When we were in Asheville, we visited a lot of beautiful, creative and interesting gardens. The last one I saw was Nan Chase’s front yard where she grows lots of food mixed in with her ornamental plants. She has fruit trees and artichokes–Bill now wants one, dang it! She also grows other edibles. As we strolled through the garden, Carolyn Choi of Sweet Home and Garden Carolina asked me if I had fruit trees in my front yard.
Surprised, because I hadn’t thought about it for awhile, I said, “Actually, yes, I do.”
I have three apple trees, a semi-dwarf ‘Enterprise,’ a dwarf ‘Gala’ and another dwarf one. I can’t recall the name right now. I thought the last was a goner when Bill dropped a large branch on it and broke the leader, but it recovered. It was planted much later than the other two.
At nearly the same time as the apples, I also planted two peach trees and one tart cherry, ‘Montmerency.’ There was also a sweet cherry I planted when I didn’t know any better. It subsequently died a horrible death one summer. These were all chosen about fifteen or seventeen years ago when I thought I was going to be a farmer. I also got goats, but that’s a whole other story.
Here’s the funny part. I studied fruit trees, and since I didn’t want to spray, I looked into all the organic methods of care. I decided pretty quickly that all this trouble wasn’t worth it because, in Oklahoma, with our late freezes, we sometimes get cherries, apples, peaches, plums, pears, etc., but often we do not. I still do everything organically so occasionally we get an apple with a worm.
The lesson is if you want to plant fruit trees just be aware of a few variables you can’t control. Read along with me as I discuss the woes of fruit production in my part of my state.
Cedar apple rust is a huge problem in Oklahoma due to the overwhelming shadow of my nemesis, Juniperus virginiana, called the Eastern redcedar here. I hate ERC more than most things in Oklahoma because it is invasive, lights up like a Roman candle in fires, and causes cedar apple rust.
Deer, yes, Bambi and her ilk are a huge problem with all fruit trees. I’ve tried everything, but I’ve found that a rescue dog like my Maddie is my best protection. That, and water sprayers to keep deer away. I also spray the trees with one of the many repellents redolent of rotten eggs. No, I don’t mix my own. I could, but ‘er, no.
I already mentioned late freezes. Each spring when the trees bloom, I don’t pay them much mind until we get through the late freeze. If we make it, I breathe a sigh of relief for overcoming one hurdle. I also have my trees planted in the front yard for two reasons: spring blooms, it’s high on a hill where they won’t be hurt so much by late frosts.
Borers. I hate them. I believe both of my old peach trees have borers, and I won’t spray, so there’s not too much to do. I will just enjoy them until they finish fruiting and eventually die.
The most successful fruit tree to grow in Oklahoma is the pear. Not Bradford pears which are horrible trees, but fruiting pears. Try to get a dwarf variety because you don’t want to be on a ladder picking pears when the wasps come by. Yes, wasps love pears. My neighbor’s huge tree is often covered in pears and wasps. Pick up any fallen fruit as quickly as possible.
I also grow blackberries. I like the thornless varieties, and I talked about mine here in an article for Lowe’s. They are super easy to grow in Oklahoma and much of the world for that matter. Birds and insects also love blackberries. I didn’t have much luck with blueberries in the ground. I could never keep the soil acidic enough. However, a company just sent me two blueberries and a raspberry to plant in a container. I’m pretty excited, and I’ll let you know how they do. I love containers for dwarf plants.
So, yes, I can eat my yard too, but Nan’s yard is a testament to what you can do with a small, urban yard. Vegetables and fruits don’t mind growing next to other flowering plants. They’ll happily share the space.