You can still grow fruit trees even if you don’t have much space

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2022

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
N.C. Cooperative Extension

You don’t have to have 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 they buy in the grocery store, but some 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 types 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 three to four years to train. The espalier method means to grow a plant flat against a wall, fence or trellis. In this manner, you can raise 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. 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, you need a self-fruitful tree or don’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 quick and straightforward. The key to getting excellent fruit production is adequate training and pruning.  Don’t lose hope if you have inherited a fruit tree that hasn’t been pruned in ages. It is possible to rejuvenate an older neglected fruit tree, but you will not produce good fruit for a couple of years afterward.   

Fresh Rowan County Extension has several fruit trees available for sale in our annual plant sale if you are looking to start over. For apples, we have ‘Arkansas Black,’ which produces a medium-sized fruit with a very dark red skin that is crisp, juicy and very firm. ‘Red Rome’ is a round red glossy apple with thick, firm flesh. It is excellent for baking as its flavor develops when cooked, and it holds its shape well. We also have favorites ‘Pink Lady,’ ‘Red Delicious and ‘Golden Delicious.” We have a Japanese persimmon ‘Fuyu’ for sale if you want to try something different. Japanese persimmons are the size of an apple and non-astringent. Fully ripe Japanese persimmons are usually eaten out-of-hand or cut in half and served with a spoon, preferably after chilling. Some people prefer to add lemon juice or cream and a little sugar. The flesh may be added to salads, blended with ice cream mix or yogurt, used in pancakes, cakes, gingerbread, cookies, gelatin desserts, puddings, mousse, or made into jam or marmalade. The pureed persimmon pulp can be blended with cream cheese, orange juice, honey and a pinch of salt to make an unusual dressing. We also have ‘Moonglow’ pears, ‘Elliott’ pecans, ‘Contender’ and ‘Red Haven’ peaches, as well as American persimmons. All fruit trees are $25 each except pecans; they are $40 each. We also have assorted small fruits for sale; check out http://go.ncsu.2022springplantsale call 704-216-8970 to place your order by Feb. 24.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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