Favourite Fruit Trees: Part 1

We are following up last week’s tips by Guest blogger Shanthi on fruit tree growing with a focus on some of our favourite fruit trees.

We are finding that in many cases what makes them ‘favourites’ is their connection to fond childhood memories. For example, Lucia and Catherine have a shared childhood memory of bike riding together – we lived so far apart and the bus ride to see each other took ages. Many a visit ended by lounging after a ride on the rooftop of Lucia’s shed, languidly reaching up to pluck and eat fresh sun-kissed plums from the overhanging bounty. Yum.

Catherine has fond memories of the shape and bright yellow hue of her childhood peach tree. She is learning from research for today’s post why she has so few memories of bountiful peach harvests from said tree. As the University of Maine web-site explains, while peach and nectarine trees are easy to grow, “In cold climates, peaches have a short life expectancy of about seven years, but severely cold temperatures can kill trees at any age.”

Lucy’s favorite fruit tree is currently the Evan’s Cherry Tree, well suited to Alberta climate, and we featured it in blog 23 in April. Also in Edmonton is a new online map, the Open Data Edible Fruit Trees map. It allows you to access free fruit from more than 22,000 apple, cherry, plum and pear trees as well as Saskatoon berry bushes. “We want to promote a local food movement and support local citizens in that local food movement. People are interested in it, and it contributes to that local food security as well,” said Nicole Fraser, manager-supervisor with the city’s beautification and greener initiative. https://bit.ly/2ZD4aEv

Most, if not all of us attach fond memories to apple trees.  Whether from childhood stories and songs about Johnny Appleseed, or fall trips to orchards to ride the tractor-drawn hay wagon out to pick our own apples, to candy apple treats at the fair, or to the aroma of a home-baked holiday apple pie. Yum.

Crabapple Tree Photo by MaryAnn

Fruit Tree Culture

The more we research about fruit trees, the more we learn there is much to learn about fruit tree growing in general, as well as specific information for each tree type.

For example, Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has a bland-looking but informative website that offers the following helpful tips for fruit tree growing success.

“There are several things that you should know about fruit tree culture that will improve your chances of success and make your hobby more rewarding. Each kind of fruit tree, even each cultivar (variety), has its own climatic adaptations and limitations. Stone fruits such as peach, sweet cherry, and plum will perform best in the warmer regions of the province.”

“Buying Fruit Trees: Well-grown, one-year-old trees are preferable to poorly-grown, two-year-old trees. One-year-old trees should have a well-grown main stem, while two-year-old trees should be well branched. Both should have good fibrous root systems. Peach and cherry trees are normally planted as one-year-old branched trees.”

“Planting in spring rather than in the fall is recommended, especially in the colder districts of the province. You should plant without delay as soon as the ground can be worked, usually in early April to early May.”

“Fertilizing: If the fruit trees are grown in a good garden soil, most trees will not require fertilizer before they come into bearing in the third or fourth year. Once in production, fruit trees benefit from light applications of fertilizer in early spring each year. A good rule of thumb for trees grown in an average lawn is to apply to each tree 300 g of a 10-10-10 mixture, per year of the tree’s age. In most instances, no more than 2.5 kg of complete fertilizer, (e.g., 10-10-10 mixture) will be required per mature tree.”


Fruit trees consist of two parts – a scion (pronounced sigh-on) and a rootstock. The scion or fruiting cultivar is grafted or budded onto a chosen rootstock and forms the above ground part of the tree. The new tree is the same cultivar as the tree from which the buds were taken, and will produce fruit of that cultivar.

Peaches are commonly grown on Bailey seedling rootstocks, which offer some winter hardiness. Certain plum rootstocks are occasionally recommended for peaches and apricots because they tolerate imperfectly drained soils. Myrobalan is the most popular standard rootstock for plum.”


“With tart cherry, apricot and peach, a single tree will crop well when planted in the home garden. These fruits are referred to as “self-fruitful”, and will set fruit with their own pollen. Those which are “self-unfruitful” will not bear fruit unless cross-pollinated with pollen from another cultivar. Apple, pear, plum and sweet cherry are good examples of self-unfruitful fruits which require pollen from another cultivar for fruit set. When any of the above fruits are grown, two or more cross-compatible cultivars must be planted together. Crabapples can also pollinate apples.”

Training and Pruning

The transplanted tree should be pruned immediately after planting and before growth starts. Without this initial pruning to balance the tree, more leaves will develop than there is root system to support and the tree may not grow well or even die during the first summer.”

“In general, apricot, cherry, peach, and plum trees may be pruned after planting to a single whip, and cut off (headed) at about 90 cm above the soil. On peaches, if some well-developed branches exist, four or five of these may be cut back and left as short stubs of about two buds in length.” https://bit.ly/2Zwqujb

Plant Hardiness Zones – Maine Example

The University of Maine’s Co-operative Extension website is more appealing overall than OMAFRA’s, offering colourful visuals along with its fruit tree information and growing advice. Note, however, that not all information may apply fully to our Canadian growing conditions. When in doubt, it is likely best to ask your local nursery for advice in choosing a fruit tree best suited to thriving where you live.

“There are many types or species of fruit trees to choose from, but not all are suitable for a cold climate or short growing season. When choosing a fruit tree for a new orchard, consider its winter hardiness, disease resistance and the ripening date of the fruit. Flavor, suitability for baking, cider or preserves can also be deciding factors in selection.”

“Low winter temperatures limit which species or variety that can be grown.” 

“The US Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map divides the United States into zones according to the expected coldest winter temperature. Zone 1 is the coldest and Zone 11 the warmest. Within Zone 6, winter temperatures are expected to get as cold as -10ºF. Most tree fruits can survive in Zone 5, but peaches, sweet cherries, and Asian plums will suffer from winter injury in colder years. More northern and western regions fall within Zone 4, which is expected to get as cold as -30ºF, too cold for peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, Asian plums and European plums. Some varieties of pear and plum will tolerate winter in Zone 4. The most northerly regions are within Zone 3, and only a few varieties will survive the cold in this region.”

Hardiness Zones in MaineExpected Midwinter Low Temperature
Zone 3-40 to -30ºF (-40 to -34.4ºC)
Zone 4-30 to -20ºF (-34.4ºC to -28.9ºC)
Zone 5-20 to -10ºF (-28.9ºC to -23.3ºC)
Zone 6-10 to 0 ºF (-23.3ºC to -17.8ºC)



The Toka plum, also called Bubblegum, is hardy to -30°F (-34.4ºC).

The University of Maine’s website offers the following on various plum species; looks like the Toka plum or Bubblegum species would be a good bet for Canada’s colder climates, being hardy to -30F (-34.4ºC).

“Plums are a stone fruit along with cherry, peach, nectarine, apricot and almond. Several species of plum exist, so they are highly variable in color and flavor, as well as climactic adaptability and disease resistance. In spring, the abundant, white flowers attract native bees.”

“Despite the existence of many different plum species, only two are widely grown, Asian and European, and they differ in many ways. The Asian plum, also called the Japanese plum, ripens earlier, over a two-month period beginning in late July and continuing through September. Asian plums come in many colors ranging from pale yellow to dark purple, but most have a light purple skin and yellow flesh. A few varieties have red flesh. They are more sour than European plums. Because it is a hybridization of several plum species, the Asian type is highly variable in cold hardiness. Some varieties are very tender and cannot be successfully grown in colder regions. Others are extremely hardy and can be grown in Zone 4 and possibly Zone 3. European plums begin to ripen in mid-August with late varieties ripening in late October. They range in shape from oblong to round and are less variable in color than Asian types, usually purple skin with yellow flesh. European plums are hardy enough to be grown in the warmer part of Zone 4.”

“Many varieties of Japanese plum survive temperatures as cold as -20°F, such as Early Golden, Ozark Premier, Methley, Obilinaja, Shiro and Vanier. However, warm temperatures during winter months that are followed by severe cold will damage some of these hardy varieties. For the coldest regions, select the type of plum that was cross bred with the American species to allow gardeners to grow plums in zone 4. Varieties with sufficient hardiness for Zone 4 (-30°F) are Alderman, Black Ice, LaCresent, Pipestone, South Dakota, Superior, Toka, Underwood, and a few others.”

“Because the two most common types do not adequately cross pollinate each other, poor yield is a common problem for plum growers, but can be prevented by planting several varieties that are the same type or species. Plant Japanese plums with other varieties of Japanese plums.” https://bit.ly/2AXtRoV

The OMAFRA website adds this on pollination, “In Japanese plums, Burbank is a satisfactory pollenizer for Early Golden and Shiro. Burbank and Early Golden are pollinated by Shiro. In European plums most cultivars will pollinate each other with a few minor exceptions. Generally three cultivars will ensure good pollination.”

For aspiring plum tree growers in Ontario, the OMAFRA website lists the following types, for reference:

“Japanese: Early Golden, Shiro, Burbank, Pipestone*, Toka*, Empress
Vibrant™ , Valerie™ , Vanette™ , Violette™ , Stanley, Damson, Valor, Italian, Victory” https://bit.ly/2Zwqujb

Peaches and Nectarines

The University of Maine’s website offers the following on peach tree growing.

Peaches can be grown successfully in a cold climate with good site selection and tree care. Where winter temperatures fall below -15°F (-26.1C), peach trees can be short lived.”

“Peaches are an easy-to-grow fruit despite their lack of cold hardiness. Compared to other types of tree fruits, the fruit can be relatively free of insect problems, but the trees can be killed by trunk boring insects. In cold climates, peaches have a short life expectancy of about seven years, but severely cold temperatures can kill trees at any age. On the other hand, hardier varieties planted in a good site can live 20 years or more.   Good tree care and planting in sites with good airflow improves tree survival.”

“Nectarines are identical to peaches with the exception of their smooth peel, and consequently have the same cultural requirements. However, they are not as hardy as peaches and may pose more of a challenge to the home gardener. Peach trees are generally adapted to Zone 6, and some varieties can be grown in Zone 5 (-20°F / -28.9ºC ).”

“There are two types of cultivated peaches which vary in eating quality and how they are used. Freestone peaches have a melting flesh that makes them great for eating fresh. Clingstone peaches have a dense flesh that makes them useful for canning. Among the freestone peaches, some varieties have a flattened shape and are called doughnut or Peento peaches. Peaches also vary in their flesh color with yellow being the most common, but some have white or red flesh. With many different peach varieties available, consider winter hardiness and disease resistance to prevent long-term problems. Fruit quality, ripening date, and showiness of the flowers can also be important considerations in choosing a variety.”

For more information, see Bulletin #2068 Growing Peaches in Maine. https://bit.ly/2AXtRoV

For Ontario, the OMAFRA website lists the following peach tree types:

“Harrow Diamond, Garnet Beauty, Redhaven, Reliance*, Harken, Vivid, Harrow Fair™ , Harrow Beauty, Loring, Vollie™, Cresthaven” . https://bit.ly/2Zwqujb

More Veg Gardening Tips

We wanted to pass along a few more tips we have learned about since our last two posts on vegetable gardening.

Raised Garden Beds

In this weekend’s Toronto Star, we learned from the Cullen brothers’ column that raised garden beds are becoming popular among urban gardeners. Why? “…A raised bed can produce more flowers and a larger harvest than at ground level since it gives you complete control over the quality of soil you use. A raised bed drains well (but needs more regular watering than ground-level beds), and encourages better root growth. It warms more quickly in the spring, allowing you to get a jump on sowing and planting.” https://bit.ly/2WY4hst

Seed Tape

Catherine discovered seed tape by chance among some of the seed packets she purchased and thinks this is a brilliant invention for evenly spacing seeds as you sow, especially for novice vegetable gardeners.  Audrey found this YouTube DIY video on lessons for making your own seed tape. https://bit.ly/2yBhNck

Free On-line Garden Talk – June 2

The Toronto Botanical Garden is offering a free Garden Talk on June 2, 12:30 p.m. EDT, called Top Tips for Top Vegetables (Part 2).

The event is described as, “Top Tips for Top Vegetables, Part 2 helps you expand your home-grown palette with five easy vegetables, such as peas and garlic. Learn the difference between cool-season and warm-season veggies and the many ways to squeeze more vegetables into small spaces. The session will end with a questions and answer period.”

“Presenter: Helen Battersby has volunteered with the Toronto Master Gardeners for 15 years. Her shady garden in Toronto’s east end includes containers of vegetables and cut flowers. With her sister, Sarah, she writes the award-winning blog TorontoGardens.com and publishes the Toronto & Golden Horseshoe Gardener’s Journal.” Register for this free online event at https://bit.ly/3exk0oz.

Optimism in the Future

Some inspiring quotes that we found on OneTreePlanted.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”― Martin Luther

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” ― Warren Buffett

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”  ― Chinese proverb

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”― Kahlil Gebran


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