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Home Fruit Planting Guide

A home fruit planting carefully selected, properly located, and well managed can enhance the home landscape, provide high‑quality fruits and serve as a satisfying hobby.

 

The home fruit garden requires considerable care. Thus, people not willing or able to devote some time to a fruit planting will be disappointed in its harvest.

 

Some fruits require more care than others do. Tree fruits and grapes usually require more protection from insects and diseases than strawberries and blackberries. Generally speaking, flowers and fruits of fruit trees must be protected by pesticide sprays from before blossom‑time until harvest. In addition, sprays may be required to protect leaves, the trunk, and branches.

 

Small fruits are perhaps the most desirable of all fruits in the home garden since they come into bearing in a shorter time and usually require few or no insecticide or fungicide sprays.

 

Fresh fruits can be available throughout the growing season with proper selection of types and cultivars (varieties).

 

Soils and Sites

Avoid poorly drained areas. Deep, sandy loam soils, ranging from sandy clay loams to coarse sands or gravel mixtures, are good fruit soils. On heavier soils, plant in raised beds or on soil berms to improve drainage.

 

All fruit crops are subject to damage from late spring freezes. Hills, slopes or elevated areas provide better air drainage and reduce frost damages. Make certain that the air can move freely throughout the planting site and is not “boxed” in with surrounding terrain or tree borders.

 

Heat from houses, factories, and other structures in urban areas frequently keep the temperature 4 or 5 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas.

 

Fruits do best in full sun. They can tolerate partial shade, but fruit quality will be lowered.

 

Size of Planting Area

Plan the planting to fit the area involved as well as family needs. A smaller planting, well cared for, will usually return more quality fruit and enjoyment to the grower than a larger neglected one. One‑half acre or less planted to adapted cultivars of the best kinds of fruit is usually adequate for the average family.

 

Edible landscaping is becoming more widespread for large and small landscapes. Edible landscaping is the practical integration of food plants within an ornamental or decorative setting. For those with limited space in their landscapes, consider using fruit varieties that are dwarf, compact or columnar in form.

 

Plan Your Planting

Develop a planting plan well in advance of the planting season. Determine the kinds of fruits, cultivars, and quantities of each needed. Locate a source of plants and make arrangements for plants to be available at the desired time of planting.

 

Perennial weeds such as bermudagrass and johnsongrass compete heavily with young plantings and should be eliminated before planting. This can be done by spraying with a post‑emergence herbicide such as glyphosate (Roundup®) in late summer the year before planting or by shading out weeds by growing hybrid sudangrass for the year prior to planting.

 

Strawberries especially should not be planted in newly turned under bermudagrass sod. Not only will the bermudagrass regrow and cause extreme competition problems because of the short height of the strawberry plants, but the white grubs that frequently infest bermudagrass sod can destroy the strawberry roots.

 

For best survival and production, supplemental water should be provided in the summer. Locate your plantings near a water source.

 

Planting

Plants received as bare root should be planted immediately after arrival. If roots are dry, completely immerse the roots in water for a few minutes or overnight before planting. Always water plants immediately after planting.

 

Never allow the roots to dry out or freeze. When planting is delayed several days, heel in trees by forming a mound of loose soil or mulching material. Place the roots into this mound, cover them, and moisten. The trees may be vertical or horizontal as long as the roots are covered. This protects them from drying or freezing.

 

Set trees about the same depth that they grew in the nursery row. Trim off broken and dried roots. Place topsoil around the roots and firm the soil to exclude air. Settle the soil with water and make sure the roots are left in a natural outward position. Leave a small basin one or two inches deep around the tree to aid in watering. Wrap the trunk from the soil line up to the first branches (or 18 inches above the ground) to protect the trunk from sunscald, rodent injury, insect damage, and drying out.

 

Cultural Practices

During the first summer, cultivate or mulch around the fruit plants to reduce competition from other plants and to conserve moisture and fertility. Irrigation is especially important in the first few years while the planting becomes established.

Information on pruning, spraying, and other cultural practices is available at your local county Extension office.

 

Pollination

Pay close attention to the pollination requirements of the different fruits to avoid disappointment. Many fruits require that the flower is pollinated with pollen from a different cultivar of the same fruit or the fruit will not develop. Planting only one cultivar of these fruits often results in masses of blooms in the spring, but few or no fruits. Different strains of the same cultivar (e.g. two spur strains of ‘Delicious’) will not provide proper cross­-pollination.

 

There are a few cultivars of apple and pear that do not produce viable pollen. If one of these cultivars is planted, two other cultivars will need to be planted (a total of 3) to provide adequate pollen for all. Sometimes some apple cultivars are listed as self‑fertile in nursery catalogs, but for consistent production of the best quality fruit, cross-­pollination with another cultivar should always be provided.

 

Duke cherries are hybrids between sweet and sour cherries. They can be cross‑pollinated by either sweet or sour cherries, but Duke cherries should not be counted on to cross‑pollinate sweet cherries.

 

All fruits in the accompanying table that are not marked as requiring cross‑pollination are self-fertile, mean­ing that a cultivar of those fruits can set fruit with its own pollen.

 

Highbush blueberries will set much better crops if cross‑pollination is provided. Rabbiteye blueberries require cross‑pollination. Highbush and rabbiteye blueberries will not pollinate each other.

 

Dwarf Trees

Dwarfing rootstocks enable fruit trees to be grown in much smaller areas than standard‑sized trees. The term ‘dwarfing’ refers to a tree smaller than when grown on seedling rootstocks, even if only 10 to 15 percent smaller. The degree of dwarfing varies with the rootstock. In general, semi‑vigorous rootstocks will produce a tree about 3/4 the size of a standard tree, semi‑dwarf about 1/2 sized, and fully dwarfing rootstocks produce trees 1/3 of standard size or smaller.

 

Genetic dwarf fruit trees are available but generally are not satisfactory. ‘North Star’ sour cherry is an exception.

 

Types of Fruit

AppIes—M.9 and M.27 rootstocks produce fully dwarfed trees (6‑8′ tall and 4‑6′ tall respectively). Both pro­duce shallow, weak root systems and require staking or trellising, and regular watering. Dozens of other size‑reducing apple rootstocks exist, but the best for Oklahoma is MM.111. MM.111 will produce a tree that is 25 percent smaller than on seedling rootstock, but very well anchored and drought resistant.

 

Interstem trees, with a MM.111 root system, 8 to 10 inches of trunk of M.9 or M.26 and with the fruiting cultivar grafted on top combine the anchorage of the MM.111 with the dwarfing of M.9 or M.26 to produce a tree 8 to 10 feet tall that will not need sup­port. Interstem trees are more costly and less available than single graft trees.

 

Spur‑type strains of apple cultivars have more spurs and fewer long branches than the non‑spur strains. They are smaller growing and preferred where available.

 

Pear—Quince is the standard dwarfing rootstock for pears, but will require support. Quince rootstocks are less cold hardy than pear, and are very susceptible to fire­blight. Quince C is the most dwarfing, producing a 1/4 to 1/3 size tree. A new series of pear rootstocks, the OHXF series (from a cross between ‘Old Home’ and ‘Farmingdale’), is entering the nursery trade, and offers a variety of tree sizes from 1/4 to 3/4 standard size.

 

Pears are very susceptible to the bacterial disease, fireblight. Only cultivars with known resistance to this disease should be planted. Even with blight resistant cultivars, pruning out infected shoots 12‑18 inches below the infection as soon as they appear will be necessary to prevent disease buildup. Pruning shears should be sterilized between cuts. More information on fire blight control is available at your local county Extension office. The ‘Magness’ cultivar should be planted with two additional cultivars since it does not produce viable pollen.

 

Peach—There are no satisfactory dwarfing rootstocks for peach at present; however, ‘Halford’ or ‘Lovell’ are good choices. Many nurseries use Prunus besseyi seedlings, but often there is delayed graft incompat­ibility and tree death. Tree height on peaches can be kept to 6‑8′ by judicious annual pruning. Well‑drained, deep, open‑type soils of reasonable fertility are preferred. A spray program for insects and diseases beginning with a dormant application and continuing through fruit growth is required to produce clean fruit. Peach tree borer control is a necessity.

 

Plum—There are no satisfactory dwarfing rootstocks at present for plums. General cultural requirements are similar to peaches. The Japanese plums bloom earlier than the European types and are more subject to late spring frost damage. European and Japanese plums should not be depended upon to pollinate each other.

 

Cherry—There are no satisfactory dwarfing rootstocks at present for cherries. Many sweet cherries are not adapted to a hot, dry climate. Cherry leaf spot, plum curculio and poorly drained soils are the major obsta­cles to successful cherry production in Oklahoma. The diseases and insects can be controlled successfully with a series of sprays. Sour cherries are generally better adapted than sweet cherries. Sweet cherries in general require cross‑pollination; but two cultivars, ‘Stella’ and ‘Lapins’, are self‑fertile.

 

Apricot—There are no satisfactory dwarfing rootstocks at present for apricot. Apricots bloom early and are usually killed by late spring frosts. The tree is very ornamental when in bloom, and tree‑ripened apricots are delicious, but do not expect consistent production.

 

Strawberry—Strawberry roots are usually found in the 12 to 18 inch top layer of the soil. Most of the root sys­tem is in the first 6 to 8 inches of soil. This stresses the importance of supplemental irrigation and mulch­ing for this crop. For continued good production, strawberry plantings should be renovated each year after harvest. Purchase virus‑tested plants only. A production of one to two quarts of berries per three foot section of row should be possible each year.

 

Blueberries—Blueberries require a soil pH of 5.0 to 5.2. Highbush blueberries are best adapted to northeastern Oklahoma. They will do best when protected from hot, drying winds. Rabbiteye blueberries are best adapted to southeastern Oklahoma. Highbush blue­berries must have supplemental irrigation and mulch of woodchips, sawdust or pecan shells to survive. Rabbiteye blueberries also need irrigation and will benefit from mulch.

 

Raspberries—Raspberries, generally, are not too produc­tive because of the fluctuating temperatures during winter. Black raspberries, if well watered and mulched, can be successful.

 

Blackberries—Erect thorny blackberries are the most com­monly grown and do not require trellis support. Care must be taken to maintain the rows no more than one to two feet wide to facilitate harvesting. Sucker plants that come up between the rows may be dug and moved into the row or merely removed as soon as they emerge.

 

Trailing thornless blackberries have smooth, arching canes, and require support on a trellis. Fruit quality is improved if the fruit are allowed to ripen to a dull black rather than a glossy black color.

 

Grapes—Grapevines will require support on a trellis, arbor or fence. Planting in north‑south rows will increase production. Some protection from southwestern winds is desirable. Occasional supplemental watering dur­ing the fruit ripening period will improve fruit qual­ity. Annual pruning is necessary to maintain a balance between plant growth and fruit production. It is com­mon to remove 95 percent of the previous season’s growth when pruning.

 

Persimmon—Oriental persimmon trees will bear fruit without pollination. Oriental and American persim­mon trees will not cross-pollinate. Oriental persimmons may not be winter hardy in northern parts of Oklahoma.

 

Oklahoma Home Fruit Planting Guide

Kind Suggested Varieties* * * Season of Harvest Central Oklahoma or adapted areas Remarks Suggested Planting Distance in Feet What to Buy When to Plant
APPLES            
  Lodi June 25-July 6 Yellow, soft, cooking only Standard 25 to 30 or    
  McLemore July 10-July 25 Red, dessert and cooking Semi-Standard 18 to 25 One year old trees Fall or Spring
  Gala Aug 10-20 Orange-red, dessert only. or    
  Jonathan Aug 25-Sept 10 Red, dessert & cooking.  Very susceptible to fireblight and cedar-apple rust. Semi-dwarf 15 to 20    
  Delicious (red) Sept 1-10 Red, dessert only. Spur Types 15 to 22    
  Liberty Sept 1-10 Red, dessert and cooking very disease tolerant or    
  Freedom Sept 1-10 Red, dessert and cooking very disease tolerant      
  Arkansas Black Sept 10-20 Purplish-red with yellow flesh, dessert and cooking, tolerant to cedar apple rust      
  Golden Delicious Sept 10-20 Yellow, dessert & cooking.  Well adapted. Dwarf 8 to 14    
  Braeburn Sept 10-20 Orange/red blush over yellow, dessert and cooking      
  Fuji Sept 10-20 Yellow, dessert and cooking      
PEACHES            
  Candor June 18-24  Yellow, semi-cling  20x20 June bud trees from the south or dormant bud (one yr.) trees from the north Fall or Spring
  Sentinel June 28-July 3  Yellow, freestone       
  Redhaven July 2-7 Yellow, freestone       
  Reliance July 4-9 Yellow, freestone       
  Ranger July 8-13  Yellow, freestone       
  Glohaven July 15-20 Yellow, freestone       
  Nectar July 15-20 Yellow, freestone       
  Jayhaven July 21-27 Yellow, freestone       
  Cresthaven July 28-Aug 3  Yellow, freestone       
  Autumnglo Aug 6-10  Yellow, freestone       
  Ouachita Gold Aug 13-17  Yellow, freestone       
  White Hale Aug 13-17  Yellow, freestone       
  Starks Encore Aug 20-25 Yellow, freestone       
  Fairtime Sept 13-20  Yellow, freestone       
NECTARINES            
  EarliBlaze July 3-9 Yellow, semi-freestone  20x20 June bud trees from the south or dormant bud (one yr.) trees from the north Fall or Spring
  Redchief July 15-20 White, freestone       
  Cavalier July 21-27 Yellow, freestone       
  Sunglo July 27-Aug 2 Yellow, freestone       
  Red Gold Aug 6-11 Yellow, freestone       
PLUMS (European)            
  Stanley Aug 20-Sept 10 A prune plum, self-fruitful 20x20  One year old trees Fall or Spring
  Bluefre Sept 1-15 Stanley x President cross      
  President Sept 10-20 Large, late ripening      
PLUMS (Japanese)            
  Methley June 15-25 Red flesh, partly self-fruitful 20x20 One year old trees Fall or Spring
  Bruce June 15-25 Very productive, self-fruitful      
  Ozark Premier Aug 10-20 Large, yellow flesh      
CHERRIES            
  Early Richmond May 2-June 1 The standard of sour or pie cherry, very consistent 20x20 One or two year old trees Fall or Spring
  Kansas Sweet May 22-June 5 Duke cherry (semi-sweet)      
  Montmorency June 3-15 The standard of sour or pie cherry, very consistent      
  Northstar June 5-20 Sour or pie       
  Meteor June 5-20 Sour or pie (resistant to leaf spot      
  Stella June 5-20 Sweet (self-fertile)      
APRICOTS            
  Tilton June 25-July 5 Commercial production should not be attempted 20x20 One year old trees Fall or Spring
PEARS            
  Moonglow Aug 10-25 Fireblight resistant 25x25  One year old trees Fall or Spring
  Maxine Aug 25-Sept 5  Fireblight resistant      
  Magness Sept 5-Sept 15  Fireblight resistant      
STRAWBERRIES            
  Earliglow May 5-June 5  Incorporate organic matter ahead of planting strawberries; select virus indexed plants 2x4 One year old plants Fall or Spring
  Sunrise May 5-June 5         
  Atlas May 10-June 10        
  Allstar May 10-June 10        
  Cardinak May 10-June 10        
  Delite May 10-June 15        
  Marlate May 10-June 15        
BLACKBERRIES            
(Erect) Choctaw July 1-10 Very sweet  3x8 One year old root cuttings Fall or early spring
  Womack July 1-10 Very sweet       
  Cheyenne July 10-30 Large very sweet       
  Cherokee July 10-30 Medium large, very sweet      
  Shawnee July 10-30 Latest ripening, high yields      
  Brazos July 10-30 Good flavor. Southern Oklahoma only      
(Erect Thornless) Nahavo July 20-Aug 5 Sweet 3x8 One year old root cuttings Fall or Spring
  Arapaho July 20-Aug 5 Sweet 3x8    
(Trailing) Boysen July 10-30 Trellis or other support required 8x12 Tip Layers Early Spring
  Young July 1-20        
(Trailing Thornless) Hull July 20-Aug 5 Trellis or other support required 6x10 One year old plants Fall or Spring
  Chester July 20-Aug 5 Trellis or other support required      
GRAPES            
(Bunch) Venus July 15 Red, table-seed less      
  Aurora (S 5279)  Aug 1 White, wine type      
  Seyval Blanc (SV 5276)  Aug 8        
  Villard Blanc (SV 12-375) Aug 18 White, wine type      
  Rougeon (S 58908)  Aug 10 Blue, wine and juice      
  Delaware  Aug 15 Red, wine and table      
  Catawba  Sept 1 Red, wine and table      
  Verdelet (S 9110)  Aug 10 White, table      
  J.S. 16-104  Aug 1 Red, table      
  Romulus  Aug 20 White, table-seed less      
  Himrod  Aug 15 White, seedless      
  Fredonia  Aug 8 Blue, table and juice      
  Niagara  Aug 20 White, table and juice      
  Carman  Aug 22 Blue, juice for southwest Okla.      
  Saturn  Aug 15 Red, table seedless      
  Reliance  Aug 15 Red, juice, jam, seedless      
  Mars  Aug 15 Blue, table, juice, jam, wine, seedless      
  (Muscadine)   Adapted for McCurtain and Choctaw counties only. Variety information available upon request. 14x10 One year old vines Fall or Spring
BLUEBERRIES            
(highbush) Collins June 5-June 19  Soil must be quite acid (pH 5.0). May require sulfur to change 4x6 12" to 18" well rooted plants Early Spring
  Spartan June 7-June 21        
  Blueray June 12-June 28        
  Bluecrop June 15-July 1        
(Rabbiteye) Premier July 5-July 19        
  Climax July 10-July 30        
  Tifblue July 20-Aug 3        
PERSIMMONS            
(American) Early Golden September For pollination, a male tree (pollen bearing) should be included in the planting or graft a male branch into a female tree 15 to 18 One or two year old trees Spring
(Oriental) Huchiya November Non-astringent when fully ripe  12 to 15 One or two year old trees Spring
  Fuyugaki November Non-astringent      
  Tamopan November Astringent      
  Tanenashi November Astringent      
FIG            
  Ramsey (Texas Everbearing) July to frost For milder southern counties; have been growing in protected areas of Tulsa and Okla. City 8 to 10 One year old trees Spring
  Brown Turkey Aug to frost        
JUJUBE            
(Chinese Date) Lang September Used as sweet pickles, preserves, dried confections and fruit butter 18 to 20 One or two year old trees Fall or Spring
  Li September        
CRABAPPLES            
  Florence August Jelly and spice 20 to 25 One or two year old trees Fall or Spring
  Dolgo August Jelly and spice      

*Needs cross pollinator. Those cultivars not marked with an asterisk are self-fertile.

**Pollen sterile

***Space does not permit listing of other satisfactory varieties. OSU Extension F-6210 contains additional recommended apple and peach varieties

 

David A. Hillock
Extension Consumer Horticulturist

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