Saturday, January 21, 2017 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Selecting and Growing Fruit Trees

Master Gardener: Fruit trees are bountiful in Oklahoma

Brian Jervis: Ask A Master Gardener

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Q: I would like to grow some fruit trees but not sure what would be the best type to for our area. Suggestions? L.M., Tulsa
A: There are many types of fruits that may be successfully grown in Oklahoma. These include the “pome” fruits (apples and pears), the “stone” fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and plums), as well as other fruits such as figs, persimmons and berries.
All these fruits vary in their ease of culture; some are relatively easy to grow and others need intensive management for good fruit production. Generally, apples and pears are the easiest of the tree fruit to manage, with peaches being the most difficult. Sweet cherries do not thrive in Oklahoma, but sour cherries do well. Most of the berries require much less management and can be grown more successfully than the larger fruit.
Additional considerations, when selecting fruit trees, are varieties best for our area, as well as the pollination needs of that particular tree. OSU has a number of fact sheets available online that detail this information.
Homeowners may find a dwarf tree may be the best fit for available space and ease of harvesting. These trees are common varieties of fruit trees, which are grafted onto a hardy dwarfing root stock. The fruit is the same from full-sized and dwarf trees.
Pollination requirements are most important. If ignored, you may end up with a healthy fruit tree with bountiful spring blossoms and no fruit. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating, but the majority need another variety of the same fruit type for successful production.
After deciding on the type of fruit to grow, the choice of a growing site is also important. Remember, the fruit tree will be with you (hopefully) for many years; plan with that fact in mind.
Most all fruits need full sun, up to 8 hours per day. They also need a soil with adequate drainage. They generally will not do well in high clay soils or in areas prone to flooding. One of the challenges of growing peaches, plums and apricots is the late spring frosts that kills maturing buds. To reduce the likelihood of this, consider planting trees on a north slope or the north side of a building. This will delay spring “bud-break” and reduce spring frost damage.
For fruit trees to be most productive, they should be sprayed for insects and disease. These sprays are generally needed just before spring growth and continued up to fruit harvest. Some of these schedules are complicated, and each recommended schedule is different from fruit to fruit. The OSU Tulsa Master Gardeners website,, has a wealth of information about the management of all the fruits — when and what to spray with for each type of fruit.
Growing fruits can be rewarding as a hobby, especially for children. They can see “their tree”

Garden tips
Even though there may be adequate moisture in the ground, it is normal for evergreen broadleaved shrubs to appear “wilted” during extreme cold. This is rapidly reversible after the temperatures warm. This is a way some plants deal with the cold.
Try to keep fallen leaves off newly seeded fescue. Fescue is capable of growing roots in winter unless the ground gets extremely cold. A good root system will help fescue to better tolerate the heat next summer. To grow roots, the grass needs sunlight.


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