Establish a home orchard
- Published: Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - High fuel costs and other economic burdens have spurred increased interest in vegetable gardening. Interest in home fruit production is also increasing, said a University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist.
"Though fruit-producing plants don't provide instant gratification like vegetables, they provide perennial contributions to the table," said Marlin Bates. "To extend the availability of homegrown fruit, many people are beginning to can and freeze what they grow and buy at the farmers markets."
If you are interested in home fruit production, first determine how many plants of a particular fruit you will need. "From tree fruit to berries, there is considerable variability in production from year to year," Bates said. "For instance, with apples you can expect anywhere from two bushels to six bushels from one tree. A good approach is to plan for the lower yield range. In a good year, you will have plenty to share with friends, and in a not-so-good year, you will still have what you need."
Another factor is whether you want only a source of fresh fruit to eat or also want to preserve fruit.
Pollination requirements dictate the minimum number of plants to set. Many fruit-bearing plants require cross-pollination (pollen from a different cultivar) to produce adequate yields. These include apple, pear, plum, blueberries and nut trees. Make sure the different cultivars flower at the same time so pollen can be successfully transferred. Plants that are self-pollinated include sour cherry, peach, nectarine, grape, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry.
Your taste and preferences should influence your choice of which cultivars to grow. "But you should also take into consideration disease and insect susceptibility," Bates said. "Many of the popular fruit cultivars common in the supermarket are quite susceptible to disease and insect issues in Missouri, so they are not recommended."
You should also address plant-specific growth requirements. Blueberries, for instance, prefer a lower pH than other plants. Testing the soil prior to planting will guide you toward providing optimum growing conditions for your fruit plants. Soil testing is available at your local MU Extension office.
"Remember that with the increasing interest in fruit production, several reputable dealers are having trouble keeping up with demand," Bates said. "This emphasizes the need to order early and make sure the plants you buy are grown in our region. Plants shipped from areas with different climates don't do as well as regionally grown plant stock."
MU Extension guides for home fruit production are available online at https://extension2.missouri.edu/publications?searchWithin=fruit&mpp=12.
Writer: Rebecca Gants
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