I purchased the apple tree in the photo in the spring of 2003 at a local big box store. The label said dwarf Winesap. The Winesap was accurate. Five years ago, I cut the central leader to a height of about 12 feet from the nearly 20 feet it had grown to. It is possibly on a root stock that produces a 3/4 size tree, but it wasn’t what I expected.
This coming Saturday, I will be leading a workshop on Backyard Fruits during the Spring plant sale at Crabtree Farm (a local urban non-profit). My next posts will be on what I’ll cover in the session. In the one hour session, I will only be able to offer a brief snapshot on several different fruits. My dwarf apple experience is why I recommend buying from a reputable local nursery. Fruit trees can produce for many years, so taking time to get the right one in the right place is worthwhile.
Also important for improving chances of success is doing research. Universities, garden magazines, and nurseries have websites with information such as pollination charts, root stocks, and disease resistance. In addition, local growers have knowledge specific to the area that is worth obtaining. In the Chattanooga area local conditions can vary significantly due to altitude. What works on Lookout Mountain may not be likely to succeed in the valley. It is not coincidence that commercial orchards in the area are located at higher elevations.
After gathering information, it is time to evaluate a site. A good site will get morning sun so that leaves dry from morning dew. Water will be needed as the plants are getting started and for summer dry spells. Drainage is key as wet feet lead to disease and failure. Good air flow will reduce disease and avoid a frost pocket (low spot). Soil ph should be checked and matched to a plants needs.
The TLC a plant needs after it is in the ground will be covered in upcoming posts. Some fruits need way more than others. And many reasonable people leave fruit growing to specialists. Harvesting your own doesn’t come without effort, but is rewarding.