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Plan Ahead for Your Fruit Crop

By John Pohly, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agent, horticulture

You want to plant an orchard in your backyard, but you're not sure fruit trees will do well along the Front Range. Not to worry. Apple, pear, plum and sour cherry trees will do just fine.

Peach and apricot trees, however, usually produce a crop only two out of five years. That's because of late frosts that can nip blossoms. Sweet cherries are risky here because they suffer die-back in severe winters.

To avoid transplant stress, plant fruit trees in the spring before they begin to leaf out. Bare-root trees usually are available by early April. Container-grown as well as balled-and-burlapped trees can be planted later in the season. With a selection of dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard trees, you'll find a tree to fit almost any space requirement.

A good fruit crop depends upon pollination. All sour cherries are self-pollinating and you need only one tree to produce fruit. Apples, plums and pears require two varieties for cross pollination. Select an apple variety that is fireblight resistant. (Fireblight is a bacterial infection.) Resistant varieties are Red Delicious and Winesap. Golden Delicious, Early McIntosh and Haralson are moderately resistant. Jonathan, Wealthy and Rome Beauty show little resistance to fireblight.

Pears also are susceptible to fireblight. Magness and Moonglow are the most resistant, Kieffer is moderately resistant and Bartlett has little resistance.

Montmorency and Meteor are two good sour cherry varieties to plant in this area. Meteor is slightly more dwarf than Montmorency. Both varieties provide early-season fruits.

To avoid frost damage, locate tree fruits away from low spots in the yard, particularly where fences or other obstructions stop the flow of air. The best location for fruit trees is on your property's higher elevations.

Don't place fruit trees too close to buildings, particularly south and west exposures. Warmer air in these micro-climates tend to produce early bloom, subjecting flowers to frost injury. Even though most fruits prefer full sun, planting trees on the north side of a house or building will delay early-spring bloom but still allow full sun for fruit ripening.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010