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Travis Philp
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I'm wondering if any of you know of and have real world experience and/or knowledge of  fruit trees (even down to the cultivar varieties) that are fairly hassle free, which grow in zone 4-6.

By this I mean trees that need little to no pruning, fruit thinning, netting, are disease resistant, etc . Pruning would be my #1 priority, as I have the wrists of an 80 year old.

I keep finding conflicting information in my research. Pears for instance; some say pears need no pruning, others (talking about the same cultivar) say they need heavy pruning. I suppose I could just go with logic and decide that the first opinion is right and the second grower just didn't give un-pruned pears a chance but i dunno...

I realize there are many native fruit trees that fit this category (eg. mulberry, pawpaw, serviceberry etc.) and these will be a big part of my farm but I'm looking for things you're more apt to find in the grocery store.

Thanks for your help
 
Tyler Ludens
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This is a nursery which is mainly for southern growers, but it has some northern varieties.  The ones which are disease-resistant are indicated by a "strong apple" symbol:  http://www.johnsonnursery.com/FRUIT%20PAGES/APPLES.htm
 
tel jetson
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my experience is limited to about five years, so take this with a grain of salt.  I make it a policy not to prune trees that don't have damaged wood, and I'm starting to get good fruit in the past couple of years.  I can't speak to long-term habits, though.

I suspect that most of the familiar fruit will do just fine without pruning if you never start pruning to begin with.  yields might be somewhat lower than intensively managed trees, but I would be willing to bet they'll still yield well.

pruning weakens trees and opens pathways to infection, so disease will be less of an issue for you if you don't prune, especially if you're taking good care of your dirt.

pruning is also frequently aimed at maximizing fruiting wood, so thinning will also be less of an issue on any tree that you don't prune.

folks sometimes prune to maintain trees at a smaller size.  that can be accomplished with a bark inversion or partial girdling on some species.

I figure you asked the question to avoid needless failures, but I still think experimentation is in order.  my feeling is that most trees that are hardy where you're at will work for you.  some will certainly work better than others, but try it out and see.  I really doubt you'll have any total losses.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I wonder how much of this is a question of management style, with a spectrum from coppicing to un-controled growth, and another spectrum from using a chainsaw to nipping things in the bud.
 
Travis Philp
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tel jetson wrote:
I suspect that most of the familiar fruit will do just fine without pruning if you never start pruning to begin with.  yields might be somewhat lower than intensively managed trees, but I would be willing to bet they'll still yield well.


EDIT: Yeah Tel, I definitly wrote something in response to that quote. Anyhow, heres what I said essentially.

I'm willing to accept lesser yields if it means a lot less labour and possibility of introducing disease or pests through pruning. As was said, I'd like to keep pruning restricted to damaged limbs. The food growing on the ground will more than make up for loss in yield of fruit I think.
 
tel jetson
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I'm going to assume you had more to say than that last post, Travis.  annoying glitch today with paul's server switch.
 
Travis Philp
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Ludi: Thanks for the link, though I think that since I'm in Canada, I can't order from the US. I know its that way with seeds at least. I'm not so keen on mail order plants either way. I've heard too many bad accounts.

Joel: Ugh, you've got me picturing climbing a big apple tree with hand pruners, cutting bud by bud...
 
Tyler Ludens
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It might help you with identifying disease-resistant varieties which you can buy at a local or regional nursery. 

 
Ardilla Esch
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The most low-maintenance fruit trees I have dealt with are plums.  Compared to the other stone fruits, they generally have less diseases and you don't have to trim them much at all.

Getting dwarf varieties will reduce the amout of pruning and will make other chores easier.
 
Travis Philp
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Ludi: Yeah, that did occur to me after I posted my response previous, thanks. I'll keep a look out for some of those varieties being available in my area, and I plan to visit some orchards next year to pick some old-timers brains.

Ardilla: Plums are on my wishlist for sure, though I was discouraged a bit this year after I planted one plum and the leaves turned brown and dropped off prematurely. I'm pretty certain now that it was because I made the planting hole too 'hot' due to adding too much semi-composted manure. I think I'm gonna get a pH gun next year just to be safe, and also not really add any manure into the holes, probably just rock dust.
 
John Saltveit
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Cornus mas, Cornelian Cherry. Hardy, productive, reliable cropper. Beautiful in early bloom and in fruiting. Highly nutritious.

Pears on quince rootstock are very easy.  Pears on standard are a nightmare. Make sure the pear is compatible long-term with quince. Most aren't.

Montmorency pie cherries. Super easy.  Also the bush cherries-Joy, Jan, Joel, many easier for you than me. 

Edible crabapples-WHitney probably the most recommended for hardy areas. 

How normal of fruit do you want? Quince?  There are innumerable exotic fruits you could grow.
John S
PDX OR
 
Travis Philp
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John S, PDX OR wrote:
Cornus mas, Cornelian Cherry. Hardy, productive, reliable cropper. Beautiful in early bloom and in fruiting. Highly nutritious.


I read into it and seems like a good one. I wonder about netting it though. The source I found says it can grow up to 6 metres. What's your experience with them in terms of height?

John S, PDX OR wrote:
Pears on quince rootstock are very easy.  Pears on standard are a nightmare. Make sure the pear is compatible long-term with quince. Most aren't.


Are pears on a quince rootstock something you have to graft yourself or are they common in nurseries? I've never grafted before. My parents have a quince bush which I plan to propagate cuttings from. Maybe I should give grafting a try, though I'd also like to buy some already grafted since I'm a newby.

John S, PDX OR wrote:
Montmorency pie cherries. Super easy.  Also the bush cherries-Joy, Jan, Joel, many easier for you than me. 


We actually bought a montmorency cherry tree, that and a stella. The stella was dead on arrrival and the friggin nursery has a no-guarantee policy. Probably won't be buying from them again.

John S, PDX OR wrote:
Edible crabapples-WHitney probably the most recommended for hardy areas. 
  got There are a few crabbies on the property, and I just found some wild apple trees the otehr day that are no more than 10 feet tall and seem like they're into their mature years. I'm thinking I'll plant them and try some grafting now that I think about it.

John S, PDX OR wrote:
How normal of fruit do you want? Quince?  There are innumerable exotic fruits you could grow.
John S
PDX OR


Personally I'm all for the weird and exotic, its just a matter of finding someone to buy them who'll pay retail, as  dont think we'll go so big on any one crop that I'll  be able to have enough supply to mee wholesale demand. Not set in stone yet though.
 
John Saltveit
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Cornus mas grows slowly. Mine are 7 and 11 feet high at 10 years old.  I don't need to net it.  Birds don't know what it is, and they are tart until they fall.  Don't eat them until they fall because they only taste good as they fall. Super high vitamin C fights colds. Common fruit in E. Europe

Quince is probably the most common rootstock for pears.  I would highly, highly recommend learning how to graft.  It's a great skill.  It opens a new window into a world you never understood.  The potential is amazing.

Pie cherries are hardier than sweet, have more vitamins, get attacked by birds, insects and diseases much less.  Pie cherry bushes should work great for you too.

Exotics usually work better for home garden fruits than for large sales.  You could grow one and as the word gets round by giving samples, etc, you could grow more.
John S
PDX OR
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Travis Philp wrote:Joel: Ugh, you've got me picturing climbing a big apple tree with hand pruners, cutting bud by bud...


Oh, no way did I mean that.

I was thinking more about using one's imagination and thumbnail on the youngest trees, to influence their final shape toward something that requires as little pruning as possible, then maybe using a hoe or similar to remove buds beyond reach, in a few special cases.
 
Travis Philp
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I should've put a wink face on that comment. I was being sarcastic, but thanks for clarifying either way.
 
Travis Philp
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So here's my tentative, distilled list. (I'm including nut trees and a few bushes in the mix) If you see any that you think are high maintenance please chime in.

EDIT: I've rearranged the list for ease reference and clarity, after Tel's post. I included bushes and made an understory tree category for further breakdown. Depending on the variety, some types could fall into either the upper canopy or understory trees, or even bushes I suppose. This is my best off the cuff guess, so there might be some errors.

UPPER CANOPY

Plum

Plumcot

Asian Pear (though I've found contradictory info regarding pruning)

European Pear (see above)

Medlar

Mulberry

Cold Hardy Fig

American Persimmon (If I can find a market for them)

Korean Pine Nut

Hardy Pecan

Heartnut

Butternut

Black Walnut


UNDERSTORY TREES

Serviceberry

Pawpaw

Dwarf Pear

Quince

Pie Cherry



BUSHES:

Bush Cherry

Cranberry

Elderberry

Hazelnut

Gooseberry

Currant

Blueberry


 
tel jetson
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those all look fine to me.

hazels where I'm at are extremely productive after several decades of neglect.  they also respond well to coppicing, if you have a use for the small-diameter wood.  coppice won't be a good idea if you buy grafted varieties.

Korean stone pine, and any other pine, will take a long time to start producing, and I don't think they ever produce really heavily.  certainly easy, though, so I say go for it.

heartnut/butternut/walnut: grafted varieties will produce much more quickly than seedlings.  either way, they'll thrive on neglect once they're established.  I've read that zinc is important for Juglans species.  some folks spike trees with zinc nails to increase yield dramatically.  I don't know what the long-term consequences of that are for the tree.

cranberries: do you have a Vaccinium in mind or a Viburnum?  neither could be called trees, but they could both be easy.  the Vaccinium cranberries are pretty much prostrate in my experience.  they won't require any pruning, but other plants could easily crowd and shade them out, which could mean weeding if you don't take steps to avoid it.  Viburnum opulus (V. trilobum is the same, I believe) is a large shrub or small and sort of contorted tree that would probably be easier to grow and harvest than the Vacciniums.

bush cherry: again, not quite a tree.  I would call it a medium-sized shrub.  mine is mature and probably five feet (1.5 meters?) tall.  lots of stems instead of one trunk.  should be real easy.

elderberry: hard to call it a tree.  should be easy, though.

fig: I think figs should be fine without much attention, but they could get messy.  I've seen them root sucker pretty freely, which would be obnoxious..  could be a result of earlier pruning, though, so it might not be a problem if you never prune.  I'm trying several varieties of figs out, but they're only a couple of years old, so I don't know yet how they'll work out without pruning.  I believe figs fruit on new wood, and typical fig pruning takes advantage of that.

I don't see anything on that list that's no good.  you included a couple weirdos in there, and there are a lot of other weird fruits to choose from.  this is your distilled list, though, and you can't plant everything, so it looks good to me.  one really productive and easy fruit I would suggest adding is Aronia melanocarpa (other Aronia species might be good, too).  that's not a tree, either.  it's relatively familiar, so unloading them should be easier than some of the more unusual options.
 
Travis Philp
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Thanks Tel,

What other 'weirdo's' would you recommend I look into? I've got about 35 acres of our 100 to play with so there's plenty of space. I'm more limited by marketability I suppose.

Hazels- I'll be propagating them by cuttings from a friends farm. Not sure if they're grafted, I think not though. I'll look for the graft bumps when I go to take cuttings.

Korean Stone Pine- There's a variety from a nearby nursery which they say will produce in 5-7 years. I'm young and patient either way. They'd be more of a north/west windbreak anyhow, with the bonus of a nut crop down the road.

Heartnut- Thanks for the tip on zinc. I'll look into that. There's a guy in town who's got mature walnuts in his backyard. I think I'm going to see if he'll trade for some seeds, as they were high quality english walnuts. The savings from that will allow me to buy grafted varieties of heartnut, and I can get butternut for free possibly (or at least under $1 per tree through a treeplanting program, though it'll be the ungrafted native variety.

Cranberry- I was thinking of going both ways with them. We've got a fair amount of low spots with standing water so there's lots of room for both. Though I'm not sure I'll be able to find a buyer for the native cranberries.

Bush Cherry- I LOVE cherries! And as with most places, birds do too, so I'm happy to know that there are sweet bush cherries, easy enough to cage or net.

Elderberry- Ther's a mature bush nearby that is about 7 or 8 feet tall that I plan to take cuttings and seed stock. I wonder which will get to fruiting age first...

Fig- Hmmm, from what I read, they do fine without pruning, though now that I think of it, fine doesn't rule  out a massive tree. I'll have to look further into the cold hardy varieties I know of. I just love figs so much!
 
Kay Bee
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Nice list!

The Asian Pears can be really easy, but they do tend to over-set the fruit.  I actually spend a lot more time thinning on them than pruning other fruit trees.  But, it's easy work, just takes time.  If fireblight is an issue in your area, some cultivars seem more susceptible to it than others, but it may be a trial and error situation.

Regarding figs, if you can find a cold hardy variety that also tends towards a dwarfing habit, you should be fine without pruning.  Violette de Bordeaux is one that has stayed small for me and has very good quality fruit, but I'm not sure how cold hardy it is.  In your zone, I would suggest looking for cultivars that have a breba crop in case you don't get enough heat or long enough season to ripen the main crop.

Bush cherries are great, but the cherries are not what I would call sweet.  they make nice pie cherries, though.  I've had good luck pruning out third year branches on them to encourage heavy fruiting.  Easy to get the 10lbs/plant if they have good sun.  The only pest that I've seen hit them is the cherry fruit fly likes to lay eggs on them.  One application of BT can do the trick to avoid worms in the fruit. 

If you can find a variety that can handle a bit colder than they like, jujube's are very easy to grow (minimal pruning, disease and drought tolerant) and are delicious.  If you have an asian market nearby, I would think they would sell well
 
tel jetson
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on the figs again: some folks keep them small with root restriction.  it's work at planting time, but potentially not after that.  the method I'm familiar with involves lining the hole you plant into with concrete rubble.  haven't tried it myself, but it's a common enough technique that it's probably working for someone.  it'll weaken the plant, overall, though, so it might not be a great idea where you're pushing climate tolerance.  other folks root prune periodically: use a spade to cut surface roots in a perimeter around the plant.

hazelnuts: if you're starting with cuttings, it won't matter if they came from a grafted tree.  you won't end up with grafted trees, so coppicing won't cause a reversion to the rootstock.

weirdos: there are a lot.  I buy from One Green World and Raintree Nursery and Burnt Ridge Nursery.  a browse around those websites might give you some ideas for plants to look for closer to home.  Oikos is another good outfit.

cranberries: I believe that groundnuts (Apios americana) might do well planted with cranberries.  could have been in Perennial Vegetables that I read it's a serious weed in commercial cranberry bogs.  I don't think you would have any trouble selling groundnuts, even though they aren't well-known.  they're enough like potatoes that folks should love them.

cranberries: the bush cranberries (Viburnum opulus) will also yield cramp bark.  if there are any ladies working with you, that stuff will have enough value around the farm that selling it doesn't even have to be a consideration.  and the berries make good syrup and jam if a fresh market doesn't materialize.
 
Travis Philp
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Thanks for the continued input all.

SouthEastFarmer: I had read that you need to thin the fruit of asian pears. I was thinking I'd use the thinnings to feed our pigs and chickens, or to use them as fertilizer. A friend of mine grew tomatoes in a no till bed using rotting apples as the fertility, so I figure pears would work too. That'd save me time and energy shovelling manure.

I'll keep that in mind about dwarfing figs. Tel, since I am in a relatively cold zone, I will probably not weaken the plant in such ways as you describe but thanks for the tips.

Good to know about the apios americana. I'd planned to grow those in a guild with sunchokes but now you've got me thinking about cranberries. I imagine sunchokes aren't so good in wet areas, being a root crop.

Thanks for the nursery links. Those jujube's seem like a good option, among several others available from those nurseries. Not sure if I could find em in Canada though.
 
Emil Spoerri
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I don't know how much water sunchockes can take, and they are drought resistant. However, they sure can drink!
 
Charlie Michaels
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If I could bookmark this thread I would. Is there anyway to bookmark threads?
 
                                          
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mrchuck wrote:
If I could bookmark this thread I would. Is there anyway to bookmark threads?


you bookmark a thread the same way you bookmark any other website.  Ctrl+D
 
Kay Bee
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makes sense to put the thinnings of the asian pears to good use, but you may not get too much out of them.  I usually thin the fruit when they are about the size of a dime or so.  that way I can tell which fruits are really going to develop and others that may be damaged by any frost of insects.  They often set four or more in a cluster of fruit and I try and thin down to one or two.

Here is a nursery by Montreal that may have some info you can use:
http://www.greenbarnnursery.ca/_mndata/taylortree/uploaded_files/Peterborough%20talk%20and%20workshop.pdf

http://www.windmillpointfarm.ca/isapi/isapi.dll?page.home&language_id=1

Their "Chum" cherry-plum hybrid certainly sounds interesting
 
Travis Philp
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Does shaking them to thin the fruit work to an substantial effect?

Greenbarn is on my wishlist big time.  Thanks. I just need a few thousand dollars to buy enough stock to get a sizeable prod. system
 
                            
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fewer trees means less maintenance and more fruit per tree, but if you wish to "food forest' your section of land, I am sure we can understand that, and you will be satisfied with a smaller yield per tree compensated by a larger overall harvest
which brings me to the cost of the trees, for this is where you can spend a lot of unnecessary money
as an orchardist or nursery you qualify for best price, better than wholesale and a LOT better than retail
order your trees barerooted for midwinter where applicable
if they are grafted they will cost more but remember you can buy less of them and take the tips (scions) from your own trees for grafting to cheaper rootstock later
you can buy your citrus grown from certified seed from a citrus specialist and pay very low prices for first year trees which can be grafted now or later, preferably from your own scions taken from the trees of your original outlay
cherries can be purchased as first year seedlings cheaply,and when you cut the tips off the rootstock at grafting time, those tips can be bunged in the ground to form further rootstocks as you add further scions from known sweet cherries
I haven't mentioned prices as we are in another country, but as you are anticipating a large initial purchase, by selecting one or few suppliers your will qualify for low prices according to your requested volume
if retail is 30x, wholesale is 15x, orchardist is 10x, volume first year seedlings are2x, scions can be got from heritage fruit clubs and grafting can be learnt in an afternoon (the practise takes longer)
hope this helps
 
Kay Bee
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Travis Philp wrote:
Does shaking them to thin the fruit work to an substantial effect?

Greenbarn is on my wishlist big time.  Thanks. I just need a few thousand dollars to buy enough stock to get a sizeable prod. system


I've only had shaking work for me if there was frost or poor fruit set that results in weakening the stems of the immature fruit (they would have fallen off on their own, in time.  Others may have a system that works for them.  Hand picking is good meditation 
 
John Saltveit
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"when you cut the tips off the rootstock at grafting time, those tips can be bunged in the ground to form further rootstocks as you add further scions from known sweet cherries"


Hiawatha-
are you saying that you can make cuttings out of the tips of cherry rootstock to make more rootstock plants? I have never grown cherries from cuttings.  Quince, plums, figs, grapes, yes, but never cherries.
John S
PDX OR
 
                            
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Hiawatha-
are you saying that you can make cuttings out of the tips of cherry rootstock to make more rootstock plants?
John S
PDX OR

yes, cherries along with apples and pears lilac poplar, lemon...costs nothing to cut and bung...mulberry is one I haven't tried but want to
take a look at http://gardenfarm.biz/30centfence.htm ...these are mainly apples and if you look towards the left you will see cherries, and I have had success with cherry mazzard, can take a pic if you want...cheers
 
Travis Philp
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Hiawatha, I thought that if a tree has been grafted (as most commercial apple and cherry trees are) the cuttings won't grow the same height as the rootstock, and (depending on the cultivar) will probably grow very tall. I'm not really into having too many 100 foot tall trees.
 
Trevor Newman
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American Persimmons are very low maintainence and produce bountiful crops of DELICIOUS fruit! Also, if you're looking for disease resistance some cultivars of commons fruits, such as plums and apples, appear to be more disease and insect resistant. 'Freedom' and 'Liberty' apples are two good varieties for that. Try growing native american hybrid plums..such as the 'Bruce' Plum(salicinaXangustifolia). The wild goose plum is a good native plum with nice size fruit, quite hardy and resistant..although it will get black knot.

Asian pears are a good alternative to the European types. They produce well with little care.
 
              
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I have a bunch of mulberry trees on my property. Seedlings around too. From what I have read, 'from seed plants' produce better root base. Was thinking of using mulberries to make a living fence instead of osage orange. It will not keep out as many intruders, but will make for a more colorful cars , and mulberry trees have a lot of beneficial uses, should times ever get tough.

Question - can I just trim branches and push them into the ground? Any limit on length and width?
-
Another plant to add to the collection: Gaultheria procumbens - Ground Berry, Eastern Teaberry, Checkerberry, Boxberry, American Wintergreen... likes zone 7 and colder.

Pomegranate is another one,  but not sure there are any varieties that would make it past zone 7, unless you have a microclimate or greenhouse.

Sassafras tree might work too. I have them on my property and seen them in the mountains. Not sure how far north they grow. Seems to be a debate on how quick they will kill you, but many people still use them in cooking / root beer, etc.
 
John Saltveit
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I don't have mazzard cherry rootstock but I couldn't get pie cherry cuttings to grow, nor black mulberry.  I have not tried the water sprouts of apples, but regular apples are really hard.  I get a lot of apple seedlings from my compost, more than I can deal with. I have grafted some, but the ultimate size of the tree is unknown. 

I agree that American persimmons are indeed delicious and trouble free. They have a subtle, complex flavor that for me is just so much more satisfying than Asian persimmons, although with American you usually need a male and female to get reliable fruiting.

John S
PDX OR
 
Trevor Newman
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Thanks for pointing that out John-- they are indeed dioecious. You need a male and female tree for fruit set. However, there are cultivars available that are self fruitful(Meader/Szukis). Some male tree will even produce a female limb and vice versa..very mysterious trees. But generally it is good to plant a lot to ensure that you get some males.

Check out this video we recently shot about the American Persimmon!

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q431DMyK0fI

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NLI-_a9RFc
 
Leif Kravis
Posts: 78
Location: Toronto Canada
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Travis, i think the cold hardy varieties of figs need to be burried on their side and protected to overwinter here in ontario, check it before you buy bro, otherwise a lot of work.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I'll look into that. Thanks Leif. If nothing else, I'd plant enough for ourselves and to take a small amount to year round farmers markets in Toronto
 
                      
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Location: Austin,TX
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Might look at the loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)...not sure if they'll work for your zone.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loquat

Very drought resistant and maintenance free. Nice big thick leaves (similar to magnolia leaves) that give plenty of shade.

Abundant fruits very early in the spring before anything else have even started budding.

Super tasty, kind of apricot/pear flavor and can make a cough syrup by reducing.

 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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loquat is an interesting one.  where I'm at, it tends to flower in the middle of winter during an inevitable warm spell, then when it gets cold again (and it always does), all the flowers or fruit are lost.  places with consistently cold winters might not have that problem, and neither would places with consistently warm winters.

I don't think it's hardy enough for Travis, unfortunately.
 
Paula Edwards
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You're talking about heartnut - isn't this a juglans, hence a HUGE tree? The guy at our nursery said that they reach 20 m in diameter.
Plums, yea as a kid we always had tons of plums.
For warmer climates acerola cherry, but a grafted one, gives you fruit in less than a year.
I have some American Pawpaw seeds and some Persimmon seeds, but no one has sprouted so far.
I looked at grafting in books and it seems to be easy, but they never tell you which seedling you  take for what and where do you get the seeds for this seedling. They only tell you the principle. I think I would give it a try.
 
We've gotta get close enough to that helmet to pull the choke on it's engine and flood his mind! Or, we could just read this tiny ad:
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https://permies.com/wiki/63312/permaculture-projects/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Workshop-Jamboree
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