Saturday, February 19, 2011

Low-Maintenance Dwarf Fruit Trees II (revised)

I promised some thorough catalog searching at the end of the previous post, but I hadn't gone very far before I came to the conclusion that any and all varieties of apples, cherries, peaches and pears all look like a real pain in the butt-ew-ski no matter how you slice them (pardon the pun.)

So, I left the realm of fruit trees and broadened out to all types of edible landscaping (and didn't we all know that this was where we would end up?) I got some great hits paying special attention to species that the Edible Landscaping plant finder rated EXCELLENT in most of these categories (extra points for "Adaptable Soil Type):

*Pest Resistance

*Disease Resistance

*No Spray

*Fun For Kids

Unfortunately the links in the plant finder, as great a tool as it is, proved to be less than permanent, so I lost quite a bit of my original research. At any rate, here are some of the runners up in my search.

Goose Berries!

The variety that I found might not have been particularly cold hardy. Need further research.


Geraldi Hybrid is a dwarf variety only seven feet tall with EXCELLENT pest resistance - try Burnt Ridge, Edible Landscaping, or Whitman Farms for Geraldi. One consideration - I think that Geraldi is a purple mulberry which the gardeners might not appreciate because of the messy factor (not to mention staining of EVERYTHING.) I couldn't find a dwarf white mulberry, but that might be something worth waiting for.

The American types (as opposed to the Asian types) are best for the northeast. Excellent pest resistance, but no dwarf varieties found.

(aka Hazel nuts)
There is a variety that averages a little over nine feet high. I think it needs companion plantings for pollination.

Elder Berries!
Points lost for lack of kid-fun factor and need for pollinator plantings.

No foolin'. There is a non-vining, Siberian (I think) honeysuckle which puts out fruit that tastes like blueberries. I'm thinking this might be the winner.

On to another post!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Low-Maintenance Dwarf Fruit Trees I

I just attended the annual meeting of our local community garden and was sent home with the task of researching varieties of low-maintenance dwarf fruit trees for possible plantings in the common area at the center of the garden.


So I'll deposit some of my findings here, just for convenience. In keeping with my personal mission of examining social alternatives to pesticide use, I'm interpreting "low maintenance" as "pest resistant". Basically, I'm looking for varieties of dwarf (or ultra-dwarf!) fruit trees that lend themselves to being grown organically (and maybe neglected a bit.)

First I found an older article from Mother Earth News, excerpted from Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape — Naturally , by Robert Kourik (copyright © 1986 by Robert Kourik). Good for background, but not too specific about modern varieties available.

Next I'm going to spend some time here. OK-not so useful.

University of New Hampshire makes pear trees sound a bit dicey, but I need to go back and read their paper on home-grown dwarf apple trees.

Here is a short, but specific article with a very few dwarf varieties, plus notes detailing hardiness zones and pest issues, courtesy of The most useful information here was about an apple tree:

"Dwarf Apple ‘Thornton’ Starkspur Winesap
‘Thornton’ Starkspur Winesap is a dwarf apple (Malus pumila) hardy to minus 20 degrees F. A hybrid from Missouri's Stark Brothers, it stands between 8 and 10 feet high and wide. Its showy, fragrant white blooms appear in May, attracting bees and butterflies. The red fruit on trees in the coldest parts of its hardiness range--USDA zone 5--ripens in mid-October. While ‘Thornton’ is relatively resistant to common apple diseases and insects, it may require spraying to prevent pest damage, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. This tree needs full sun and prefers well-drained, acidic (pH below 6.8) deep loam. Good fruit production requires pollination from another apple variety."

We should look through some catalogs, of course. As usual, real people seem to be the most helpful source of practical information for each other. On the Garden Web forum, brandon7 recommends a whole slew of fruit tree suppliers that have all have excellent or very good Garden Watchdog ratings. Hmmm....never heard of that...

So-I think I'll save these last two hits for further investigation. Until next time!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Organic & Local

Dr. Joseph Mercola, physician and author, writes in the Huffington Post for today:

"Making sure your vegetables are pesticide-free is especially important.

"Did you know the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic? Most pesticides can damage your nervous system and are associated with numerous health problems such as neurotoxicity, endocrine dysfunction, immunosuppression, impaired reproductive function, miscarriage, and even Parkinson's disease.

"This information alone should be an impetus for buying local, organic produce. But there is another important factor to consider: Organic vegetables are more nutritious than conventionally farmed vegetables."

Read more here >>