During the winter, with an abundance of snow and ice sloshing around on the streets, and limited sunlight during the days, the last thing most people think about is fruit trees. But, for gardeners, winter is the best time to curl up with a few catalogs and let the imagination run wild. Spend some time learning about the different varieties and think about what your yard can offer a fruit tree. By the time May comes along, you'll know just what kind of tree you want and the best place to plant it in your yard.
Trends seem to be swinging towards planting fruit trees in back yards. It seems that, like the 1960s and 1970s, more people want to get something in return for tedious, tiresome yardwork. Gone are the days where homeowners either wanted a low- to no-maintenance yard, or an impeccable lawn requiring weekly gardener expenses. Today, more people are setting their sights on fruit trees and perennial plantings. They're realizing that their yards can give more than beauty: residential landscaping is also being transformed into a source of food.
You might think that most fruit trees can't grow in Calgary. Actually, there are quite a number of varieties that thrive in our climate. Some of these include apple trees, pear trees, and plum trees.
Among the apple trees, many Calgarians have had success with the Norland Apple, Prairie Sensation, M360, and the Alberta Red. If you like pear trees, try the Golden Spice Pear, Early Gold Pear, or the John Pear. The best-growing plum trees in Calgary are the Brook Gold plum and the Pembina Plum. Other fruit trees that have been successful in Calgary are the Evans Cherry tree, and Dolgo Crabapple.
If you worry that your soil may not be sufficient for a fruit tree, try growing strawberries instead. Strawberries such as Kent, Tristar, and Seascape are very popular and successful fruit producers in Calgary. These plants can overwinter if they are covered with a bit of straw, hay, or leaves for insulation.
- Tips to Ensure Successful Fruit Plantings:
- Orchards do best if they are on a north or east-facing slope which delays the opening of fruit tree blossoms and reduces damage from late spring frosts
- Plant trees, or leave existing evergreen trees, to form windbreaks to the north, west, and east if possible
- Plant fruit trees on the north side of a building, or on a north facing slope, to reduce sunscald caused by winter sunshine, and damage from Chinooks that freeze bark and sap
- Cover the main trunk and branches with building paper, aluminum foil, tree wrap, or a heavy coat of latex paint to protect the tree
- Plant in spring, near the end of May. The plants or trees will be well established before the onset of the following winter, which can be as early as October in our part of the world
- Mulch strawberries with the leaves that fall from your fruit trees
These simple tips and tricks will allow you to enjoy your investment in fruit trees for years to come, adding value to your home and tasty fresh produce to your diet. With a little knowledge and prep work, you can have a wonderful, fruit-filled, Calgary summer!