruit is different, since some require only 200 to 300 chilling hours, while others beckon for over 1,000 hours. Because our winters are exceptionally mild, be sure to ask about chilling requirements at your local garden center before purchasing any fruit trees; trees that do not receive sufficient cold to satisfy their needs will not perform well. Not only will they be delayed in leafing out and blooming, but they will have a scattered bloom time over a longer period as well, thus resulting in little to no fruit production.
Cultivars for the Louisiana Climate
The apple, one of America’s favorite fruits, is native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. Being some of the most widely adapted fruit trees, apple trees can be successfully grown from the northern tips of Washington down to the central heart of Louisiana. Although some cultivars advocate self-pollination, a second variety is always suggested for best pollination and fruit production. Apple trees can reach 20 feet tall, with canopies spreading 20 feet across as well. Keep in mind that fruit production is not expected until the plant’s third year of growth.
‘Anna’: originated in Israel and introduced to America in 1965; requires 200 to 250 chilling hours; bright green fruit blushed with red; crisp fruit with excellent flavor; ripens late June; for optimum results, plant with ‘Dorsett Golden’ or ‘Ein Sheimer.’
‘Dorsett Golden’: native to the Bahamas; heavy producer; rich golden fruit is sweet and crisp; 100 to 150 chilling hours; ripens late June to July; plant with ‘Anna’ or ‘Ein Sheimer.’
‘Ein Sheimer’: native to Israel; heavy producer that bears at a young age; 150 to 250 chilling hours; medium size fruit is greenish yellow; self pollinating; ripens early June.
‘Granny Smith’: originated in Australia; large green fruit with pink blush; self pollinating; 500 to 600 chilling hours; ripens early fall; plant with ‘Dorsett Golden’ or ‘Anna.’
Nectarines, native to China, are equivalent to peaches, but lack the fuzzy skin. These fruits prefer warm dry springs and long hot summers—a plus for nectarine lovers in Louisiana. They do, however, have high chilling requirements for the most part, which makes it difficult to grow certain cultivars here. All varieties are self fertile.
‘Sunlite’: requires 450 chilling hours; yellow flesh with a red blush; semi-cling; ripens in mid to late May.
Like nectarines, peaches also originated from China. They are usually classified as either freestone (the flesh pulls away from the pit) or clingstone, meaning the flesh cannot be readily pulled from the pit. The freestone varieties are best for fresh eating, while the clingstone peaches are recommended for canning and cooking. Most cultivars are self fertile.
‘La Feliciana’: popular freestone variety; heavy producer; 550 chilling hours; ripens first week in July.
‘La Festival’: vigorous freestone producer; large fruit with yellow flesh; 450 chilling hours; ripens third week in June.
‘La Peche’: heavy producer of medium-large, semi-freestone fruit; yellowish red flesh; 450 chilling hours; ripens third week in June.
Pear trees, similar to the apples, are native to southeastern Europe and western Asia. They bloom in early spring, putting on a magnificent display with their pinkish white blossoms. Plant pear trees on 15-foot centers, and plant two varieties for pollination.
‘Ayers’: small to medium yellow fruit with a red blush; excellent for fresh eating; ripens mid August; plant with ‘Kieffer’ or ‘Pineapple’ pears.
‘Kieffer’: consistent producer; medium to large fruit is yellowish red; perfect for baking and preserving; for best quality, store fruit for two weeks after harvest; 350 to 400 chilling hours; ripens mid August through October; plant with ‘Ayers’, ‘Pineapple’ or ‘Orient.’
‘Orient’: large round fruit is golden yellow with a red blush; its creamy white flesh is outstanding for fresh eating; 325 chilling hours; plant with ‘Kieffer.’
‘Pineapple’: large russet fruit is firm and keeps well; pineapple flavor; heavy producer that is good for cooking or fresh eating; ripens mid to late August.
Plum trees have been widely cultivated throughout the United States, and are categorized as either European or Japanese. While the European cultivars are freestone and more cold hardy, the Japanese varieties are clingstone, and have a sweet flesh with tart centers. Most Japanese plums require pollinators.
‘Bruce’: Japanese plum that yields brilliant wine red fruit with red flesh; large fruit is excellent for canning; ripens early to mid June; plant with ‘Methley’ or ‘Ozark Premier.’
‘Methley’: Japanese plum with medium to large reddish purple fruit; distinctive sweet flavor makes it superb for either fresh eating or processing; ripens early June; plant with ‘Bruce.’
‘Ozark Premier’: Japanese fruit that bears large juicy plums with bright red skin; yellow flesh is firm with a tart flavor; heavy producer; ripens mid June; plant with ‘Bruce’ or ‘Santa Rosa.’
‘Santa Rosa’:popular freestone Japanese plum; purplish to crimson skin with yellow flesh; great flavor that keeps well; 300 to 400 chilling hours; ripens mid to late June; plant with ‘Ozark Premier.’
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