Where growing, making & good living come together

Picking fruit trees – what to choose?

Posted by on Tuesday 19 October 2010 in growing | 4 comments

Having missed the window last year, we are keen to get some fruit trees plants this autumn – but it’s not as easy as we thought it would be.

The difficulty is partly, mostly our own fault of course. We could buy misc off-the-shelf trees from a garden centre but since we’ve only really got one shot at trees here, we want to make sure we get it right so are hoping to order custom ones from a niche supplier – ones that will suit our wants (in terms of height & flavour), our soil type and our climate. This is where we need an advanced degree in mathematics to figure it all out.

We’re hoping to plant three apple trees, a cherry tree and a plum tree, and I’m thinking about some raspberry canes or blackcurrant bushes, and maybe something very dwarfed in a pot (possibly the cherry).

The nursery we’re going to order from has 65 varieties of apple, combined with 6 different possible rootstocks – a total of 390 options! Some varieties are good for eating, some for cooking and some for cider making – John wants to eat them & make cider, I want to cook with some (although that’s less of a priority).

The rootstocks will determine whether they’re tall or short, very vigorous or considerable less fruitful. Some only prosper in good soils, some are more forgiving. Some take longer to start fruiting than others. We’ve got to decide where we want to compromise.

Unsurprisingly, the most vigorous ones are the tallest ones – but I think we’ll struggle to harvest anything over 10-12ft from the ground so there seems little point getting one that grows more than 15ft tall. They also don’t usually start fruiting until they’re five or six years old. Conversely, the most dwarf type grow to just 4-6ft and fruit at 2 years – but only produce about 10-15lb of fruit a year, which hardly seems worth bothering with.

Even picking the variety for flavour is a challenge: I don’t eat apples and John doesn’t really know what he likes and what he doesn’t. From the supermarket (not a good place to use as a guide for fruit flavours!), he likes Braeburns but they need warmer climes than we can offer.

So many options! The only thing I know for sure is that we have to order them ASAP!

Anyone got any advice or suggestions? What did you pick and why?

(Photo by iscott)


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. strowger

    Don’t be too discouraged about the time taken to fruit for larger trees. We have some apples on M26 and some on MM106, and they mostly fruited in their first year, and all in their second (though we removed most of the fruit as soon as they formed).

    I agree with you entirely about the most vigorous rootstocks with regard to harvesting; there’s little point in having 50kg of fruit if you can only harvest 10 of it. You get more accessible, harvestable fruit from something that’s smaller but makes branches you can reach. The smaller sizes can be planted closer together, and give you the chance for more varieties of fruit from your piece of land.

    Disclaimer: none of ours are anything like mature, yet.

  2. louisa

    That’s very interesting – good to know we might get some fruit, a little fruit, next year. If we ever bloomin’ order the things! ;)

  3. bookstorebabe

    My father has a Jonalicious apple tree. Tart apples, just how I like them. I don’t know the other types he grows. But one thing to consider with fruit trees. They do have to be sprayed. For the first time, trees went without this year. He’d spray, it would rain,repeat-and it got too expensive to keep doing that. The apples are just as tasty. But so, so much more time consuming, to cut out the worms and bad bits! Plus, less fruit for more effort. Keep that in mind before you get apple trees. Do you want to spray? Are you willing to go the extra mile if you don’t? Not to mention budgeting for the cost.
    Are there any apple orchards within driving distance? Or neighbors with trees? Perhaps they’ll share what varieties of apples, ect. work for them.
    Go with good eating and cider apples. You can cook with any variety, really, but they won’t all be good for cider.
    Raspberries sound lovely!
    Oh, and Mom and Dad have a short cherry tree. 6 or 8 feet tall? Short is good for cherry trees. They have loads of fruit. And you’ll need netting, because the birds love them as well! Easier with a short tree. And I like Strowger’s reasoning behind smaller trees in general.
    I wish I had room for fruit trees…glad the parents supply me with their excess! Good luck!

  4. Jan

    I don’t spray my apple trees-the old ones are huge and i don’t like the idea . We still get good crops- use sticky barriers on the trunks and codling moth traps in the trees. Let the birds have free rein-they might eat a few buds but will also eat bugs . I planted Blenheim orange; good eater can be used to cook with too and keeps till about january if wrapped in newspaper and kept somewhere cool and rodent proof(an old filing cabinet in the garage).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *