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Fruit trees don’t take up too much space in the home garden

A familiar tree

Submitted photo Pecan trees are a part of many landscapes throughout Rowan County.

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension Director

You don’t have to have a significant property to grow fruit trees. Lots of fruit and nut trees can grow in Rowan County. Some of the most popular include apples, peaches, persimmons, pears and pecans.

You can have an orchard even if you have the smallest of gardens, and be sure to try producing several different kinds. Variety selection is a critical step to consider before planting a fruit tree. Many people want to grow the same varieties that they buy in the grocery store, but some of these fruit varieties grow in climates very different from North Carolina.

It’s also important to look at disease resistance in fruit trees. Many of the grocery store varieties of pear like Bartlett and Bosc are very susceptible to a disease called Fire Blight. Look for varieties that are labeled disease resistant or tolerant.

If you are limited on space but want fruit trees anyway, grow dwarf trees, and if you are patient, you can espalier train them. Dwarf trees will bear fruit of average size but on trees that grow just 8 to 12 feet tall. Though they won’t yield heavy crops like standard and semi-dwarf trees, they will provide a decent harvest of fresh fruit.

Espaliers will require some dedication, taking from three to four years to train. The method of espalier means to grow a plant flat against a wall, fence or trellis. In this manner, you can grow a variety of fruit trees in a limited space. They are excellent space savers perfect for small gardens; they offer easier access for gardeners with limited mobility; and because they are less susceptible to breaking branches, these trees have an incredible lifespan. You can find espaliered apple trees that are 150 years old and still producing fruit.

If you only have room for one fruit tree, then you need a tree that is self-fruitful or doesn’t need another tree for a pollinator. Pecans, persimmons, most apples and pears require at least two trees for pollination. Peach trees and figs are self-fruitful.

Pruning is something that many homeowners stress over. With proper training, annual pruning is simple and quick. The key to getting excellent fruit production is proper training and pruning. If you have inherited a fruit tree that hasn’t been pruned in ages, don’t lose hope. It is possible to rejuvenate an older, neglected fruit tree, but you will not have good fruit production for a couple of years afterward.

A fruit tree pruning demonstration will be held at Barbee Farms (1000 Shelton Rd. NW, Concord) in Cabarrus County on Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 8:30-11 a.m. Dr. Mike Parker from North Carolina State University will be teaching the basics of pruning young and mature peach and apple trees. This demonstration is free, but space is limited; please call 704-216-8970 to register by Feb. 23.

In the afternoon there will be a free lecture on fruit tree production for the Piedmont of North Carolina with Parker. The seminar will be at the Rowan County Extension Center, 2727 Old Concord Road, from 1-4 p.m. These are two separate events, so please register for both if you plan on attending both. Again, space is limited, so pre-register by calling the Rowan County Extension Office at 704-216-8970, or e-mailing alalbert@ncsu.edu.

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