Fruit is one of the most rewarding things you can grow, the trees provide year-round interest and during the fruiting season the most wonderful edible delights.
They are a long term investment in your time and in your garden, but the rewards are huge. Aside from the immediate eating pleasure they can be pickled, stewed, and frozen for later or pressed and squeezed to make delicious drinks.
It doesn’t matter how large or small your plot is, you can grow fruit, a large backyard orchard might be an option, smaller spaces can accommodate the columnar fruit varieties, in tiny spaces you might consider just one “fruit salad tree” (more on this later), and even if you have no space at all you can grow fruit in containers.
Some fruit trees work better than others in New England, we prefer to keep things organic so have gone for trees that need little or no spraying and that are mostly disease resistant.
When it comes to Apples we like:
Liberty: Attractive fruit and no spraying
Crimson Crisp and Topaz: Have delicious fruit and disease resistant
Coxes Orange Pippin: A true favorite and won’t need to be sprayed
Roxbury Russet: The USA’s oldest apple variety
Try out Mulberry trees, Spicebush and Sassafrass to attract birds and good insects that devour orchard pests.
Pears, deliciously sweet and juicy, take a look at Harrow and Seckel
Cherries: in New England, the cooking varieties grow better than they eat straight from the tree varieties
Peaches can be tricky and don’t last too long, but worth a try are Red Haven and Canadian Harmony
If you are planting out try to locate them in full sun and preferably on an aspect where early thaws won’t trick them into budding too early. Good drainage is a must. For successful cross-pollination try planting one or two different varieties close together.
The art of the graft!
With practice, you can make your own trees (…yes really!)
f you have a favorite apple tree and want to extend your fruits than by grafting you can literally grow your own.
There are many methods and the internet is a source of great tutorials, but if you are starting out here are some tips:
Grafting joins parts from different plants so they grow as one. The upper part of one plant (scion) is taken and grafted onto the new mother plant using her rootstock to sustain it.
Normally you would choose just one type of fruit to graft between but most of the citrus fruits are compatible in nature, which means that in time and with patience you can graft peaches, plums, apples, and pears onto the same one tree! A “fruit salad tree!”
Spring is the best time to graft just as the sap is rising, try crossing characteristics from one tree to another, eg a flavorsome fruit onto a dwarf tree.
Here are some simple steps to take:
Make 4 x 3inch vertical incisions in the mother tree (rootstock)
Prepare the scion
Connect the scion to the mother tree
Secure the graft using Healit Garden Tape perfect for the job
Protect the graft and check it regularly
So get grafting and enjoy the fruits of your labor.