Ever wish you could grow your own fruit tree? We hear you – at Yarden, we love growing our own food, and we’re especially fond of fruit trees. Growing fruit trees has so many advantages…for one thing, there’s nothing that beats the thrill of plucking a ripened fruit off a tree in your own backyard to enjoy right then. For another, there’s simply no way to get fresher fruit. Fruit from your local grocer’s produce section may have spent weeks in transit and months in storage, but fruit you pick yourself can be enjoyed the same day you pick it – even the same hour.
Also, fruit trees are beautiful and provide shade to your backyard in the summer. They also put on a spectacular show in the spring! Even before the fruit is ready to harvest, fruit trees are a feast for the senses during the spring months, with showy, fragrant blossoms that add color and beauty to your garden.
But what kind or kinds of fruit trees should you add to your landscape? Each have their own pros and cons, some require more space than others, some come in dwarf varieties as well as full-size varieties, and some can only grow in certain climates.
Why You Should Grow Apples & Pear Trees
If you’re new to fruit growing, apple trees and pear trees are a great choice. Apples are the second most popular fruit in the US (after bananas), and pears are among the world’s most cultivated fruits. Both orchard fruits, or “pomes,” apples and pears are great for snacking, baking, cooking, in salads, and can be enjoyed in a huge variety of other ways. The two fruits are harvested around the same time and can complement one another in many dishes.
Both apple and pear trees are lovely and produce delicate, pretty, and fragrant blossoms in the springtime. The fruit itself is lovely as well as delicious and can be used in autumnal displays. Both fruits also make a welcome gift if you have an abundance!
If you live in the US, you may be limited in what fruit trees you can grow. Citrus fruits, for instance, require a warmer climate, but apple trees will flourish in all fifty states. The same can be said of pears, though you’ll want to research your varieties if you live in one of the warmer growing zones as most pear trees do best in damp climates with cold winters and cool summers. Dwarf varieties of apple and pear trees are available for those with smaller yards and can even be kept in pots that can be moved back and forth between your patio and a sunny spot indoors.
Planting & Growing Apple Trees and Pear Trees
Their fruits may be quite different from each other’s, but these pome trees require similar care. If you are careful to do a bit of research to find out what type of trees will do best in your unique growing conditions, how to care for them, and how to recognize and prevent the most common fruit tree pests and diseases, you’ll enjoy a fall harvest of fruit for many seasons to come.
- What type of tree? It might be tempting to choose a tree based on your favorite variety of pear or apple, but resist! Research the tree variety that will do best in your unique location. Consider your climate and the size of your growing area (you may need to go with a dwarf variety over a standard-sized variety). Be aware that most apple and pear trees require a second, compatible tree for cross-pollination, so you’ll want to know if your tree will need one, along with what tree will be a suitable companion tree (see section on cross-pollination below for more information about this).
- Preparing to plant. Choose a spot in your yard or garden at least three-and-a-half feet away from bushes and shrubs where your apple and pear trees can get at least six hours of full sun each day. You should also check to see if the soil is well-draining…you can do this by digging a hole in the area where you intend to plant your trees and fill it with water. Check back in several hours; if there is water standing in the hole, you should probably plant somewhere else.
- Watering. How much water your apple or pear tree will need will depend on the size of the tree and how hot the day is. Once every week or two is fine for established trees, while young trees need water up to three times a week depending on the type of soil. Do not overwater your trees! A young apple or pear tree planted in well-draining soil will do well with about fifteen gallons of water at a time (that’s around three buckets full). Don’t use a sprinkle or water the trunk – water slowly and deeply, aiming for the roots. Allow the roots to dry completely before watering again.
- Feeding and mulching. Your apple and pear trees get their food from the soil you plant them in. Fertilizing your trees will help them get the nutrients they need to grow, flower, and produce fruit. A nutrient-rich mulch, spread on the soil over the roots (not against the trunk, which can lead to pest infestations) will energize your trees without overfertilizing them. Apply it once a year in early spring for best results.
- Pruning. Pruning your apple and pear trees helps protect them from disease and pests. It also improves the health of your trees by improving air circulation and ensuring sunlight reaches all the branches. Pruning is also a great way to ensure your trees grow and maintain an attractive shape.
- Pests and disease. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to protecting your pears and apple trees from pests and disease. Educate yourself on the different types of diseases and pests that can harm your trees so you can recognize any problems early and tackle them before they take hold. Common pear and apple tree problems include apple scab, fire blight, canker, rust, apple maggots and codling moths.
Pollination: Can Apples and Pear Trees Crosspollinate?
You may have heard that you need to plant more than one of the same kind of tree in order to get fruit. There’s some truth to this…all fruit trees need to be pollinated if they are to produce fruit. Some fruit trees (including many citrus varieties) are self-pollinating, meaning a healthy tree can still fruit even if there are no other citrus trees planted nearby. Most apple and pear tree varieties, however, are cross-pollinating, meaning pollen must be transferred (usually by insect or bird pollinators, the wind, etc.) from one tree to another in order for the trees to bear fruit.
If you’re disappointed to hear this because you only have room for two trees and you had your heart set on planting both an apple and a pear tree, take heart – while cross-pollinating trees usually do best when pollinated with fruit trees of the same genus (i.e. apple with apple and pear with pear), pear and apple trees can cross-pollinate with one another if both types of trees come into bloom at the same time. So be sure to research when your preferred variety of apple or bear tree will flower to ensure the greatest variety of fruit each season!