I am in zone 7 and I would love to plant some fruittrees. I keep reading about dwarf trees and that there are varying degrees of "dwarf." I am mostly interested in apples, peaches, and plums, but I would also like to have blueberries and blackberries.
Can y'all shed some light on to all of this for me? Pros and cons of dwarf trees? just how the whole "dwarf" tree fits into permaculture design? etc.?
What would you recommend for zone 7? When would you plant it?
first lets discuss the blueberries and blackberries..
blueberries require a very very very acid soil..so you must prepare your bed well before putting them in and then continue to work on it if it tests too sweet....i use oak leaves, sawdust, bark, manure, pine needles..etc.. in my blackberry beds..to make sure it is acid enough for the blueberries..black berries are not that fussy but they will spread..so make sure you have a place that is isolated as you could get a large patch with just a few canes.
best to plan to tie them up to a system with a post on each end and wires between..you cut the dead canes out each year.
as for dwarf fruit trees, best to plant the varieties that you would buy to eat when you go to the store..if you like a Braeburn, plant a Braeburn..etc...there are the minis, the poles, the dwarfs, the semi dwarfs and the standards..standards are generally a lot of work to care for as they grow darn big.
this is a photo of a standard apple tree that grew from a discarded apple here..they are plenty large..make a great shade tree or climber though.
Apple and other fruit trees do best with flowers or plants under them rather than grass ..as grass robs the trees of nutrients and just aren't good for the health of the tree..flowers and herbs and even vegetables..will bring in pollinators..(as if that tree needs to draw polinators !!)
that big tree has hundreds of violets and hostas under it.
Semi dwarf trees are a bit smaller than the standard..and a bit easier to manage..dwarfs are smaller yet..by about half or more the size of a standard..
pole trees grow tall and skinney..which is nice for a narrow area or in a vegetable garden as they don't cast much shade..
the minis..are very small ..usually grown in a tub on a patio..but can be planted in the ground..i wouldn't bother with them unless i had a very very very small property.
i prefer the dwarfs myself..easy to spray and prune and harvest..nice size in a mixed garden bed..shade isn't very deep so you can grow things under and around them..they are beautiful..very easy to care for.
also when you look at the descriptions in most catalogs or on the tags or whatever..they will tell you what zones they grow well in.
genearlly all fruit trees are better with 2 of the same type..like two apples, two pears, two cherries..etc..but it is best to do a little research as some might require a pollinator that blooms at the same time as the one you have chosen..of a different variety.
pear for example..my ayers pears require a bartlett or other pollinator..my pollinator died so i had to buy another one..for my two ayers pears so they will bear.
sometimes you can buy trees that have more than one type grafted on the tree..that saves having to buy a polinator..say a 5 in one pear or a 5 in one apple..
hope this was helpful.
Bloom where you are planted.
You've got a lot of good options for fruit trees for your area. Consider apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, figs, cherries, mulberry, and persimmon to name a few (that doesn't even get into the weirder stuff).
Dwarf trees have a few advantages:
1. They stay small, which means they fit in places where a large tree wouldn't 2. They are easier to harvest from (no ladders)
There are also disadvantages:
1. They often require staking as they aren't vigorous enough to stand on their own 2. They are much shorter lived
The most appropriate place for dwarf fruit trees is right outside your back door where you want some variety and not necessarily so much shade.
Full size (also called 'standard') Fruit Trees have advantages too:
1. They live a long time 2. They produce a huge volume 3. They are generally strong and vigorous
1. Standards can be huge, depending on the species, so they don't work that well for small yards 2. They are more difficult to harvest.
The most appropriate place for Standard size fruit trees is permaculture zone 3 (not to be confused with hardiness zone). In zone three you are looking at producing larger volumes of things that require less care. While you may have your dwarf fruit trees on espalier (trained onto wires two dimensionally) outside your door, you will probably want trees requiring less pruning and general maintenance out further. Standards are often a good choice here.
There are also a bunch of other size terms that are used. Semi-dwarf usually implies that the tree will be 1/3 - 1/2 the size of the standard. A '3/4' means 3/4 the size of a standard.
These intermediate sizes often fit into permaculture zone 2.
Jim, I would suggest checking out a small fruit tree nursery in your area so you can ask some questions. Find out what grows easily in your area. Save the stuff that needs pampering and the weirdo stuff for later. Just get the no-brainers for starters.
Also, I'd like to point you to a resource in your area. In Cookeville, TN there is a place called Hidden Springs Nursery run by permaculturist Hector Black. I would suggest checking out their website and paying a visit if possible. Check out http://www.hiddenspringsnursery.com/.
Principal - Terra Phoenix Design
I would have to say that I once did a lot of research down this road - adding more and more research as time passes. And .... my conclusions now are radically different from what the professional apple growers shoot for now.
In fact, a couple of years ago I tried to get my head wrapped around spindle cut orchards which (if my memory is correct) Dave thought could fit in the permaculture world. At the bullock farm, they do have something that is spindle-cut-ish.
I would have to say that .... in my terribly obnoxious and arrogant opinion .... I prefer full size trees over any dwarf. Further, I prefer ungrafted trees MOST of the time. Further still, I am embarking on experimentation with growing apple trees from seed (as I've touched on in several other threads here).
Here in northern NY one has to be very careful about choosing cold tolerant varieties for fruit trees ... and particularly so with dwarf varieties. I've had reasonable luck with dwarf Fuji apple trees alternated with dwarf Goldrush apple trees for pollination.
knuckledragger wrote: What would you recommend for zone 7? When would you plant it?
Hi Jim, I'm in zone 7 as well. however. there are lots of flavors of zone 7. we're in NC.
For me, Japanese plums (Methley), Asian pears (many varieties), Figs (Italian honey) have all produced like crazy with nothing other than a good planting. No spray, fertilizers or watering necessary. For apples, our best success has been with the multi-variety grafted tree offered by Raintree nursery. They have several varieties of disease resistant types available. The Williams Pride branch has performed the best.
For blueberries, if you're in the southeast, our acidic clay is interesting. We've just added lots of compost on top and made sure they stay watered. Haven't had any pH adjusting issues and they have yielded well. Triple Crown Thornless blackberries have also done very well. Minimal care except to cut out the old canes after they finish fruiting (the bunnies are happy to chomp them up). a good fence or trellis is very helpfull as mentioned above.
I have lots of other types of berries and fruits as well, if there is anything in particular you are interested in, just ask.
Now is the time to get the plants in!
"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari
Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7