East Texas Ag News: Planning for fruit trees in the home landscape

Orange trees
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Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Homeowners that are thinking about adding fruit trees to their home landscape need to first start by taking an honest look at their site. Before we get excited about peaches or pears or citrus or other fruits, we need to be honest about our available space, the amount of sunlight it receives, as well as the soil type.

Fruit trees do best with a full day of sunshine. Other trees on the edge of your property that block the morning sun as well as the afternoon sun will greatly limit the success of whatever fruit producing tree you choose to plant. Finding that spot that gets a full day of sunshine is often a difficult task for those that live in heavily wooded residential areas.

If you have a place that will receive plenty of sunlight to have a bumper crop, we next need to look down and evaluate our soil. There are many, many fruit tree types that require excellent internal drainage. Internal drainage is the ability of a soil to accept water from rainfall or irrigation and for that water to percolate down through the soil. Ground that slopes has “run-off”. Sloped ground may or may not have good internal drainage.

The accepted way to determine if you have excellent internal drainage is to dig a hole and carefully monitor how well the water seeps down into the soil. Ground that takes days for the water to dissipate will be very unsuitable for the majority of fruit trees you wish to plant.

If you have established that you have plenty of sunlight and good soil for the production of fruit, then we can begin talking about what you can plant. Let’s discuss a few popular fruit varieties, some easy to grow varieties, and a few different ones that you may want to consider.

Peaches are by far one of the most popular fruit crops in Texas. Peaches are also one of the fruits that are most difficult to raise. A peach tree will simply not tolerate poorly drained soil. They require excellent internal drainage. Pruning a peach tree properly is an art that can be learned, but indeed must be learned to insure the best production. Peach trees have several insects and diseases that require a good, quality pest control program to ensure a full crop.

Pears are another hardy standby in any Texas landscapes. The old Kieffer pear can be found on numerous landscapes as well. Pears will need a cross pollinator, so you’ll have to plant two. And though not as broad as a peach, they will require protection from disease and insects as well as extensive pruning.

An easier to grow fruit variety is figs. While figs certainly prefer well drained soil and produce best on that type of soil, they can tolerate the wide variety of soils. Figs can be planted without any cross pollinator. Pruning is minimal and they have been proven very resilient to extreme heat and even extreme cold such as we had this past February.

The native blackberry should also be considered by folks on less than ideal soil types that may be limited on space. Gone are the days where you must have a thorny blackberry plant. While those thorny types are still certainly available, there are several high-quality thornless varieties that the home gardener should consider having in their fruit orchard.

If you happen to live in USDA cold hardiness zone 8B or warmer, there’s a very good chance that you could grow citrus. Citrus varieties have been bred over the years to take colder temperatures. Looking around your neighborhood, homeowners are sure to find neighbors who had a citrus tree that may have frozen back to the ground as a result of winter storm Yuri. If that citrus has re-sprouted and continued to grow, then we need to pay special attention to it and consider it for our landscape. For beginning citrus growers consider the Arctic Frost satsuma or the Meyer lemon.

A native fruit that is well known in Southeast Texas is the mayhaw. Now, mayhaws are known to grow in swampy areas even to the point of dropping its fruit into standing water around it. Mayhaws can also be quite successfully grown on good, well-drained soil. Mayhaws are used for jams and jellies and juices. If you have any interest in this fruit, I urge you to check out the Louisiana mayhaw growers’ association for production tricks tips in varieties.

Are there several more fruit options available? Absolutely. Finding something that your family enjoys eating, and you can grow without too much trouble, is the key to a successful home orchard.

By far the best location for in-depth information on the fruits mentioned above, and many others, is the website https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/.  Search for it in your web browser and then click on the Fruit and Nut Resources link.

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

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