Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Simplify the Hunt for the Perfect Fruit Tree

Where can I buy the best fruit trees or berry bushes?” is a ques­tion often asked by novice fruit gar­den­ers. Find­ing the best suited plants for your gar­den con­di­tions is an extremely impor­tant foun­da­tion for a suc­cess­ful fruit gar­den but it isn’t really as hard as most peo­ple think.

Where could gar­den­ers begin their search? The pos­si­bil­i­ties include home and gar­den mass mer­chan­dis­ers, local nurs­eries, and mail order cat­a­logs. Each offers slightly dif­fer­ent advan­tages. Start with the one that meets your main priorities.

If low price is your pri­mary objec­tive, you’ll prob­a­bly find the most com­pet­i­tive pric­ing at large mass mer­chan­dis­ers and home cen­ters. Unfor­tu­nately, because plants are acquired through the fran­chise chan­nels, the selec­tion of vari­eties will usu­ally be very lim­ited and may not even be well suited to your grow­ing region. Use this option if all you really want is a very basic, inex­pen­sive intro­duc­tion to fruit gardening.

A local nurs­ery or spe­cial­ized gar­den cen­ter may serve you bet­ter. Depend­ing on the manager’s fruit grow­ing knowl­edge, some local nurs­eries offer a gen­er­ous assort­ment of fruit trees and bushes. Oth­ers may be as lim­ited as the mass mer­chan­diser. At a local nurs­ery where the staff is well trained and inter­ested in hor­ti­cul­ture, the plants you find will likely be of high qual­ity  and more apt to grow well. One great advan­tage the local nurs­ery­man can offer is famil­iar­ity with the local grow­ing con­di­tions. This can be very help­ful to the novice gar­dener try­ing to select suit­able fruit trees and bushes for long-term success.

Nurs­ery cat­a­logs are an excel­lent option for qual­ity and selec­tion. Cat­a­log sources can be sub­di­vided into

  1. the gen­er­al­ists that sell numer­ous kinds of fruits, berries, seeds, and flow­er­ing plants
  2. those that spe­cial­ize exclu­sively in fruit trees and berry plants.

The gen­eral gar­den cat­a­log typ­i­cally car­ries a med­ley of dif­fer­ent fruit plants. Most of the actual fruit vari­eties fall into the “tried and true,” long-time stan­dards. Some­times the cat­a­logs also carry a pack­age assort­ment that may include an apple tree or two, a peach, a plum, and sev­eral berry bushes. If the pack­age is well put together, this can be a sim­ple way for the novice to start. Be sure, though, that all of the vari­eties included are indeed well-suited for your grow­ing area.

If you’ve pre­pared your­self by read­ing up on fruit grow­ing or you are an expe­ri­enced gar­dener look­ing for a vari­ety that is a bit out of the ordi­nary, the spe­cial­ized fruit nurs­ery cat­a­logs will, with­out ques­tion, offer the great­est selec­tion of fruit vari­eties. Many will focus on just berry plants or just fruit trees. Some cat­a­logs may go so far as to spe­cial­ize in one type of fruit such as apples or grapes . Every­thing from the lat­est dis­ease resis­tant straw­berry vari­ety to the antique apple you remem­ber from grandpa’s farm can be found in the spe­cialty cat­a­logs. Fre­quently, these cat­a­logs also include infor­ma­tion rang­ing from plant spac­ings to ripen­ing dates. Their staff can answer other ques­tions you may have.

Whether you are look­ing for low cost, advice on locally adapted fruit vari­eties, or the old­est or newest in vari­ety selec­tions, you’ll suc­ceed when you direct your plant hunt toward the source most suited to your needs.

©2013. Adapted from the Back­yard Orchardist: A com­plete guide to grow­ing fruit trees in the home gar­den by Stella Otto.