Northern California is a Mecca for home-grown fruit. Stone fruit like peaches and nectarines flourish. Apples grow crunchy and sweet. And we have to fight the birds to get our fair share of cherries. So, if you’re asking yourself “how do I pick the best fruit trees?” you’re really not asking the right question. Instead, you need to ask “how do I pick the best fruit trees for me?”
We trust you to be able to pick a type of fruit you actually enjoy eating, so let’s skip ahead to the logistics. How much space do you have? And how many trees do you want/need? Some varieties of fruit trees can grow upwards of twenty feet, and even the most enthusiastic backyard grower is going to have trouble picking fruit that high. Meanwhile, genetic dwarf varieties can be potted and placed on your porch.
Also, some fruit trees are self-pollinating, but most require a second tree (and some insect friends) for the cross pollination needed to produce. Once you’ve made these decisions, it’s time to decide where and when to plant it. Fruit trees love sun and they need to be planted in full sun. Spring is generally the best time to plant because your tree will have a longer season to grow into its new home before winter comes.
Pick with care
Delta Tree Farms’ Linda Edwards shares her tips for picking the best fruit trees
- Find a symmetrical tree. “You want symmetrical branching so it’s fruiting all around the tree,” Linda says. A tree that has one branch that is significantly larger than the others is likely to favor producing fruit on that branch alone and you run the risk of that branch growing so heavy it breaks.
- You can often tell if a tree is healthy just by looking at it. Make sure the bark isn’t too brittle, the leaves aren’t curled or dry, and the rootstock is healthy and fills the pot.
- Bigger isn’t necessarily better – but it does mean you’ll get fruit faster. “In buying an older tree you’ll get fruit the same year,” Linda says. “Sometimes you can even buy the tree with fruit on it.”