Growing fruits without growing crazy

January 23, 2013 

We help a friend watch her grandchild. The little girl is quite delightful, but I had forgotten what a handful toddlers are. The little one is high maintenance. Of course, she is also quite a fun and cute little thing. But come to think of it, many enjoyable things in life are high maintenance.

In the garden, some fruits can be high maintenance, while other fruits are easier to grow. This is the time of year when we plant or prune fruits. I cannot review everything you need to know to grow all types of fruits, but here are some general pointers to help you begin the season correctly. For in-depth information, look for a publication here that covers your specific type of fruit: www.caes.uga.edu/publications.

Fruits often succeed or fail based on decisions you make before planting. I cannot overemphasize this. Decisions concerning the type of fruit, variety planted, location and planting methods can all lead to success or failure. Mistakes made at planting often cannot be corrected later without completely replacing the plant. Take time to visit the website and to read the UGA publication that covers your type of fruit before buying, planting or pruning.

One decision is the type of fruit to plant. Some fruits have a lot of insect and disease problems and should not be planted unless you plan to spray them on a regular basis. Sprays may be needed from bloom until close to harvest. Apples and peaches are often this way. You may not get a crop without spraying. Do not plant peaches or apples unless you plan to spray them. Even with spraying, expect some pests. This is why I suggest that people just buy their peaches and apples and grow other, more pest-resistant fruits. For Georgia grown peaches, we do not have far to go, and north Georgia has a number of good apple orchards.

Fruits that will probably not need spraying (if you buy the right varieties) include muscadines, grapes, persimmons, figs, blueberries, blackberries and pears. This does not mean that these fruits never need pest control, but rather they often can be grown with little or no need for pest control. I would say that plums and strawberries are intermediate in their pest control needs.

Pecans need to be sprayed for best results, but they are too large to spray. Also, the pesticides needed for pecans are too toxic for home use. Plant pest-resistant pecans, but do not expect a crop every year. Pecans produce depending on the disease resistance of the variety you select and the weather and pest pressure that year.

Selecting the proper variety of fruit to plant is very important. For instance, most grape varieties are susceptible to a disease that we have in Georgia. You will need to plant Pierce’s Disease resistant grapes in our area. Pear varieties need to be resistant to leaf spot and fire blight to do well here. Read the UGA publications mentioned earlier to find varieties of the different fruits that are adapted to our area.

Fruits need to be pollinated to produce properly. With some fruits, you have to carefully select varieties so that they will pollinate each other. The publications will give you details.

Fruits need to be planted in full sun (six to eight hours a day of direct sun), well-drained areas. Take a soil sample before planting to see how much lime and fertilizer to till into the soil before planting. Decide what type of trellis you will need for grapes, muscadines and perhaps blackberries. Build this trellis before or at planting, so you can begin.

Fruits such as apples, pears, muscadines, grapes and blackberries need a very specific type of pruning every year. Pruning usually begins at planting. Consult the publications for pruning methods. Figs are blueberries pruned once the plant begins to get too large to harvest. They probably will not need pruning every year.

If you decide to just buy Georgia grown fruits or vegetables, visit the Georgia Grown website at www.georgiagrown.com. The site lists in season produce, places to buy it and other news about Georgia agriculture. The site is produced by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and helps to train the turf and landscape industry.

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