There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different fruit trees to choose from. Given all of the variety, how do you choose? There are six main things to consider when buying fruit trees, remember to take these things into account and you can't go wrong.
- Rootstock. The rootstock is the lower portion of the tree that you don't see. Rootstock selection and pruning determine the size of a tree. If you have limited space, choose a dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock and keep it well pruned. If you want a tree to hang a hammock on, or to use for a windbreak or shade, go for a semi-standard or standard.
- Know your zone. When buying fruit trees you need to consider the climate zone of your area. Do you live in an area that's mostly hot or mostly cold? Does it rain a lot? Questions such as these will help you to decide which fruit trees will grow and thrive best in your garden.
- Know your pollination needs. Most fruit trees require pollination to produce fruit. Some trees are capable of pollinating themselves and other require pollen from another tree. As a rule of thumb, pollinizers should be no more than 50 feet apart from one another, so make sure when buying your trees to check and see the pollination requirements of it. You wouldn't want to buy a fruit tree that needed a pollinator plant nearby and not have one to pollinate it.
- Does your tree have chilling requirements? Fruit trees must pass through some sort of cold spell in order to know that winter is over and it is time to bloom. Chill is the number of hours below 45F from November to mid February that is needed for the tree to prosper best. Temperate fruit trees require anywhere from 100-1400 chilling hours. Odds are that you will probably hit somewhere in that zone and it won't be a problem. Not all fruit trees require a chilling and some require a much longer one, so make sure and check the tag when deciding on which to buy to make sure the requirements are met.
- Do you need more than one tree? The number of trees you plant will depend on how much space you have and on how much fruit your family consumes. You can spread your harvest throughout the season so that your fruit doesn't ripen all at once.
- How long will it take to ripen? Choose varieties of fruit that ripen over a long period of time so that you can enjoy the fresh fruit for many months instead of just a couple weeks. This is especially useful if you are planning on canning, drying, or freezing your fruit.