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Dwarf Fruit Trees

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

After the Holidays garden catalogs started to arrive and if you are thinking of starting a home orchard, February is not too early to start to plan for a new home orchard or to consider replacements for aging fruit trees in an existing orchard. There are several different kinds of fruit trees to consider, apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum.

As we live in northern portion of Illinois, apple is likely the main fruit tree grown in back yards and commercial orchards. Certainly at the commercial level you will be able to pick just about every fruit you want, but in the home orchard, apples are a good place to start.

When you shop the fruit tree catalogs or visit with your favorite retail garden center to find out what cultivars or varieties they will be carrying this Spring, homeowners should consider dwarf apples as in most cases yard space is limited. Dwarf apple trees are naturally smaller than their full sized siblings, are much easier to train, prune and maintain that a full sized fruit tree. If you have lots of space, full sized fruit trees are always an option.

Fruit trees are dwarf because they are naturally so or because fruit tree growers graft or bud them to a dwarfing rootstock, limiting the size of your fruit tree. If they are naturally dwarf, then the apples listed will be a "spur-type" tree. There are many examples of spurs available to us – Empire, Red and Yellow Delicious, Macintosh, Rome, Winesap, Early blaze are a few. The smallest fruit trees will be a combination of a spur type grafted or budded on a dwarfing root stock. It should be noted that the catalogs will list a mature size, considerably small than the full sized version, but that ultimate size of your dwarf tree is really up to you. If you start to train too late, or do not prune correctly that dwarf apple tree will be much larger than you wanted or expected, yet still much smaller than a full sized tree. Training your fruit tree the year you plant it will make a great deal of difference in ultimate size and how quickly it begins to flower and bear fruit.

Another very important key to selecting your fruit trees will be pollination. Fruit tree catalogs will suggest which apple varieties will be the best pollinators for the varieties you wish to grow, otherwise read the plant information tags and ask the staff to be sure you buy varieties that will cross pollinate. It is critical that you have TWO DIFFERENT varieties blooming at the same time in order to get good pollination and a strong fruit set.

Apples are for the most part considered to be "self unfruitful" meaning that pollen from other flowers on the same tree or from another tree of the same variety will not pollinate itself. If you are ordering from a catalog, they will usually provide a list of recommended varieties that will provide the cross pollination,

A possible exception to this rule is if you have an ornamental flowering crab apple in bloom at the same time, pollen from the flowering crab apple will pollinate your fruiting apple trees. So if you live in an established subdivision and you or a neighbor has a flowering crab apple in the front or side yard or an apple tree of a different variety that blooms at the same time, you do not have to plant a second apple tree for pollination purposes, which will free up space in your backyard unless you want additional varieties.

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