Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Jan. 25, 2022

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Gardening with Allen: Variety of fruits suited to climate

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I would like to grow more fruit in my back yard. What kinds of fruit are best adapted to our climate?

The climate in Western Washington and Oregon is well suited to growing a very wide range of fruit plants in a home-garden situation. Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums, pluots, mulberry, elderberry and hardy kiwis grow well in our mild climate.

Nut varieties such as walnut, almond and filbert (also known as hazelnut) will also grow in our climate. Hazelnut trees are small and well adapted. Most of the commercially grown hazelnuts are grown in Western Oregon.

Most fruit and nut trees are grafted onto rootstocks. The type of rootstock determines the size of the tree. Full-size fruit trees are too large for home gardens although some varieties are genetically more dwarf. For example, the Pix Zee miniature peach grows only 6 feet tall.

Semi-dwarf varieties are usually the only ones available at most local stores. However semi-dwarf trees can also grow too large. True dwarf varieties are a better size for most home gardens. Dwarf trees can be kept at a size where most fruit can be reached without a ladder. Some dwarf fruit trees may be planted in containers. Dwarf trees are mainly available online or in catalogs, although a few full-service nurseries and garden stores carry them.

Another consideration in planting fruit trees is pollination. Most apples, sweet cherries and pears, and some plum, peach, nectarine and apricot trees require planting two different varieties for cross pollination. If you do not have room for two trees, you can find trees with multiple varieties grafted onto the same tree.

Multiple varieties are also commonly available on espalier trees. “Espalier” refers to a special practice for training trees onto trellises. Espalier trees can be trained along a wall or serve as a fence. Another possibility is to plant two trees in the same hole, with a double trunk and branches trained to grow on only one half of each trunk.

The most popular small fruits are strawberries and blueberries. Blueberries are ideal for home gardens in our area. Plants can also serve as landscape shrubs. They are well adapted to our native soil conditions and require a limited amount of attention. Strawberry plants can be used as ground cover. Choose day-neutral strawberries for summer long harvest. Blackberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries and grapes can be grown in a limited amount of space. Other unusual small fruits include quince, aronia, cranberry, goji berry, goumi berry, honeyberry, lingonberry and serviceberry. The less common fruits are available at online catalogs like raintreenursery.com.

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