What controls the size of the tree is basically the rootstock they are grafted onto. When you buy your trees ask what rootstock they are on. The really dwarfing rootstocks (trees that will stay six feet or less) need support, such as a fence post, to stay upright. The most proven rootstock in this class is known as the M9. Dwarf trees on M26 grow a little larger ( we keep ours at nine feet ) and can be free-standing if trained to a central leader. Avoid the Mark rootstock, the trees that are grafted onto them don’t do well . Semi-dwarf trees will grow to fifteen feet and most nurseries use the M7A rootstock for these trees. Avoid the M106, as they are susceptible to disease. In general, apples are not self-pollinating and two different varieties are needed to produce fruit, but a flowering crab apple will work as well.
There are two species of cherries, Prunus avium, the sweet cherries, and Prunus cerasus, the sour cherries, that can be grown in the home garden. Cherries ripen early in the season and therefore require fewer sprays than apples or peaches.
Sweet cherries are more difficult to grow than sour cherries. One problem is that they bloom early and are often caught by spring frosts. Also, they crack if it rains close to harvest time and, they rot easily if they are cracked. Birds love ‘em. Pollination with cherries is also tricky. They need two varieties to pollinate, but they can’t be just any two different varieties. These are listed in ripening order.
Emperor Francis, a yellow sweet cherry, less attractive to birds and crack resistant, can be used to pollinate any of the following dark sweet cherries:
- Ulster – a productive crack resistant cherry,
- Stella – naturally dwarf, self pollinating, only fair quality,
- Valera – productive medium sized fruit, possibly crack resistant,
- Hedelfingen, a mid-season productive crack resistant variety and,
- Hudson – a late ripening very high quality cherry.
The choice for sour cherries is easy. The variety, Montmorency, is the best sour cherry available, and like other sour cherries, is self-pollinating.
We grow several varieties of pears in our orchards, and all of them can be grown in the garden. Bartlett and Red Bartlett are sweet, soft, juicy pears. Seckel are small, sweet and crisp. Bosc are firm, flavorful, and keep well into the winter. There are many other varieties available, and I haven’t seen a pear yet that I don’t like. They’re relatively easy to take care of if you can keep fire blight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora, under control.
The fruit and varietal choices, both for the commercial grower and home gardener seem almost endless. Isn’t it great!