The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Choosing fruit trees

Fruit hardiness map

There's a reason I loved flipping through Organic Orcharding before we got our farm --- it's a great book to dream by.  Or, if you want to pretend you're being scientific, you can use the excellent charts for variety selection.  For example, Logsdon recommends starting your orchard planning by learning which species do well in your climate.  The map above hits the highlights, making it clear that you really want to live in zone 6 or 7 if you plan to grow all sorts of temperate fruits.  Zone 8 is pretty good too, although you'll need to choose low-chill apples and peaches, and colder zones start restricting your choices pretty quickly.

Your next stop should be Logsdon's excellent ripening-order charts, which I won't recreate here, but which you can find on pages 28 and 50.  While you're thinking about seasonality, you'll also want to consider adding some winter storers so you can enjoy homegrown fruit after the snows fly.  Logsdon doesn't list storage times for pears (the other good storage fruit), but he does include a handy chart of apple storage periods:

Average storage months
Maximum storage months
Grimes Golden
Golden Delicious
Northern Spy
Red Delicious
Rhode Island Greening
Stayman Winesap
Rome Beauty
Yellow Newton

Finally, you should take into account how much fruit your family can really eat.  Logsdon includes the yield figures below, which seem to be on the low side according to some sources (which I've added parenthetically).  However, his figures might be the most realistic for a chemical-free backyard orchardist.

Estimated yield
  • dwarf
  • semidwarf
  • standard

  • up to 1 bushel
  • 3 bushels
  • 10 bushels (up to 18 according to some sources)

3 bushels (up to 8 according to some sources)

Peach or nectarine
3 bushels (up to 6 according to some sources)
Plum or apricot
2 bushels (up to 6 according to some sources)
1 bushel (up to 3 according to some sources)

I hope these charts help you out if you're still in the planning stages.  You may also get some handy information out of my 99 cent ebook, Weekend Homesteader: December.  Meanwhile, if you're ready to choose varieties and put trees in the ground, stay tuned for tips in later posts.

This post is part of our Organic Orcharding lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I would say that the estimated yields are really low. Stark Brothers provides the following yield data for their trees (and between them and Trees of Antiquity I'm not sure I would purchase mail order fruit trees from anywhere else...obviously I would purchase local if possible). I have found it to be very close to the data my extension office provides:

Apple: Annual average yield per tree: Dwarf, 5-6 bushels Semi-dwarf, 10-15 bushels Standard, 15-20 bushels Colonnade, 25 pounds

Peach: Miniature, 1-2 peck Dwarf, 3-4 bushels Standard, 6-10 bushels

Sweet Cherries Dwarf, 8-10 gallons Semi-dwarf, 10-15 gallons Standard, 15-20 gallons

Sour Cherries Dwarf, 3-5 gallons Semi-dwarf, 12-18 gallons

Most pears: Dwarf, 6-8 bushels Standard, 12-15 bushels

Asian pears: Dwarf, 1+ bushels Semi-dwarf, 1-2 bushels Standard, 3-8 bushels

Comment by Robert Tue Dec 10 18:24:24 2013

Thanks for once again providing great, timely information. I finally started my forest garden in October with trees purchased from local Master Gardener group /Country Extension office. All trees are chosen based on what has proven successful in our area; Zone 9-10. In a few years I should have Blood oranges, Ruby Red grapefruits, Mandarin Orages snd Key limes filling the pantry. Two variety of figs and Jujubi's (Asian dates) and an Asian pear will help to provide variety. Four heirloom blackberries, five varieties of Muscadine grapes and the only blueberry offered round out our selection. We are also trying to start several pineapple plants from tops remaining from fruit purchased for consumption that have started to fill out very nicely. Since this planting I have been preparing planting sites for twelve apples, peaches, pears snd plums, etc plus about 20 berries. The next sale is scheduled for January 25th which the wife and I are eagerly anticipating. Living in semi-tropical srea foes have its advantages. We also plan to find fruiting bananas this year plus starting Papua, guava and other from left over seeds. I just received two ponds of New Zealand perennial White Clover for nitrogen fixing ground cover.

I have enough space to double fruit forest in the future but need to put in hugal swales and mounds to control standing water/drainage issues created by diveway (300 foot swale) put in long before learning about permaculture. Hopefully some of this will happen thid year sice we are in process of removing many trees along fence line with neighbors plus potential home wreckers. We have already lost one mobile home from falling BRANCH from 100+ year old oak . We do not want to repeat this again or share the experience with son or daughter's home.

Comment by Tom Wed Dec 11 05:33:55 2013

The national chart may not be completely accurate. In northern NY where our property is, the St. Lawrence Nursery sells many locally adapted plums and sour cherries. Interestingly, they do not sell any trees on dwarfing rootstocks, as they say the summers are too short and the winters too long for such trees to thrive.

I hope to get a lot planted this spring. We already have dozens of old apple trees, long neglected, which bore heavy crops last fall.

Comment by Ray Aldridge Wed Dec 11 18:22:19 2013

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