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 gardenguides.com. 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!