The backyard orchard

March 13, 2013 | posted in: Tips & Tricks | by

Lots of people dream of having a small orchard, and for good reason. Growing your own fruit can definitely be gratifying. But before you start, there’s a lot to learn. Here’s a brief rundown.

First, fruit trees should be planted in well-drained soil – ideally on a rocky slope. They also need to be spaced far enough apart and the grass under them kept short for the wind to properly dry the leaves after a rain.

People usually equate growing fruit trees with spraying fungicide. Indeed, while there are now a number of scab-resistant varieties, a few applications of a sulphur-based fungicide, particularly when flower buds open and when leaves form, will promote fruit production. Some insects can also cause damage, so you should be on the lookout and apply an insecticide as needed. You can find excellent organic insecticides at many garden centres. An application of dormant oil before leaves open will suppress the larva and parasites that may have taken up residence in the bark during the previous growing season.

A light pruning in early spring will also promote flowering and by extension fruit production.

When choosing a fruit tree, it is very important to know that some varieties require cross pollination. This means that they need to be close to a tree of another variety. Others are self-fertilizers, so a single tree is enough – its flowers can pollinate one another.

Of all fruit trees, the Flemish Beauty pear is my favourite. This wonderful variety is very hardy and produces a large crop of big sweet pinkish yellow fruit.

A wide selection of apple trees are available. However, if multiple sprayings to control scab are not on your schedule, I would recommend a resistant variety that produces delicious fruit such as Liberty, Rouville or Redfree.

When it comes to cherries, you can choose between sweet and sour. The diminutive Montgomery and Evans tree varieties are very productive and resistant. Their small sour fruit make excellent jelly. If you want large dark-coloured sweet cherries like those commonly found in the supermarket, Stella or Bing are good choices.

A number of rustic and productive plum varieties are also available. The classics, Mt. Royal and Italian prune, produce sweet blue-skinned plums with yellow flesh. The Mirabelle is a small yellow plum that also gives excellent results in Quebec.

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