In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
January, 2008
Regional Report

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This Winter Banana apple has been reliably hardy and a good producer in my garden.

Selecting Fruit Tree Varieties

If you're inspired to grow a variety of fruit trees in your garden, remember the key elements to success: ideal exposure to sunlight, proper soil preparation, good drainage, regular pruning and maintenance, and the selection of varieties that will grow well in your area. Many of the Midwest nursery and garden catalogs offer appealing varieties. Even the local big box garden departments stock plenty of fruit trees and berries. But read the plant tag carefully; some may not be hardy where you live.

I really enjoy harvesting fresh organic fruit from my garden and the home orchard of my Italian relatives. Special care and dedication goes into growing this organic fruit: good horticultural practices of soil management, irrigation, natural pest control, and yearly pruning. Sometimes the biggest challenges are the deer and elk that break through the deer fencing and inflict damage on the trees.

Apples
Apples are perhaps the most widely adapted fruit trees, and many will grow successfully in our region; two varieties are needed for cross pollination, with a few exceptions. One of the major concerns in some areas is a bacterial disease known as fire blight that tends to be more prominent in some varieties.

Although somewhat susceptible to fire blight, the Jonathan apple has always been a hardy, dependable bearer. Jonafree and Jonagold are introductions that have good disease resistance. Golden Delicious is a good fall apple and a suggested variety to plant with other apples to ensure cross pollination. For an all-purpose apple, McIntosh is a good red choice. A few others that grow well in this region include Liberty, MacFree, Roxbury Russet, Wolf River, and Winter Banana.

Plums
Plums are among the hardiest fruits and are almost reliable for yearly fruit set. Among the selections I've had success growing are Stanley, an Italian freestone variety; Green Gage; Waneta; and Blue Damson.

Peaches
Peaches can be tricky since they are notorious for blooming too early in spring. The flowers are killed by frost, thereby reducing fruit set. Some varieties that will produce with the right conditions include Reliance, Polly (a white freestone), Haven, and Elberta.

Cherries
If you are willing to share with the birds, cherries are worth growing. Sweet cherries usually require a second variety nearby for cross pollination. Good varieties for our region include the tart Montmorency and Meteor, and sweet-fruited Stella (self pollinating), Kansas Sweet, Van, Early Richmond, and Black Tartarian.

Apricots
I like apricot trees for their natural beauty and form in the landscape. Just like peaches, they often do not escape spring frosts that kill their blossoms. Fruit set can be eliminated or diminished. Some varieties of merit include Chinese, Moorpark, Moongold, and Goldcot.

Growing fresh, organic fruit is truly rewarding. To me, it's worth the effort.


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