My wife and I love fresh fruit (who doesn't?). That's why we decided to start our own little orchard this year. I hope that this article (and following articles) will be helpful to you as I share what we did to get our orchard started.
Just like any kind of gardening, growing fruit trees has it's challenges. Attention to detail before purchasing your trees and all throughout the life of your tree is very important. There are simple steps that don't require a ton of effort that will help set you up for a much better chance of success. Below are the things we took into consideration before buying our trees. We will also be writing future articles on planting the trees, caring for the young trees in the first year, pruning, etc.
Decide where to buy your trees
We ended up purchasing our trees from Stark Bro's. They have been in business for over 200 years and will replace any tree for free that you are not satisfied with or will give you a full refund within a year of the delivery date (ie. if your tree dies or is not doing well). I liked having that level of confidence when making this purchase. They also have a very useful website that helps narrow down what variety of tree are best for you based on your hardiness zone and other factors.
Filter your choices
1. I started out by going to https://www.starkbros.com/ and looking up their disease-resistant trees (https://www.starkbros.com/tags/disease-resistant-fruit-trees). Not having previous experience with growing fruit trees, I wanted the best chance of success with what I chose. Dealing with diseases is something I would prefer to do as little of as possible.
2. The next thing was to make sure I entered my zip code to filter out all trees that do not grow well in my hardiness zone. Here is a link for more information on hardiness zones, https://www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/article/fruit-tree-care-planting-in-your-zone.
Research the trees you are interested in
Now that you have narrowed down your search, it is important to research the details of the trees you are interested in. If your tree is not self pollinating, you must buy a second tree that pollinates well with the one you are looking at. Each tree's detail page will provide this information for you. Additional resources I used to determine good pollinator "partners" for my fruit trees were:
- https://www.acnursery.com/apple_pollinizer.pdf - This is a nice visual chart showing when different varieties of apples pollinate. Find your variety on the top horizontal row. Anything in white below are possible pollinators. Do not pair with ones marked red. The best pollinators will most likely be ones that bloom closest to the variety you are researching.
- https://www.orangepippintrees.com/pollinationchecker.aspx - This is another easy-to-use resource. This is helpful for all fruit types (not just apples). Simply find your variety in the dropdown list and click "Find Pollination Partners". This site will also show additional details about each fruit that may be worth looking into.
Choose what tree size works best for you
Once you have decided what trees you are interested in buying you will need to figure out what tree size to get. There are three main tree size types: Dwarf, Semi-Dwarf, and Standard. Here is a link for more information on tree sizes. https://www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/article/fruit-tree-sizes. The basic things to consider when choosing a tree size is the total area you have available to plant your trees and the amount of maintenance required for caring for each size type. I chose mostly dwarf size because I wanted to fit as many different varieties as I could in the amount of area I had available for these trees. Also I liked the idea of the fruit and limbs being more accessible from the ground for easier pruning and harvest.