Fruit Trees 101, Part 1: Which Tree to Plant and Where

Courtesy photo    The Blenheim Apricot will do well in Alameda if planted in a carefully chosen spot.

It’s bareroot fruit tree season! Many fruit trees can be successful in Alameda if planted now, but there are pitfalls when choosing both a suitable tree and the best spot to plant it. 

In the spirit of Alameda Backyard Growers’ (ABG) 2018 initative “A Year of Sustainable Gardening” we’d like to share some of what we’ve learned over the years growing fruit in Alameda.

Thankfully the professionals at local nurseries already know Alameda’s particular climate and soil. They know what will or will not flourish here, and order from the wholesalers accordingly. Buying local equals convenience plus greater chance for bountiful harvests later.

Though all fruit trees in our area need summer warmth and direct sun to develop sweet fruit, they differ in their need for winter warmth or chill. A yard’s year-round sunlight and shade pattern is key when planning where to plant a fruit tree. 

Year-round sun-lovers include citrus, figs, guavas, avocados and persimmons. Stone fruit (plums, peaches, cherries, pluots, apricots) and pome fruit (apples and pears) do best with winter shade. This is because some stone and pome fruit trees won’t bear reliably in Alameda’s mild winters. These species require more winter “chill hours” than Alameda usually gets. “Low-chill” varieties have therefore been developed for mild-winter growing areas, and they can be found at nearby nurseries.

Alameda has its share of soil-borne pests and diseases; one of the most frustrating is Oak Root Fungus (Armillaria mellea). Many trees — including citrus and most stone fruit — will eventually die when planted where this fungus has been active. It remains in the soil for many years and is nearly impossible for a home gardener to eradicate. One sign of infection is a cluster of honey-colored mushrooms sprouting at the base of a tree, followed by the tree’s demise. 

Rose, blueberry or camellia bushes dying without apparent cause may be another sign. Only resistant fruit species, e.g. figs, persimmons, pears, apples and those stone fruit varieties that have been grafted onto a resistant rootstock should be selected for that yard.

 

ABG is a network of gardeners in Alameda interested in growing food and donating fresh produce to neighbors who face food insecurity. Find the schedule for ABG’s monthly education meetings at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.com. 

ABG’s Project Pick is always looking for fruit trees to pick and volunteers to help pick them so more fresh fruit can be delivered to the Alameda Food Bank. To sign up email info@alamedabackyard
growers.org or leave a message at 239-PICK (239-7485)