Prunus - Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach, Plum
DESCRIPTION: Prunus is the botanical name for a large group of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. These popular plants are greatly valued for their delicious, edible fruits, gorgeous spring blossoms and some, for their colorful foliage; some varieties are grown for decoration alone, since all do not produce edible fruits. Numerous varieties have been developed from the wild forms; some were bred for maximum fruit production and better quality fruit while others were bred for larger and more abundant blossoms; some varieties can survive in different climates than others can. They are among the most beautiful trees and shrubs. Included in this group are the Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach and Plum trees. Most of the species need to be grown in Temperate regions though some, such as the evergreen kinds, need to be grown in mild climates. Each one will be described below.
Almond (P. Amygdalus) - This tree is originally from southern Europe or western Asia. There are bitter and sweet varieties of Almonds. The edible kinds come in hard- and soft-shelled varieties. In the U.S., the soft-shelled Almonds of commerce are widely cultivated in California. P. dulcis (Common Almond) is a small tree having lance-shaped, finely serrated leaves and from early to mid-spring, a profusion of single, pink flowers, measuring 1 to 2 inches across. P. glandulosa 'Alba Plena' (White Dwarf Flowering Almond) is a small shrub that is clothed with double, white flowers in mid-spring. P. tenella 'Fire Hill' (Dwarf Russian Almond) is a small shrub that grows 3 to 4 feet high and produces bright rosy-red blossoms in mid-spring. (More information on the Almond will be added.)
Apricot (P. armeniaca) - The Apricot is native to Asia. These trees are grown for their beautiful, fragrant blossoms and their delicious, velvety soft fruits, which resemble small Peaches. Apricots are suitable for growing in cities because they tolerate pollution more than other woody plants. They are widely grown in California where the fruit is dried, canned and sold as fresh fruit. Other states in which the fruits are commercially grown, though not to the extent as in California, are Washington, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. Though Apricots originated in Asia, they were brought to the Mediterranean where European plant breeders produced the species with large fruit that we enjoy today. Most of the Apricot varieties grown in the U.S. are European Apricots. European Apricots are small, round-headed trees, ultimately reaching a height of up to 30 feet. Asian Apricots resemble the European kinds, but are smaller, only reaching a height from 6 to 15 feet, and they are shrubby instead of tree-like. The fruit of the Asian Apricots grow 1 or 2 inches and the taste varies from sweet to sour. Apricots are very early bloomers, which makes them susceptible to injury from late spring frosts. A warm spell during the spring or even the winter urges the flower or leaf buds to begin swelling and the subsequent cold kills them. European Apricots can only be grown in mild climates; Asian Apricots are hardier and can survive harsh winters, though will still be damaged if the weather warms enough to induce blooming and then freezes up again. Apricots can be grown safely in mild climates and in very cold climates, where winter stays until late in the season and then lets up. The tricky areas are where spring weather is unpredictable. If your spring weather is inconsistent, consider growing an Apricot for its beauty and deem any fruit a bonus. Most years, you'll get to enjoy the delicate white or pink flowers and some years you'll be able to harvest fruit. If your spring weather is variable, watch the weather carefully; you may be able to save your crop. If a cold spell is predicted and your tree is small enough, you can cover the tree with a light blanket or sheet. Weight the corners with stones attached with rubberbands and throw the cover over the budding or flowering tree. The next morning, as soon as the temperature rises, remove the cover. Some Apricots are cultivated especially for their gorgeous blossoms such as P. mume (Japanese Apricot) and P. dasycarpa (Purple Apricot). P. mume is a small tree that bears almond-scented, pink flowers in early spring; its variety Beni-shidare produces sweet scented, double, dark rose-pink blossoms. These two can survive in climates where temperatures fall to -30º F. P. dasycarpa is a small tree that grows up to 25 feet high. It has white flowers and dark purple or black fruit. This variety is grown more for ornament than for its insignificant fruit.
Cherry (P. avium - sweet / P. cerasus - sour) - Cherries are originally from Transcaucasia, Asia Minor and Persia. The Cherry is a very beautiful tree that provides excellent fruit. There are two kinds of Cherry trees - Sweet Cherries, which are cultivars of P. avium, and Tart or Sour Cherries, which are cultivars of P. cerasus. The dark red sweet Cherries are the kinds most often seen in the grocery store. Some sweet Cherries have yellowish flesh, these are usually used for maraschinos or canned fruit cocktails. Sweet Cherries are best eaten fresh as their delicate flavors don't stand up to cooking well. Tart or Sour Cherries are hardly ever seen at the store. These Cherries are the varieties used in jams, tarts, pies, etc., thus another common name is Pie Cherry. If sour Cherries are left on the tree to fully ripen, they may also be enjoyed fresh as sweet Cherries. Cherries not only provide delicious fruits, but also bear bunches of pretty white flowers in the spring. However, species have been bred specifically for their blossoms, which may be white or varying shades of pink; these cousins are called Flowering Cherries. P. avium (the wild species of the Sweet Cherries) is a medium to large sized tree with oblong or oval, pointy-tipped leaves that grow 2 to 4 inches long. They are dark green above and lighter and somewhat fuzzy beneath. The leaves turn crimson in the autumn. From mid- to late spring, clusters of pure white, cup-shaped flowers are produced. Small, reddish-purple fruits follow the blossoms and ripen in June or July. The bark of this tree is smooth and gray but turns mahogony-red with age and peels in horizontal strips to reveal the paler, inner bark. P. cerasus 'Rhexii' is an ornamental variety of the sour Cherry that forms a small, bushy tree. It has clusters of double, white flowers, 1 to 11/2 inches across, from mid- to late spring. Another Flowering Cherry is P. cistena (Purple-leaf Sand Cherry). This Cherry forms a deciduous shrub up to 6 feet high with red foliage and single white blossoms, which are followed by black-purple fruits. This Cherry makes a great hedge plant. P. laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel) is a vigorous growing, evergreen shrub or small tree growing 20 feet or more high. The glossy, dark green leaves are large and leathery. The Cherry Laurel is ordinarily grown as a hedge, but is very attractive in tree form. In mid-spring it produces upright clusters of single, white flowers that are followed by cherry-like, red then purplish-black fruits. Any part of this decorative tree is harmful if eaten.
Nectarine (P. persica var. nucipersica) & Peach (P. persica) - Nectarines and Peaches are the same species, P. persica; the Nectarine is a variety of the Peach tree. They differ only by a single gene - Peaches have the gene and are fuzzy-skinned; Nectarines lack the gene and have smooth skin. Nectarines occur naturally on Peach trees and once in a while, a Nectarine tree will produce "mutant" peaches. The Nectarine tree is the same as the Peach tree, though the fruits are not. Nectarines are a bit smaller than peaches and some say they taste sweeter. The flesh of Nectarines is a little less melting than that of Peaches. Nectarines and Peaches are natives to China and were originally cultivated for their gorgeous blossoms and branches. Peach trees are moderately small, with dense, erect growth unless pruned to encourage spreading growth. The long, glossy bright green leaves are from 4 to 9 inches long with finely serrated edges. These trees, when grown on their own roots, will grow from 8 to 20 feet high. Most, however, are grafted onto other rootstocks to control height, increase cold hardiness or resistance to pests and diseases. Most varieties are self-pollinating, therefore you'll only need to plant one tree to obtain fruit. These trees only live about twelve years. To take the place of an aging tree, plant a new tree. Plant it before the old tree has expired because it takes two to three years before a newly planted tree produces fruit. Peaches and nectarines vary in flavor with each variety. The flesh of most nectarines and peaches is yellow, though some are white and considered the best for eating fresh. Some nectarines and peaches are dubbed "freestone", these pull from their pits easily; others, called "clingstone", do not. Clingstones are said to be better for cooking, since their flesh is firmer. Peaches and Nectarines are the least hardy of the Temperate regions fruit trees. Half of the fruit crops grown for commerce come from mild areas such as Georgia, California and South Carolina. They need mild winter weather, dry and warm springs, and long, hot summers. Since these trees begin to bloom at the first bit of warmth, they are susceptible to damage from late frosts. Though Peaches and Nectarines need mild winters, they do need a certain amount of "chill hours" to thrive. There are numerous low-chill varieties available, however, and only in tropical south Florida will they not survive because of lack of winter chill. There are also some cold-hardy varieties, such as 'Reliance', that will handle cold winters, though severe cold or late spring frosts may deny you a crop every once in a while. Nectarines have the same requirements as Peaches, except they are more susceptible to Plum curculio than Peaches because of their smooth skin. They are also susceptible to brown rot. Sprays don't stick as well to their smooth skin as to the fuzzy skin of Peaches. There are varieties of Peaches that are grown for decoration only. They are similar to those grown for their fruits, except they have been bred to enhance the beauty of their blossoms. Single-flowered Peaches will produce fairly decent fruit, but most flowering Peaches have white, pink, or red, double-flowers that grow from 11/2 to 21/2 inches across. P. persica var. Klara Mayer forms a small tree or large shrub that is covered in double, peach-pink flowers. Another variety, Peppermint Stick, has double white flowers that are striped with pink.
Plum (P. domestica) - The Plum is widely cultivated throughout the U.S., since there are varieties suitable for growing in every state. Plums are extensively grown for commerce in Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho. Trees may have erect or spreading growth, depending on the variety. The leaves vary in shape, also, but are usually egg-shaped with finely serrated edges. The fruits are oval or round having smooth, thin skin. The flesh may be purple, blue, red, green or yellow, also depending on the variety. There are more than 2,000 varieties of Plums available. Many Plums bear fruit as soon as three years after planting. Plums may be eaten fresh, preserved in jellies or jams, dried as prunes, juiced, or fermented as a liqueur. Plums come from three different backgrounds: American, European, and Japanese.
Japanese plums (P. salicina) have sweet flesh that is somewhat tart near the pit. Japanese plums are usually clingstone, which means the flesh sticks to the pit. These plums grow well where peaches flourish, tolerate heat and need only a short period of winter dormancy. However, these trees bloom at the first touch of warm weather, making them susceptible to damage from late spring frosts. Most of these trees require an American or Japanese pollinator, but if your garden is small, look for a self-fruitful hybrid, such as 'Catalina'.
European plums (P. domestica) are hardier than Japanese plums. European varieties include the late-season prune plums, which are great for drying and eating fresh, and the Gage types, small, greenish fruits valued for their light sweetness. European plums are ordinarily freestone, which means the flesh easily separates from the stone, making canning easy. Many varieties of the European plum will bear fruit with only one tree planted, though the crop will be heavier with a pollinator. European plums also bloom later than Japanese plums, making them ideal for regions with fickle spring weather. However, these plums ripen late (from September to October), so if your growing season is short, these plums aren't for you.
American plums include the beach Plum (P. maritima), the Canada Plum (P. nigra), the American plum (P. americana), and the Sierra or Klamath plum (P. subcordata). Most of these plums are very cold hardy and tolerate heat and drought. The small plums of these trees vary in quality from one tree to another, but are delicious eaten fresh as well as in jellies, preserves, wines, and liqueurs. The flowers of these trees have a wonderful scent and the branches may be clipped for indoor decoration.
There are varieties of Plums that are grown for ornament rather than their fruits. Single flowered varieties will bear edible, but small fruits, but the showy double-flowered varieties won't produce any. P. cerasifera (Cherry Plum, Myrobalan Plum) is a hardy, small, deciduous tree producing a ton of small, white, single flowers in early spring. Mature trees will sometimes produce red cherry-plums. A variety of P. cerasifera, 'Hessei', is a medium-sized, shrubby tree with light green leaves that gradually turn to bronze-purple with white to yellowish or pink margins. Pure white flowers are borne in mid-spring. Another hardy variety, atropurpurea, is a beautiful variety grown for decoration. It reaches a height from 15 to 20 feet and has dark reddish-purple foliage.
POTTING: Planting Ornamental Prunus - Deciduous Prunus need a sunny location, but the evergreen kinds can tolerate partial shade. They can be grown in any good, moist, well-drained soil. During times of dry weather, they should be given deep, regular waterings. They should be provided with organic mulch throughout the year.
Planting Fruit Trees - Plant your trees as soon as possible. Those bought in containers can sit for a couple weeks before planting as long as your keep them sheltered and watered. Bare-rooted plants, however, should be planted immediately. The roots of these trees are fragile and need protection. If, when you receive your bare-rooted tree, you can't plant until the next morning, set it in a container of water. They shouldn't be submerged for more than 24 hours though, because the roots will rot quickly. They can be stored for up to two weeks if they are set in a container, such as a plastic or metal tub or even a strong, large garbage bag. The roots should be set in first and covered with shredded newspaper, potting soil, wood shavings, etc. Add water, a little at a time, until the material is as wet as a squeezed out sponge. Keep the plants in a cool, shady place until you're ready to plant. True container grown trees can be planted at any time of the year. In areas with very cold winters, bare-rooted trees should be planted in the spring; in mild-winter areas, the dormant trees can be planted in the fall. Your trees should be spaced according to the eventual size that they will grow. Check the nursery catalog or the plant's hangtag for spacing ranges. Generally, allow as much space for a tree as its height at maturity. Most standard size fruit trees need 10 to 20 feet between trees; semi-dwarfs need 6 to 10 feet between trees and dwarfs need 3 to 6 feet in between. Before planting, trim off any damaged or dead branches, canes, or roots. Trim any roots that surround the root ball and can't be straightened out by gently combing with your hand. Take off any wires or ties from the roots or stems as these will eventually dig into the tissue as it grows. Soak the rootball in containers for several hours and let the soil drain. They can be soaked in tepid water with about 1/4 the recommended dosage of a balanced, liquid fertilizer. The hole should be 1 to 2 feet deep depending on the size of the roots. The roots should fit in the hole without being cramped. Most fruit trees are grafted and have a visible bump where the roots and scion were joined. The tree should be high enough so that the union is a few inches above the soil's surface. This is especially important for dwarf varieties because if the grafted top wood comes in contact with the soil, it may form roots and produce a standard sized tree; the rootstock is what keeps the tree small. If you're planting a tree that hasn't been grafted, place the tree at the level at which it was growing at the nursery. For bare-rooted plants, mound a cone of soil in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots over it. Place a stick across the hole to aid in judging the accurate depth at which your trees should be planted. Set in the tree and use a claw hand tool to scratch the smooth sides of the hole. Push the original soil around the roots until the hole is filled more than half way, then water the plants. After the water has drained, adjust the depth of the tree if necessary and add more soil, firmly patting it down to eliminate air pockets. Make a shallow depression around the tree to help hold water. Water again thoroughly and gently. To protect against rodents, wrap the tree in a plastic tree guard that can be bought at a garden center. They can be left on as long as they fit the tree. Trees that are exposed to strong wind should be staked to prevent it from being damaged. Whips and small, branched trees can be supported with a 2 x 2 wood stake. It should be driven 18 to 24 inches into the hole before the tree is planted. It needs to be next to the rootball of a containerized plant or several inches from the trunk if the tree is bare-rooted. When the tree is planted, tie it loosely to the stake with a soft tie, but not one that will rot off quickly. If the tree is tied tightly it won't develop a strong trunk. To stake a larger tree, you will need two or three 2 x 2 stakes spaced equally around the hole. Pieces of strong wire should be cut each one long enough to reach from the stake to the trunk and back around with several inches extra for twisting the ends together and for a bit of slack. Pieces of garden hose, 6 to 8 inches in length, should be cut and slipped onto the wire where it will encircle the trunk to protect the tree from being cut. The wires should be placed about halfway up the trunk, close together. Spread a good layer of mulch around the tree keeping it 2 inches from the trunk to prevent fungus and rodents from damaging the tree. Each variety will be reviewed below for their specific cultivation requirements.
Chill requirements - Temperate zone, deciduous trees need a certain amount of chill hours each year. If they don't receive enough cold, flower production may be infrequent and meager and the plant itself may weaken. Trees begin to accumulate chill hours as soon as they lose their leaves in the fall. In most of North America, there is plenty of time from November to December and from February to March to accumulate chill hours. In areas with mild winters, there is a limited amount of fruit trees and hybrids that can be grown; therefore, ask your supplier which kinds are suitable for growing in your area. The ideal chilling temperature is 45º F, though the range is between 32º F and 55º F. Temperatures above 55º F actually cancel out some chill time that has been accumulated and temperatures below 32º F reduce the amount of time accumulated per hour down to none at 32º F and below.
Almond - (More information on the Almond will be added.)
Apricot - Apricots are placed in separate categories for canning, preserves and fresh market uses, depending on the keeping qualities, taste and color of the fruits. However, any type that you grow will be better than one that is store bought, so the most important objectives are choosing one that is suitable for your climate and has resistance to diseases. European Apricots grow well wherever Peaches grow. They won't survive in climates where temperatures fall below 20º or 30º F. Varieties have been developed that differ in their tolerance for heat and cold. Asian Apricots are hardier than the European varieties and can be grown in climates where temperatures do not fall below -20º F. If your climate is subject to fickle spring weather, choose a late-blooming variety. If your spring is cool and dreary, choose cultivars, such as 'Pudget Gold', that are good pollinators and plant more than one tree. If your summers are hot and humid, choose one that is highly resistant to diseases; heat and humidity foster pests and disease. If your winters are mild, choose a European variety with low chill requirements and if they are harsh, choose a hardy variety with Asian descent. Once you've decided which varieties will be right for your climate, you can choose one based on its fruit taste, tree size, etc. The tree's eventual size is an important aspect to think about, especially if you have limited space. Standard-sized trees should be planted at about 25 feet apart, semi-dwarfs at about 15 feet, and dwarfs at about 6 feet. Choose a spot that receives full sun and shelter from harsh winds. If late spring frosts are a problem in your area, plant the tree on a north-facing site to help delay flowering. Do not plant your trees in ground that becomes waterlogged; they will never survive. Apricots need deep, loose, well-drained soil, but they cannot tolerate drought. Regularly water the trees deeply - at least once a week during dry spells. The shoots should grow from 15 to 20 inches each year when watered well; if not, the soil's fertility may be low and a layer (1 or 2 inches thick) of well-rotted manure should be spread around the tree, or packaged fertilizers may be used. Fertilizers should be given early in the spring. Apricots can be grown in light soil if they are grafted onto peach or apricot rootstocks; if your soil is heavier, choose trees that were grafted on plum roots. Most Apricot fruits are borne on one- to three-year-old spurs, which are short, stubby branchlets. They produce for only a few years, but new ones are constantly developing on lateral buds from the previous year's growth, especially if branching has been encouraged by lightly pruning every year or two to remove old fruiting spurs. Asian Apricots, which are shrubby, should be thinned by removing branches to the trunk. Pruning on any Apricots should be done just after flowering, while the trees are still leafless, to allow a good view. The trees will bloom too early if they are pruned before flowering, in the winter or early spring. Standard and semi-dwarf Apricots should be pruned in a way to keep the height down and to allow air and light to penetrate the interior. When the young tree is first planted, three or four scaffold branches (scaffold branches are vigorous growers, spaced 6 to 8 inches along the trunk and staggered around the trunk, not right above each other - these form the main framework of the tree) should be chosen. Prune out all others. The second year, the central leader should be cut back to about 31/2 feet above the lowest scaffold branch; for dwarf trees, cut at about 2 or 21/2 feet. At this time, cut back the scaffold branches to force them to produce secondary branches. The buds that will eventually form the secondary branches should be pointing away from the center of the tree. Subsequent pruning should consist of rubbing out any sprouts coming from the trunk. Once the tree has reached the desired height, usually about 6 feet, with five to eight scaffold branches, cut back the leader even with the top scaffold branch and thin and trim back the scaffold branches to induce fruit-producing wood to grow. European Apricots begin to produce fruit at about four or five years of age. Asian Apricots begin to bear as early as three years of age. Apricots are ready for picking by mid-summer - from early July through mid-August depending on the variety you have. They are ready to harvest when all green color has disappeared, the flesh yields to gentle thumb pressure, and they smell wonderful. Taste a couple before harvesting the whole crop. The fruit will last a week or two in the refrigerator. Apricots are closely related to the Almond and you can eat the pits of some of the specially developed hybrids. The variety 'Stark Sweetheart' produces fruits with large, edible, sweet pits inside the stony heart. Older varieties and seedling-grown trees often drop their ripe fruit at once, but newer hybrids wait for you to pick them. The fruits ripen over about one and a half weeks. Pull off the fruit with a slight upward twist, taking care not to damage the spur, which will bear again the following year. To help protect your trees against pests and diseases, clean up any dropped fruit and leaves and cut out any diseased twigs or deformed fruits. Some pests and diseases of Apricots include the Oriental fruit moth, Plum curculio, the Peachtree borer, Brown rot, Verticillium wilt and Bacterial spot.
Cherry - Sweet and Sour Cherries are fairly easy to grow in the northern two-thirds of the U.S. It is more difficult to grow them farther South because of the humidity and heat, which harbors pests and disease. Sour Cherries, which are smaller and more tolerant of cold and heat, are easier to grow than sweet Cherries. They are self-pollinating so you don't have to plant two kinds. Sour Cherries also bloom later, which makes them less vulnerable to harm from late spring frosts. Because of the fact that Cherries bloom early in the spring and are susceptible to damage from late spring frosts, the site for growing Cherries should be slightly higher and sloped than the surrounding ground to prevent frosty air from settling in the low spots. They should be placed in a sheltered location with full sun, in soil that is deep, fertile and moist, but well drained. Full sun exposure is necessary to produce delicious Cherries and strong trees. Trees grown in shade will produce spindly branches and fewer cherries that are less sweet. Sweet and sour Cherries are susceptible to most of the same problems. Maintaining a clean area is very important to keeping pest and diseases problems down. Diseased fruit, leaves, and prunings should be removed immediately and either burned to kill insect larvae and disease spores or destroyed in a hot compost pile. Bird problems can be prevented by planting your trees near people or pets and by netting. Some common problems are Plum curculio, Brown rot, cherry fruit flies, cherry leafspot and bacterial canker.
Sour Cherry - Temperatures below -20º F. will kill your trees, though sour Cherries need about 1,000 chill hours in order to produce an abundant yield the following year (See Chill requirements above). There are two types of sour Cherries; Morello Cherries have red juice and flesh while Amarelle Cherries have clear juice and yellow flesh. Sour Cherries need very well drained soil. If you have heavier soil, trees grown on Mazzard roots will do better though they will grow larger. At planting time, trim off all the side branches, but don't shorten the leader. The next season, choose a branch about 30 inches above the ground for the first scaffold branch (scaffold branches are vigorous growers, spaced 6 to 8 inches along the trunk and staggered around the trunk, not right above each other - these form the main framework of the tree) and then two or three more along the trunk. Only branches with wide angles should be chosen. Prune off all other branches. Trim back the longer scaffold branches to the length of the shorter ones. Now, cut the leader back to a bud that would be the next reasonable position for another scaffold branch. During the subsequent years, pruning should be light; the object is to develop a structurally sound tree. After the second or third year, more scaffold branches should be selected. Branches that cross or compete with the main scaffold branches should be removed. When the tree matures and begins to bear fruit, the weak, thin branches in the center of the tree should be thinned out to allow the sun to shine through. Sour Cherries produce flowers on short-lived spurs or one-year old branch tips. Branches become unfruitful after 3 to 5 years of age and should be cut out. To make the tree smaller and the cherries larger, pinch back new growth during the two weeks prior to ripening. Sour Cherries begin to bear in their third or fourth season and their fruits begin to ripen about 60 days after bloom. Cherries will only stay good about a week in the refrigerator.
Sweet Cherry - Sweet Cherries can be grown a little farther south than sour Cherries. Like sour Cherries, sweet Cherries can not handle temperatures lower than -20º F and they require less chill time - between 600 and 700 hours (See Chill requirements above). There are two kinds of sweet Cherries, crisp- or soft-fleshed. The crisp-fleshed kinds are more popular, but harder to grow, because they tend to split as they approach ripeness and are then susceptible to brown rot. This is because cherries absorb moisture through their skin and when they swell, they split. Very susceptible varieties will crack in a mist or light rain and are therefore usually grown in the dry Far West. Besides the fact that sweet Cherries bloom early and are liable to damage from late spring frosts, they also grow tall. Even a tree on Mazzard roots will reach 20 feet. When the trees grow tall it is difficult to net them to protect against birds. Varieties grown on GM and Gisela dwarfing rootstocks are better since they will only reach a height of about 10 feet. Most sweet Cherries need a pollinator and it has to be one that is compatible. To find the correct match, ask your supplier. Several self-fertile varieties however, have been introduced and these can be grown in the garden by themselves. A universal pollinator, though not self-fertile itself, is Stark Gold. It is the hardiest of the sweet Cherries, surviving temperatures as low as -30º F. Sweet Cherries are planted as described in the section for planting fruit trees. Once they are planted, choose a scaffold branch (scaffold branches are vigorous growers, spaced 6 to 8 inches along the trunk and staggered around the trunk, not right above each other - these form the main framework of the tree) about 30 inches off the ground and then choose four or five more that are staggered along the trunk. They should be 12 inches apart for trees on Mazzard roots and 8 inches apart for trees on dwarf rootstocks. The scaffold branches shouldn't grow sharply up from the trunk, an angle of 45º or more from the trunk is best. Young scaffold branches can be trained to do this by inserting a wooden wedge or a weight on the branch to open them up. Increasing branch angles is beneficial because it prevents the crotches from splitting therefore making the tree susceptible to diseases. Once you've chosen your main branches, prune out any others. Some kinds produce clusters of branches at the same height on the trunk. They should be cut off to leave only two or three at any height. The leader branch should be cut back at about 3 feet above the lowest scaffold branch. After the main framework is established, they need little pruning except to cut back scaffold branches that outgrow the leader. Sweet Cherries that are at bearing age should be pruned lightly. Weak branches in the center of the tree and broken and dead branches should be removed. In late summer, branches that are less fruitful should be removed; this restricts growth and improves fruit production. In areas where late spring frosts are a threat, delay pruning until after they bloom the following spring. Beginning right after the fruit sets, you can lighten a heavy crop by pruning two- and three-year-old branches and thin excessive new growth. Branches that seem to shade and outgrow others and those that have thicker growth with large buds spaced far apart should be cut back or completely off, in the spring. Sweet Cherries begin producing heavily in their fifth season. The cherries will only remain good for a week if refrigerated right away.
Nectarine & Peach - Nectarines and Peaches are sensitive to extreme winter cold as well as a variety of pests and diseases. There are many Peaches, but few Nectarines, from which to choose. Since pests and diseases vary from place to place, ask your nursery person or some other knowledgeable person on what type is best for you. Once you've found what varieties are best, you can choose according to what qualities you desire, such as the times you want to harvest, how you plan to use your fruits, etc. For most gardens, smaller trees are the best choice. Dwarfing rootstocks are used to keep the trees from 6 to 10 feet high. Some Peaches and Nectarines are natural dwarfs. The Nectarine, 'Garden Beauty', is a genetic dwarf that only grows from 4 to 6 feet high. 'Compact Redhaven' and 'Compact Elberta' are genetic dwarf Peaches that stay small. Peaches and Nectarines are cultivated exactly the same way. These trees need a sunny position in moist, well-drained soil that isn't too dry and has a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. The top layer of the soil should be loose and light and heavier underneath, such as loamy or sandy soil. This is so the crown of the tree stays dry to prevent diseases. If your spring weather is predictable and there isn't a threat of late spring frosts, plant your tree halfway up a south-facing slope or on the south side of your house or garden. If late spring frosts are typical where you live, plant your tree on the north side to delay flowering in the spring. Standard-sized trees should be planted 8 to 20 feet apart from other trees and dwarfs should be spaced at about 6 to 10 feet apart. These trees need regular, deep waterings, especially as the fruits are developing. If rain is scarce, water deeply every week and mulch heavily to save moisture. A healthy tree should grow from 12 to 18 inches a year. They grow well in soil with average fertility. A layer of compost (about 2 inches thick) placed around the tree should be enough. If growth is much less or if the foliage has a reddish-purple or yellowish-green tint, test your soil for nutrients. If necessary, add fertilizer early in the spring to allow new growth plenty of time to harden before winter. If you fertilize your trees when they don't even need it or just too much, they will produce an abundance of tender, new growth that will be attacked by pests or killed off by winter cold. Peaches and Nectarines should be pruned and trained to have an open center to allow sun to reach the interior. This takes two or three years, at which time they should be ready to bear fruit. These trees produce fruit on one-year-old wood only, so they must be pruned yearly to remove the old wood and allow new growth to develop for the following year's crop. You should ordinarily prune your tree late in the winter or early in the spring, while it is dormant. You should prune in dry weather only. When you first plant your tree, look to see if it has a central leader. If so, cut it off 4 to 6 inches above the base of the highest branch. Choose three or four scaffold branches (scaffold branches are vigorous growers, spaced 6 to 8 inches along the trunk and staggered around the trunk, not right above each other - these form the main framework of the tree) and cut off the rest. Cut the leader off just above the highest scaffold. In late winter of the second season, trim back the scaffolds to induce secondary branching. That summer, thin shoots at the base of the branches to keep the center open and airy. The third and succeeding seasons, remove any sprouts coming from the trunk, and thin as necessary to maintain an open head. Don't worry about pruning away your crop. These trees are overbearers and even with the tree naturally thinning the crop by dropping fruit in the summer, you will most likely have to hand thin the crop or else it will become too heavy for the tree. If, after the natural drop, the fruits are closer than 6 inches apart, they will need to be reduced. Peaches and Nectarines are susceptible to many pests and diseases. To help control these problems, be aware of growing populations of insects. Cut off sick foliage as soon as you spot it and always keep the areas under and around your trees free of fallen fruit or leaves. Some common problems are Peach leaf curl, the Oriental fruit moth, Peachtree borer, Plum curculio, Perennial canker, Brown rot and Bacterial leaf spot. The fruits of these trees ripen in mid-summer and autumn, depending of the variety. Each tree ripens over a week or two. Pick them when all green is gone. Ripe fruit will readily detach from the tree with a slight twist. Handle them carefully, as they bruise easily. Ripe fruit will stay good in the refrigerator for about a week.
Plum - Choosing a variety should first be based on the tree's tolerances to your region's climate, pests and diseases. You can ask your nursery person or county extension agent specializing in fruit. The next considerations should be to size and hardiness. Most Plums are grafted onto rootstocks, which will affect the tree's hardiness and rate of growth as well as resistance to pests and diseases and tolerance of certain soil. The most popular rootstock for European varieties is 'Myrobalan'. Trees grown on these roots usually reach a height of up to 20 feet. Some selections of this rootstock are resistant to nematodes and canker and can be grown in heavy, clay soil. 'Marianna 2624' is resistant to oak root fungus and tomato ring spot virus. There are also dwarfing rootstocks that are used on certain larger-growing Japanese and European varieties. American native plum rootstocks are often used as rootstocks for plums suited to cold-winter areas. Most plums need cross-pollination in order to produce a good crop, but many will bear a small crop if grown alone. Trees that are paired for cross-pollination need to bloom at the same time. Some varieties are self-fruitful. Plums are usually sold as one-year-old trees, about 3 to 6 feet high. They can be planted in the spring or fall in mild-winter areas. Choose a sunny location for your tree. If your spring weather is variable, plant your Plum on a north-facing slope, which will delay blooming by a week or two. Since these trees tend to sucker, it is better to plant them at the edge of a garden so the suckers can easily be mowed or snipped off. Plums do well in average garden soil and in heavier clays. They love moist soil, but will die in waterlogged soil. Plums are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a disease common to many garden vegetables. Therefore, it is wise not to plant your trees near your vegetable garden or in soil where these plants have been grown in the past several years. Plant trees that are to cross-pollinate next to each other. Standard sized trees should be 20 feet apart; semi-dwarfs, about 15 feet apart; and dwarfs, about 8 feet apart. Plums don't need a lot of care. They have shallow roots, but are fairly drought resistant. They will do well if the are watered deeply every once in a while. It would be beneficial to mulch the soil out to the drip line. The need for nutrients varies from tree to tree, depending on the variety and age. Observing the growth of your tree is the best way to know how much to fertilize. European plums should grow at the rate of 12 inches per year, measured on a young shoot; Japanese plums should grow 15 to 20 inches. A 2-inch layer of compost should be spread around the trunk in early spring. The compost should go under the mulch, so just pull back the mulch and spread the compost underneath. Fertilizing too much will cause young, weak growth that is susceptible to disease and pests. If fertilizing is necessary, do it early in the spring so the new growth will have time to harden before winter. Pruning can consist of only removing damaged, dead, or diseased wood. All plums will benefit from being thinned to allow good air circulation, but for the strongest tree, training and selective pruning are the best ways. Pruning should be done after flowering, while the branches are still leafless. Plums grow on long-lived fruiting spurs. European plums bear on spurs in the center of the tree, therefore, thinning the foliage and twiggy branches will allow better ripening. European plums should be pruned in the central-leader method, which is having a pyramidal-shaped tree with a single, upright growing tip at the top of the trunk and several well-placed scaffold branches (scaffold branches are vigorous growers, spaced 6 to 8 inches along the trunk and staggered around the trunk, not right above each other - these form the main framework of the tree) rising up from the trunk. Japanese plums do best when trained in the open-center method, which is a low, airy tree with three or four scaffold branches (scaffold branches are vigorous growers, spaced 6 to 8 inches along the trunk and staggered around the trunk, not right above each other - these form the main framework of the tree) and a lot of fruit-bearing wood. This method is eventually created by thinning crowded branches and those crossing the center of the tree by cutting back to an outward facing bud or branch. American plums are naturally shrubby trees. They usually do not require pruning, but if they are very dense, some thinning will make harvesting the fruit easier. To avoid the problems associated with heavy crops, it will be necessary to thin the fruits. Around early to mid-summer, the trees naturally drop fruit, though probably not enough. After this happens, remove all but the best plum per cluster or spur; leave from 4 to 6 inches between fruits. Plums are ready to be harvested when they fall into your hand with a gentle twist. If you have to pull, the fruit isn't ready. A ripe plum will also be sweet, not tart. Japanese plums can be picked before they are completely ripe, since they will finish ripening off the tree. European plums should be fully ripe before they are picked, but make sure they don't get too ripe and mushy. American plums should be picked when they are soft and ripe. If you are picking them to be eaten fresh, leave the stem attached to the fruit. Be careful when picking plums, so they don't bruise. Don't leave them on the tree, as they will eventually rot. They can be stored for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. European plums can be sun-dried without removing the pit. Some common pests and diseases of Plums include Plum curculio, Oriental fruit moth, Black knot, Brown rot, Verticillium wilt, Perennial canker, and Bacterial spot.
PROPAGATION: (More information will be added.)
Cherry - Cherries are increased by budding them on seedling stocks in the nursery and they are sold for planting stock as one- or two-year-old trees.
Nectarine & Peach - These are grafted onto selected varieties.
P. dulcis & var. Macrocarpa;
P. glandulosa & var. Alba Plena, Sinensis;
P. tenella & var. Fire Hill.
European Apricots - Aprigold, Autumn Royal, Blenheim (Royal), Early Gold (Early Golden, Earligold), Floragold (Flora Gold), Harcot, Harglow, Hargrand, Harval, Henderson, Moorpark, Nugget, Puget Gold, Royal Rosa, Snowball, Stark Sweetheart, Wenatchee Moorpark (Wenatchee), Tilton, Riland, Perfection. Asian & Hybrid Apricots - Brookcot, Moongold, Scout, Sungold, Sunrise, Westcot. Flowering - P. armenica & var. Ansu, Charles Abraham; P. mume & var. Alboplena, Alphandii, Beni-shidare, Flore Plena, Omoi-no-mama.
Sweet - Seneca, Early Rivers, Lyons, Black Tartarian, Victor, Yellow Spanish, Emperor Francis, Napolean, Schmidt, Bing, Geant d'Hedelfingen, Lambert, Windsor, Emperor, Kristin, Lambert, Lapins (Starkrimson)(Self-pollinator & pollinates others), Napolean (Royal Ann), Sam, Stark Gold (Good pollinator for others), Stella (Self-pollinates), Summit, Van. Sour - Meteor, Montmorency, Morello, North Star, Early Richmond, English Morello. Flowering Cherry - P. 'Accolade'; P. avium & var. 'Plena; P. besseyi; P. cerasus 'Rhexii'; P. cistena; P. 'Hally Jolivette'; P. 'Hillieri'; P. hillieri 'Spire'; P. incisa & var. Kojo Nomai, Praecox; P. jamasakura; P. japonica; P. Kursar; P. laurocerasus & var. Castlewellan, Cherry Brandy, Green Carpet, Magnoliifolia, Marbled White, Mischeana, Mount Vernon, Otto Luyken, Reynvaanii, Rotundifolia, Schipkaensis, Zabeliana; P. lusitanica & subsp. azorica & var. Myrtifolia, Variegata; P. maackii; P. nipponica var. kurilensis 'Ruby'; P. Okame; P. padus & var. Albertii, Colorata, commutatt, grandiflora, plena, watereri; P. pandora; P. pensylvanica; P. Pink Shell; P. prostrata; P. pumila var. depressa; P. sargentii & var. Rancho; P. serotina; P. serrula; P. serrulata & var. hupehensis, spontanea; P. Shosar; P. Snow Fountain, P. Snow Goose; P. subhirtella & var. Autumnalis, Autumnalis Rosea, Fukubana, Pendula, Pendula Plena Rosea, Pendula Rosea, Pendula Rubra, Stallate; P. tomentosa; P. triloba 'Multiplex'; P. Umineko; P. virginiana 'Shubert'; P. yedoensis & var. Ivensii, Shidare Yoshino, Tsubame; P. 'Amanogawa'; P. 'Asano'; P. 'Cheal's Weeping'; P. 'Choshu-hizakura'; P. Fugenzo; P. Hisakura'; P. 'Hokusai'; P. 'Ichiyo'; P. 'Jo-nioi'; P. 'Kanzan'; P. 'Kiku-shidare Sakura'; P. 'Mikuruma-gaeshi'; P. 'Mount Fuji'; P. 'Ojochin'; P. 'Pink Perfection'; P. 'Shimidsu'; P. 'Shirofugen'; P. 'Shirotae'; P. 'Shogetsu'; P. 'Tai Haku'; P. 'Tai Haku'; P. 'Taki-nioi'; P. 'Ukon'; P. 'Yedo-Zakura'.
Durbin, Fantasia, Flavortop, Garden Beauty, Garden Delight, Goldmine, Hardired, June Glo, Mericrest, Pocahontas, Red Chief, Red Gold, Sunglo, Sunred (Sun Red).
(Very Early Varieties) Desert Gold, Earligrande, Early Redhaven, Golden Monarch, Springold. (Early Varieties) Fairhaven, Florida King (Flordaking), Florida Prince (Flordaprince), Garnet Beauty, Golden Jubilee, Hale Haven, Harbelle, Harbrite, Harken, Newhaven, Redhaven (Red Haven), Redhaven Compact (Com-Pact Redhaven), Reliance, Sunhaven (Sun Haven), Ventura, Veteran. (Midseason Varieties) Belle of Georgia (Georgia Belle), Brighton, Candor, Champion, Dixired, Early Elberta (Improved Early Elberta, Kim Early Elberta), Hale, Nectar, Ranger, Raritan Rose. (Late Varieties) Angelus, Elberta, Fay Elberta (Gold Medal), Indian Free, Redskin, Stump-the-World, Sunapee. Flowering - P. persica & var. Peppermint Stick; P. amygdalo-persica 'Pollardii' (A cross between the Peach and Almond.).
European Prune Plums - Bluefree, Earliblue, Early Italian, Early Laxton, Fellenburg, French Petite, Imperial Epineuse, Italian, Mount Royal, President, Seneca, Stanley, Victoria. Gage (Reine Claude) Plums - Bryanston Gage, Count Althan's (Count Althan's Gage), Green Gage (Reine Claude), Imperial Gage (Reine Claude Imperiale), Pearl. Japanese Plums - Au Amber, Au Producer, Au Roadside, Au Rosa, Black Amber, Burbank, Catalina, Crimson, Duarte, Elephant Heart (Burbank Elephant Heart), General Hand, Homeside, Mariposa, Methley, Morris, Ozark Premier, Purple Heart, Red Heart (Redheart), Santa Rosa & var. Santa Rosa Late, Santa Rosa Weeping, Satsuma (Blood Plum), Shiro, Starking Delicious, Wickson. American Plums - American Plum, Beach Plum, Cherry Plum, Klamath Plum. Japanese-American Hybrids - Alderman, Ember, LaCrescent, Pipestone, South Dakota, Superior, Tecumseh, Underwood, Waneta. Flowering - P. bireana; P. cerasifera & var. Hessei, Newport, Nigra, Pissardii, Thundercloud.
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