Growing in your local environment
May 3, 2012 Growing Fruit Trees
The existent environment is an integral part of ensuring you can successfully grow a fruit tree. Environmental factors include light, exposure, frost dates, hardiness zones and soil. Each of these elements must be examined before you select a tree for your garden. If you do not select a tree suitable to your external environment, you will jeopardize your chance of growing a fruit tree to maturity and reaping the benefits of its fruitfulness.
Let it be perfectly clear. All fruit trees require sunshine to grow and fruit. Usually, they require lots of bright light. Most fruit trees demand a minimum of 8 hours a day during the summer. There are 4 basic categories of light. There is full sun with all its intensity. There is partial shade - part sun and part shade. There is also light shade and full shade. In general, fruit trees do not do well under full shade and light shade conditions. They prefer full sun, but some varieties will tolerate partial shade.
Remember, when gauging the amount of light in your yard, to consider other significant factors. You have to look at the following elements to determine the actual amount of light in your garden.
Time of year
What is the amount of light you receive during the entire year? Look at each season as it affects the light in your garden. Determine the amount of light - particularly for the crucial periods of the year.
Where your garden is in terms of land formations, place and urban or rural situation will affect the amount of light you receive. For example, coastal regions may be mountainous. These obviously dictate different amounts and types of light than valleys or prairies.
Is your garden shaded by other structures? Does your house or a house next door cast a shadow at certain times of day? Is there an apartment building or office tower perpetually throwing your garden into the shade? Do not forget the impact of fences, walls and even sheds.
All these factors will have an effect upon the amount of light you will receive in your garden. The quantity of light affects the ability of your plant to reach its full growth and fruit bearing potential. If you have shade or shady areas, be sure to look at specific varieties that can tolerate this type of environment.
Note that apples might require cool autumn nights, but they need plenty of sunshine to produce their fruit. Fig trees need full sun as do peach trees, pears, plums, quince and cherry. Citrus, while liking full sun, can suffer from leaf scorch. As a result, during some periods of growth and development, cherry trees are better in partial shade.
Another facet to consider is exposure. As noted previously in reference to the lemon tree, full light is desirable, but blistering sun is counterproductive. It is essential you understand that such factors as the wind, salt spray and frost pockets can affect your tree. Is your garden open to these problems? Are you on a coastline? Does the wind blow through your garden like a tornado? Is your property subject to hurricanes? Do you get frost in your garden before anyone else?
Wind and heat are the most probable elements to cause damage to your fruit tree or trees. Frost and cold can affect their very survival. If your garden is susceptible to heavy or copious amounts of rain, it may also damage some types of fruit trees. Be aware of these possible problems. Try to correct what you can by erecting or removing barriers. Better yet, pick a tree suitable to those immutable conditions in your garden.
Frost Dates and Hardiness Zones
Some fruit trees are more susceptible to frost than others. Cherries, for example, easily suffer frost damage to their blossom bud. Lemons can tolerate light frost while many varieties of apple tree are hardier. Peaches are probably the most susceptible trees in North America to blossom-kill by late frosts. In the northern parts of Canada, the United States and Europe, winter cold and frost damage create severe limitations to growing fruit trees. Be aware of the frost dates for your region. You will also need to know the hardiness zone.
Every country, region and even county has what is referred to as a hardiness zone. The hardier a plant, the more capable it is of surviving low temperatures. The higher the number of the hardiness zone, the warmer the range of temperatures. For example, if you live in zone 10, your plant needs to tolerate minimum temperatures of 30̊F. Within zone 3, however, the minimum temperature is cited as -40EF.
To ensure your fruit tree will survive and thrive in the conditions of your garden, select the tree in accordance to the temperature range. Most apple trees, for example, are more tolerant of cold temperatures than are peach trees. Yet, within each group of plants, there are varieties capable of coping better than others. Some are more winter hardy than others.
Winter hardy peaches include Belle of Georgia, Oldmixon Free and Reliance. Winter hardy Apricots consist of Alfred, Godcot and Sungold, to name a few. If you are looking for hardy sweet cherries consider Gold, Rainier, Windsor and Yellow Glass. Cold hardy pears include Clapp’s Favorite, Golden Spice and Lincoln. If you are in North America, you will find the Native varieties of plums are hardier than either the Japanese or European imports. Japanese plums are not only less hardy than the native or European types, but are more susceptible to frost. Most citrus fruit is not winter hardy.
In addition to the general zone, you may also have to look at the specific hardiness zone of your city or region. There are many micro-environments within the larger regions. Some of these may actually have a different hardiness zone. It may vary significantly enough to affect the choice of fruit tree.
The type of soil you have in your garden is another factor in selecting the right fruit tree. The air, nutrients, water and organic matter that comprise it are vital to creating and maintaining healthy fruit trees. While sometimes you can alter the basic composition of the soil e.g. enrich it, replace it, add chemicals, it is often best to work with what you have. Avoid altering it in its entirety for the sake of your specific choice of plant. From the start, you need to know what type of soil you have in your garden.
Soils are usually described as sandy, clay or loam. Some fruit trees survive better in one type over another. In general, however, fruit trees prefer deep, well drained soil. This excludes sandy soils which do not hold water well. Clay soils, on the other hand, tend to retain water, sometimes too much water, becoming water logged. Loam soils are better than the other varieties. Yet, the best types of soil for fruit trees tend to be combinations - sandy loams and clay loams. These retain water and offer the right consistency of desirable qualities.
The productivity of soils is also determined by their acidity or alkalinity - the pH level. It influences the ability of the soil to make plant nutrients available. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. If it is less than 7, the soil is acidic. If the level is more than 7 the soil is alkaline. In general, fruit trees do best in soils that are slightly acidic to neutral. In other words, the soil is best if it as a pH level of 6.5 to 7.
Yet, whatever the acidity and type of soil, be sure to add organic matter. All soils benefit from the addition of these nutrients. When you mix in organic matter you improve the lightest and heaviest soil. You can buy organic materials for your garden as well as provide earthworms. In addition, you can start your own composting facility and add the material to increase your garden’s fertility. Whether you purchase it or create it, be sure you combine both brown (dry) and green (fresh) organic matter together to create the right type of organic compost needed for the health of your fruit trees.