Today: Jul 14 , 2020

Best Fruit Trees for Mountain Food

29 January 2020  

Growing fruit is a long term investment.

You used to need a lot of land to grow fruit trees. Most standard-sized fruit trees mature at a height and width of between 18-25 ft. Not only will this require a big chunk of your garden, but it also makes them tall to prune and spray without the use of a ladder. Dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees have made it possible to grow them in just about any yard. 

Even with smaller trees, growing fruit is a long-term investment. It can take anywhere from 2 to 10 years for fruits to begin bearing. If you plan to be harvesting for years to come, it pays to do some planning upfront. 

Choosing a Size - The terms dwarf and semi-dwarf can be a bit confusing. Dwarf fruit trees reach a height and width of about 8-10 ft. At this height, they can be tended and harvested without a ladder. Pruning can keep them even smaller. Unfortunately, dwarf fruit trees tend to be short-lived. 

Semi-dwarf fruit trees are a little larger at maturity, with most topping at 12-16 ft. tall and wide. Maintenance and harvest require a ladder, but the average harvest is 8 - 12 bushels, about twice what you'd get from a dwarf tree. 

There's not much space difference between the two types of trees, and both should start producing fruits within 2 - 5 years. The question you have to ask yourself then is, are you willing to work a little harder to get a more abundant harvest, or will you be content with a moderate crop within arm’s reach? 

For those of you thinking that even 8-10 ft. is more space than you have or can sacrifice, don't give up. Fruit trees can be grown in containers as well. The yield is not as heavy, but every bit of delicious. 

Which Fruit Trees Need Pollinators? Most fruit trees produce better fruits if there are two or more trees planted nearby. Anywhere in the landscape will do, just don't put your house between the two trees. 

Although the trees need to be the same type of fruit, they should not be the same variety. You can plant two different kinds of apples, and they will cross-pollinate each other, as long as they bloom at the same time. Most fruit tree catalogs, and plant labels give you suggestions for excellent pollinators. We have several local charts here at Watters that will help. 

If you only want one tree, your best options are peach, apricot, nectarine, and sour cherry. These fruits are self-pollinating or self-fruitful, meaning they can pollinate themselves with help from local bees. One notable exception is a Stella sweet cherry that is also self-fruitful. 

A second option is a multi-grafted tree, where three or more varieties of apples are grafted onto one trunk. 

Some Like it Cold - Deciduous fruit trees need a certain number of hours where the temperature is below 45 F. Without this chilling period during their dormancy, trees set limited fruit the following spring. We have locally proven varieties available here at the garden center. 

Which Fruit Trees are Low Maintenance? All fruit trees require some care and feeding. Most require annual pruning. However, some can get by very well with minimal supervision once established. At the top of the list of low maintenance trees are cherries. These require pruning only when branches are damaged or crossing. 

Stone fruits like peaches, apricots, and nectarines are not maintenance-heavy either. Some pruning is required to keep the trees open to light and probably need fruit thinning in early summer for a healthy harvest.

Apples and pears are the best mountain producers. Late frost just as the fruit is forming will thin the fruit set. Because apples and pears are the very last trees to blossom in spring, it reduces the likelihood of frost damaging the fruits. This one trait puts them in the number one producer spot. 

Pruning fruit trees is a vast topic unto itself and will vary with the type of tree. But starting with the right tree for your location and getting it off to a healthy start is a solid first step toward your first fruit harvest. 

Plant before they leaf. Late winter and early spring are the ideal planting window for fruit trees. We have the best local selection now, and they wake up ready to set fruit and grow before they bloom. If you’re thinking fruit this spring, now is the time to plant. 

Fruit Tree Class here at Watters.  February 8th @ 9:30 am, will cover all the local fruit tree opportunities. Learn the insiders' tips from the pros who know varieties, planting techniques, food, and more. Get ready for a blockbuster harvest this year. We cover local success stories, best types, and how to prune each variety. 

Until next week, I'll be helping gardeners choose the perfect fruit trees at Watters Garden Center. 

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or .

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Watters Garden Center 2020 Spring Garden Classes

Each Saturday @ 9:30am, Watters hosts a FREE garden class, open to the public!

February 1 @ 9:30, Winter Soil Preparation for Growing Success

What we do to prepare our garden in winter, means a healthier garden in Spring! When properly prepared and cared for, soil can be improved each year and will continue to grow plants forever. Students will learn great practices to get our mountain soil prepped for planting, such as soil amendments, adding nutrients, fertilizer, and more, and what is best to use in each soil type.

February 8 @ 9:30, Mountain Fruit Trees and the Heavy Harvest

Learn the insider’s tips from the pros who know varieties, planting techniques, food, and more. We cover local success stories and best practices for healthy, happy fruit trees that produce your best harvest ever! Arborists from Jonny’s Tree & Landscaping will be on hand to explain when and how to prune your trees to stimulate stronger, more vigorous growth with more fruit this spring.

February 15 @ 9:30, Gardening for Newcomers

New to Arizona or just new to gardening? This class is Gardening 101 for everyone hoping to turn a brown thumb green. Learn all the mountain secrets to local garden success: from soil preparation and planting, to watering and fertilizing. This is an information-packed class guaranteed to increase garden blooms and fruit this spring. You’ll know exactly what to do this year to make your garden the envy of the neighborhood!

February 22, @ 9:30, Evergreens that Bloom Early

Evergreens aren’t just pine trees–there are plants that keep their leaves and stay green year-round, and they bloom, too! We’ll cover the latest and greatest evergreens that not only anchor the landscape with winter foliage, but ones that provide, flowers, berries, and even fall color. Combine them with seasonal bloomers, and you have constant color!

February 29, @ 9:30, Spring To-Do List for Better Gardens

Finally, a To-Do list you’ll actually enjoy! We’re all ready for warmer weather, and so are our gardens. This class discusses all the garden “P’s”: Preparation, Prevention, Protection, and Pruning. Warmer weather awakens not just our dormant plants, but the insects, weeds, and fungus that have been lurking since the first frost. Our garden experts will explain the tools you need for healthier, more abundant blooms, and how to stop garden pests before they take root in your personal oasis.