Fruits of Our Labor

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apple orchard, barrels of apples with a ladder on a tree

Many fruit-growing hobbyists neglect the annual maintenance of their fruit trees due to lack of time or they are not exactly sure how to take care of them. Without training or pruning, fruit trees will not develop proper shape and form. Properly trained and pruned trees will yield high-quality fruit much earlier in their lives and live significantly longer.

There are many factors to consider if you want to be successful when planting fruit trees. First, you must select the right type of fruit and the right variety for your area. Site selection is important because you need to consider soil type, soil fertility, air drainage, sunlight, and if there are nematodes present or not. These are all areas that the average person overlooks. Then, you also have to consider weed control, insect control, disease control, and believe it or not rodent control.

The most common tree fruits grown here include apples, figs, peaches, pecans, and pears. Not all of these fruit trees have the same pollination requirements. Did you know that pecan trees are monoecious? This means that they have separate male structures, called catkins, and female flowers on the same tree. However, the time at which the male catkins release pollen is not the time at which the female flowers can be pollinated. Pecan trees are separated into two pollination groups referred to as Type I and Type II. Catkins on Type I trees release their pollen before the female flowers are receptive and catkins on Type II trees release their pollen after the female flowers are receptive. Because of this difference, both Type I and Type II pecan trees are required for pollination. To ensure maximum pollination and production, at least three varieties should be planted together.

Apples should be considered self-incompatible, meaning that they cannot pollinate themselves or any flowers of the same apple variety. The best quality fruit is harvested when cross-pollination occurs with a suitable pollenizer variety. You will need to plant at least two varieties of apple trees together in order to maximize fruit production and quality. Make sure that the varieties you choose have overlapping bloom dates, so that both varieties bloom at the same time. When choosing a peach variety, the main features to consider are the chilling requirement and the time of ripening. Varieties with less than a 750-hour chilling requirement should not be planted in North Carolina because of the risk of crop loss due to spring frosts or freezes. Figs can be produced in our area; however, there are two limiting factors to their production. One being cold weather and the other nematodes. We can deal with the nematodes, but we cannot control the weather. Celeste and Brown Turkey are two fairly hardy fig varieties for our area.

If you would like more information about growing fruit trees, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Center at 919-496-3344 or visit our website.