East Texas Ag News: Successful home fruit production

Published: Nov. 3, 2023 at 2:41 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, 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, the soil type, and lastly, some different fruits to consider.

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 unique fruit varieties that you may want to consider.

Persimmon is a native fruit tree that grows quite well around here. The Asian persimmon is a larger fruited type that doesn’t grow larger than the native trees. With Asian varieties, you can choose from astringent or non- astringent types. We had an old Asian persimmon at our rent house in Woodville that produced worlds of fruit each fall without any management on my part.

An easy to grow fruit 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.

From one of my favorite books, Heirloom Gardening in the South by William C. Welch and Greg Grant, states that one of the oldest and widely grown fruits across the south was the pomegranate. For most landscapes, pomegranates are most easily incorporated as a multitrunked shrub or hedge. They have orange-red blooms in the spring and yield their fruit in late summer to fall. I have never seen a pomegranate growing at any residence I’ve visited. And yet this is one of the more popular fruits and juices in commercials.

A native fruit that is well known in Southeast Texas is the mayhaw. Now, mayhaws are known to grow in swampy areas. Mayhaws can also be quite successfully grown on good, well-drained upland 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 online.

Don’t forget the native muscadines. Most varieties ripen from mid-August through September in East Texas. Be sure to study the varieties as they greatly vary in their production and need for pollination.

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 successful home fruit production.

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 “aggie-horticulture” 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