We have written detailed printable instruction sheets called “Just the Facts” with additional information about many of the plants we list in our catalog. They are written in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. Check back occasionally for new handouts. You can open or download these instruction sheets by clicking on the links below.
We also highly recommend that you use the resources of your state agricultural program. These are the experts for your area and their experience is usually invaluable. If you live in Florida, be sure to check out the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences publications– IFAS is a great resource for all of us in Zones 8B to 10. We’ve listed some of the basic facts about all fruit below the download links on this page.
Want to learn more about chill hours in your area? If you live in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina or South Carolina, try the Agroclimate.org link.
Just the Facts
Many fruit trees like apples, peaches, pears, plums, etc., need a certain amount of winter dormancy (resting phase) to develop their leaves and fruit buds for the coming year. This dormancy period is triggered by colder weather and shorter days, and the tree will stay at rest until it has just the amount of cold weather it needs. Fruit tree folks measure this period in terms called chilling units or chill hours.
Chill hours are accumulated when the temperatures are between 32 – 45 degrees Fahrenheit, BUT any hours below 32 don’t count. THEN when the temperature rises to 60 degrees and above you start losing the hours you had accrued. Confusing, huh? Fortunately, university research stations, NOAA, and the USDA keep track of all that, so you don’t have to. They even publish maps showing the avarage number of chill hours across the country. For folks in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas Agroclimate is a great site for getting the lastest information on chill hours in your area.
We also simplify this by letting you know which USDA Gardening Zones Map that each of our fruiting trees grow best in. In apples, for instance, some high chill varieties like Red Delicious require up to 1400 hours of chill, so they do well only north of the Carolinas. Anna and Dorsett Golden need only 250-300 hours, so are perfect for growers in north and central Florida, in zones 8B-9.
Plant a Red Delicious in North Florida and it will sleep right through our March spring, grudgingly wake up to leaf out in late April or May, refuse to flower, and just generally sulk and pout until you dig it up and send it to your Aunt Em up in Minnesota where it belongs.
So read carefully the zones listed at the end of each fruit description and make sure you are buying a plant that likes the weather where you live.
It’s always been my dream to have something ripe in the orchard 12 months out of the year.
Living and gardening in the Lower South, we can come about as close to making this happen as anybody in the U.S. The trick is to learn to stretch your fruit season. By choosing varieties that ripen at different times, you can achieve the ultimate length of fruit season for each type of fruit you grow.
The year goes thus: early spring brings strawberry and mulberry. The summer is loaded with peaches, plums, apples and pears. The berry patch is in full swing with blackberry and blueberry. Late summer and fall are the time for jujuba, pineapple guava and persimmon. And the winter store is citrus, chestnuts and pecans. Life is good!
Good pollination is the one of the key factors to good fruit set. Fruit falls into three pollinating categories:
SELF-FERTILE (or SELF-POLLINATING) – this means the variety needs no help or pollen from another variety to set a crop of fruit.
NEEDS CROSS POLLINATION – These are two varieties that need each other’s pollen to order for each of them to set a crop of fruit.
FEMALE and MALE – Well, you probably don’t need any help figuring this out, so I will just note that the male doesn’t bear any fruit — only the female does.
Now beyond this, you only need to know a couple more things. If a plant needs cross pollination, or is a female-male pollinating group, it needs to be planted close enough for the bees to do their work. Tree crops should be 20 feet apart, nuts 40-60 feet, berries 6-10 feet and grapes 20-30 feet.
Also, they can’t do this alone. You need a good honeybee or other pollinating insect in the orchard at bloomtime. If the weather is cold or wet, the bug won’t fly. If you are consistently having trouble with fruit set, look into having a beekeeper place a hive in your orchard or buy some mason bees — those guys are great pollinators.
Most fruit trees are grafted, and it pays to pay attention to what your trees are grafted on.
The rootstock plays the part of how well your tree will be able to fend off soil insects like nematodes and various fungi. It controls the size of the tree, making it smaller and easier to pick fruit and easier to cover if a freeze is predicted.
Avoid the dwarfing rootstocks on apple, pear, peach, plum and nectarines in the Deep South. Most of these rootstocks are designed for colder winters and they just don’t stand a chance against our wide assortment of bugs and fungi.
If you have a small yard and need smaller trees, do a couple of summer prunings to control the height and spread of your trees.