First property, big plans, any advice? Zone 8a, Raleigh NC (berries, figs, asian pear, lemon, etc.)

Hi all, I’m closing on a .4 acre property in Holly Springs NC, zone 8a, on the 29th–our first house! I’ve already toured the place a few times and made a sun map based on some online tools, and due to the whole property being on a slightly South facing slope most areas get 6-9 hours of sun in the summer, even areas right up against the privacy screen of holly/etc. I have been lurking the forums for the past year, trying to decide what to do, but now the dreaming is going to become a reality soon, since I want to get planting the very first weekend I move in before plants start breaking dormancy. I should stress, I know nothing first hand, so am so happy to have read so much on these forums from experienced growers! I’m planning to get the following from a local nursery, Rabbit Ridge Farm, since I suspect I’ll get larger and higher quality plants in person and I like to support local business when possible:


  • Apache (5 gal)
  • Triple Crown (3 gal)

I’ve read both can suffer from orange rust (and people often refer to TC as too much trouble, though I couldn’t find why), but these are the sweetest varieties they carry and have in stock. I want berries as soon as possible, so I’d rather take a small chance on pretty good plants of large size, rather than get twigs shipped to me so I can get Ponca, which seems to be the fave around here. Unless I’m over-estimating how important pot size is in getting fruit quickly? I can try netting them with insect netting during fruiting to stop SWD (since I’ve read these aren’t early enough to avoid the SWD season here) and cut back on sun to avoid white druplet, which I’ve also read on these forums can be a problem with Apache. Good plan or no?


  • Amity Red (2 gal)
  • Fall Gold (2 gal)
  • Ohio’s Treasure (2 gal)

Red, yellow, and black. For this area, they recommend pruning them back to the ground so you only get a fall crop on primocanes each year, so that’s the plan.


  • Vernon (5 gal, rabbiteye) - early enough to avoid SWD
  • Ochlockonee (3 gal, rabbiteye) - highly recommended on these forums
  • Legacy (3 gal, SHB) - most recommended SHB on these forums
  • Star (3 gal, SHB) - second most recommended SHB

I thought I’d try the SHB for flavor and size, decent being a bit more fickle in this area. Do I actually need Star or will Legacy cross pollinate with the rabbiteyes? Should I give up on SHB and go with a Brightwell and maybe another Vernon which I won’t have to net for SWD? How important is amending sulphur if I’m already planting into red clay/Piedmont?


  • Green Ischia (3 gal)
  • Violette de Bordeaux (3 gal)

Would love to get my hands on Smith as well, but maybe I’ll order it online elsewhere at a later date. Primary concern here is getting something delicious that will be trouble free in the humidity down here, which these seem to be from reviews. How big do these naturally small varieties get? Will they grow decently in a year or two? I’d like 5-6ft trees so they’re as big as I can easily maintain without a ladder.


  • Mulberry, Dwarf Everbearing (5 gal)

The only variety they carry. I just wanted something to put in the back corner (away from anything that could be stained) that wouldn’t be much trouble, and my wife likes mulberries.

  • Meyer Lemon (5 gal, dwarfing rootstock)

We always wanted one for our future sunroom, but the sunroom is Northwest facing on this house, so I was hoping to nestle this in a small South-facing corner (corner only extends a foot or two East, so not much of a corner, but partly obscured by a holly 20 feet to the South, when the sun is low during winter) against the house’s brick facade for radiant heat. Then I’ll cover it in frost cloth whenever the night temps go below 40. Worth a try?

Stuff I’ll have to order via online nurseries…


  • Korean Giant, Asian
  • Shinko, Asian
  • Warren, Euro

I love Asian pears, and these are reportedly fireblight resistant. I thought I’d throw in Warren just for fun (supposed to be a disease resistant pear that isn’t grainy, which sounds like something I’d like), as conflicting reports say it’s either partially self-fruitful in some climates, or can be pollinated by Asian pears. Worth a try? I’m not seeing much of anything bare root left in stock, so guess they’ll be shipped in pots. How bad is that?


  • Jujube, Honey Jar
  • Persimmon, Saijo
  • maybe a feijoa
  • maybe a Jenny fuzzy kiwi

Just for some low maintenance stuff to help form a privacy screen by an iron fence on the Southern side of my backyard.


Any locals have recommendations on where/what to buy? Should I get a load of certified compost delivered from Area Mulch and Soils and a load of wood or leaf mulch, and store it with a tarp under and over it in my driveway? Or will it be way too much and I’m better off getting something sold by the bag at a nursery?

Should I really not amend the planting hole at all? Even if I make a gradient with 100% compost as a top dress, going down to 5% compost a foot or two down? I know I need to rough up the hole edges to prevent the clay soil from forming a barrier the roots can’t get through. And that I need to keep the root flare above the soil line, and plant in mounds for better drainage.

Anything else? Am I on the right track? Is my wife right to think I’m becoming overly obsessed with fruit trees and bushes? Weigh in on the controversy!

Thanks for reading and helping with my first big project as a homeowner! Next will be getting some raised beds set up… :slight_smile:


Get something sure fire and relatively low maintenance for your area first. Even if its not your favorite fruit.

Don’t feel like you have to plant it all in year one.

I’m not organic, so it was easy for me, but you might want to start your own compost heap of wood chips. You get them at the transfer station in your pickup truck or maybe that Chipdrop organization. I fire them off (It heats up a lot with N) with Urea fertilizer or better, lots of chicken manure if you can get it . You want enough so that you don’t have to skimp, and still have a big pile starting next year even after using some this year.
I guarantee you that by this time next year your own stuff will be better than the commercial pile for various reasons. (Although there’s nothing wrong with buying some to start.)

I thought it worthwhile to sift and analyze the end product. So for the price of a test, (about $30) now I have a little recipe of grams of this and that micronutrients to bring it up to “rich loam” standards. But no more than that. The micronutrients themselves are of inconsequential cost.

The conventional wisdom is to not amend the planting hole and through trial and error, I think that I subscribe to that. A couple of hands full of sopping wet peat moss isn’t going to hurt anything. But the wood chip compost I just described would work better leaching slowly down as a mulch. The critters really do bring it under for you just like they describe in the gardening books.

Get some Ph strips and distilled water. I just stick them in the ground, put water around and read. Probably you should use filter paper and a more representative sample at first.



I’m on coming up on my 4th year on my place. My advice is to take it somewhat slow. You should definitely get a bunch of stuff planted, but don’t rush it too much, because over the next few years you are going to learn a bunch about your property that may make you wish you had done things differently.

There are likely areas on your property with better soil where needy plants should go, and areas that get better morning sun, and areas that get too much water, and areas that get less frost, and areas where you might like a small pond.

You can plant everything you would ever want now, but you might get a few things wrong.

Even in that case it’s a good learning experience though.


Congrats man!

I’m be curious how your TC and Asian pears do, the pears after some years in ground especially.

Finches Blueberry nursery in Bailey. They have the best prices in the area and are within driving distance of you.
The user on here called Blueberryhill has more experience with your climate and soil, but I’ll say loads of organic matter never hurt for blueberries, especially SHB.

Yeah, it’s hard without spending $$$. I’ve got a small one, if it puts on good growth I could get you some cuttings in a year or two. I also have Colonel Littman’s Black Cross, if that interests you and you don’t mind waiting.

Green Ischia and VdB for me weren’t nearly as vigorous as say LSU Purple, they only put on two to three feet of growth in their first year as opposed to three or four haha. But yeah, you can prune figs to pretty much whatever size you like, they’ll still produce. Just me personally, but I’d get or make a small step stool type thing, because once established most figs can easily get well above 6 feet tall in a summer even if pruned down hard every winter.

My Meyer has been fine taking light frosts unprotected without damage. Early in the winter before it was dormant I wrapped it in incandescent Christmas lights and covered it with a tarp for the first few frosts and now that it’s dormant I have done so anytime it gets below 26 F or so. Meyer can survive low twenties, but it’ll probably take damage at that point.

Come November or thereabouts, head over to the JC Raulston and taste the Dunstan citromelo they have. If you like it, they’re completely hardy in Raleigh, Woodlanders sells small ones and Stan “the Citrus Man” McKenzie sells bigger grafted ones for about the same price

Feijoa is very low maintenance, probably tied with jujube for easiest fruit in our climate. But both are not very fast growing.

I’ve never tried kiwi, but everything I’ve ever seen about them is that they aren’t low maintenance at all. You’ll need to erect a mighty trellis, and you’ll need to prune a lot. I believe late frosts are a big issue with them.

Yes. The wife is always right. Buy first and beg for forgiveness :wink:

She’ll warm up to it once they start producing, especially if there’s a small kid or three who enjoy going outside with Papa to eat while Mama gets left alone.


Thanks for the advice. Yes, I’m avoiding all the stone fruit for that reason, despite how much I like them I’ve been warned off them completely for this area by reading these forums. Maybe one day if I want to dial in a spray schedule!

Ok, sounds like I won’t be amending the hole, just topdressing and mulching. The right way isn’t always intuitive, so it’s nice to hear from those more experienced.

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Yes, I definitely am trying to balance time and money here – though the local nursery prices are seeming more and more reasonable when weighed against waiting extra seasons! I’ve already resigned myself to some initial failures and learning experiences.

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Thanks for all the great advice! I’ll definitely update on the progress of everything I’ve got as the seasons progress. And I’ll check out Finches – about the same distance as Rabbit Ridge, but East instead of South. Do you happen to have any experience with Rabbit Ridge?

I can’t even imagine where I’ll be at in a year or two, but thanks for the offer for cuttings. And 2-3ft of growth is bad? Ok, good, I’m going to like figs then haha.

What you said about Meyer Lemon perfectly matches one of my fave YouTubers, Millenial Gardener (from Wilmington NC). Even down to the Stan McKenzie recommendation! I see Stan charges $25 (plus shipping) for a 1 gal tree – how much growth/time am I losing out on if I get a 1 gal plant in the mail vs a 5 gal plant ($55) locally and whack it in the trunk?

Also, any recommendations for feijoa varieties?

That’s a plan for a future season! :smiley:

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Congratulations! I feel the enthousiasm :wink:

I’d really be interested to know what you used for these :slight_smile: . is the best tool I found for free, linux-compatible (web-based) cumulative exposure calculation. It really has lots of room for improvement though.


Asking for clarification, are you saying that you are planning on buying bigger plants from the local nursery to save on waiting seasons?


That’s exactly right. Without shipping, the price ends up the same anyway. But I’m just assuming this will save time – very open to being corrected. I’ve read with bare root trees, at least, smaller can be better. Though I seem to have missed the timing window on bare root.


I’ve not been to Rabbit Ridge, so I can’t offer any info or compassion, sorry.

Yeah, figs grow fast, especially if you feed and water them plenty. Definitely a plus.

So for Meyer Lemon you’d be well served buying from a local place. I got mine at Lowe’s actually. It’s Dunstan citromelo that you’d need to get from someplace special. And only if you taste it first and decide you like it, citromelo isn’t for everyone. Terrifically hardy citrus though.

I have some seedling feijoa and a few of the New Zealand varieties, but I’ve not tasted any yet. By all accounts, the New Zealand varieties are very good and a significant improvement over anything else. I’ll probably get some fruit this year, but I hesitate to judge based on a young plant.


At the risk of showing my perhaps unhealthy levels of dedication, I used, paid the $2.50 for lidar tree/building height data for my area, decided it wasn’t quite accurate enough, used the (free) add building button (top right icon – draw polygon tool) and drew in rough estimates of all the major trees and hedges around the property with estimated heights, based on google maps and photos. Then, I manually made the sun map (colored in by hand in photoshop overtop of a screenshot of the google maps satellite image of the property), one for each solstice and the equinox, by scrubbing through the bottom bar on each date and seeing for roughly how many hours each place got sun.

Here is the one for the equinox:

Not super accurate, just trying to get a general idea for planning before I get any first hand experience with the property! Yellow is >6 hours. Blue is basically full shade. Green is in between.


My experience has been that there is a sort of sweet spot. You don’t want big potted trees because they seem to get stunted when planted as their roots are too consolidated in the pot. I planted some bigger potted trees when I first got our place and the bare root, or even less root bound potted trees, that I planted in subsequent seasons have almost all surpassed these original larger trees.

Potted isn’t necessarily bad, but I would avoid large potted trees. If that was my only option then ai would go ahead with the large potted trees, but I would prune them down to a stub, not cutting below the graft union, and I would thoroughly loosen up the root ball upon planting.


Thank you for sharing that link! I couldn’t help myself and bought the tree dataset as well, and it confirmed what I already knew, but was really fun to play with nevertheless. I’d say the tree data is nearly perfect for my yard, comparing what that shows to what I’ve seen myself. Here’s what it shows for my yard at noon on the winter solstice, when there’s basically no sun in my yard other than what hits the two large trees themselves.


Roughly what would be possibly too big? I’m new, so I have no idea. I’m seeing 1-5 gallon nursery pot sizes locally.

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I would say go with the lower gallon sizes mainly for prices sake, but when I say “too big” I’m mainly referring to the top growth of the tree. Nurseries like to sell these large looking trees because it impresses people who don’t know that the roots matter quite a bit more. The situation that I see with trees that have gotten a lot of “above pot” growth is that they are usually “root bound” meaning that the roots have filled up the pot and gotten so tangled that the tree will struggle to grow out into its new soil.


My trees are in 8A North Georgia, which is probably a similar climate with similar soil (though I bet our late freezes might be a bit worse).


You are probably overestimating the need for initial size – the U of Ark blackberries, at least, grow like weeds in our climate. I planted a bunch of pretty small Ponca plugs in early spring a few years ago. When I planted them in April, they looked like this:

A year later, by late May, they looked like this:

A day’s harvest in June:

They haven’t been particularly well-cared for, with minimal mulching and no fertilization or sprays. Yet they grow almost continuously, don’t shed their leaves in winter, and need to be pruned a lot to be kept under control.

I have Triple Crown also, but it does not grow as vigorously as Ponca for me. It is also less convenient for maintenance than the upright Poncas. I have not had issues with SWD on either (yet) and do not bother to net them. The birds take some, but there are plenty every year.

Dwarf mulberries

If you want a dwarf mulberry suitable for the 8A Southeast, I would recommend Gerardi aka Girardi aka Geraldi. I would further recommend that you order it from Lucille Whitman at Whitman Farms. This is because it is very difficult to get true-to-type mulberries – I ordered a purported Gerardi from Edible Landscaping, ordinarily a good nursery, and got something that was later determined to definitely not be Gerardi (and not even really a dwarf) – an experience shared by several others here. The mulberry experts here confirmed that the tree I got from Whitman Farms looks like the real deal.

Gerardi seems to be the only non-nigra mulberry that (1) is productive with pretty good fruit, and (2) is a true dwarf. Nigras like King James are also generally smaller, slow-growing trees and have outstanding fruit, but very few have success with them in the humid south – they usually succumb to leaf fungus. (Hasn’t stopped me from trying to grow them, but my expectations are low.)

Meyer Lemon

Maybe others’ experiences are different, but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for in-ground citrus this far north. Unless you can physically move it indoors or into an enclosed garage when it gets cold, I think it’ll get taken out by the cold, and sooner rather than later.


Figs do great in the region and grow vigorously, but sooner or later, a late freeze will kill them to the ground. You might try to make sure that your figs are on their own roots so that they will grow back true to type – this was a trick I missed. My rootstock figs are still okay for eating, but…


Your choices are all good pears – I have the same ones. Shinko is probably the most disease-resistant Asian pear, and it has good branch angles and a good habit (for a pear). It is also precocious – mine flowered on its second leaf and fruited on its third:

Although there are some reports that the fruit is bland in some climates, my nephew (who ate the fruit from this tree last year) said that it was crunchy, juicy and delicious.

I have a couple Korean Giants, and they are doing well, with no signs of disease or blight thus far. They flowered last year, but haven’t fruited yet. They seem to be more upright growers than Shinko, so you will want to be diligent about branch-bending.

I also have a couple of Warrens (along with some other European pears). They are only on their fourth leaf, so it will be a while before I expect to see any flowers or fruit. I have seen no evidence of any disease on my Warrens – they are healthy and vigorous – and they have a top reputation both for fruit quality (albeit shy and slow to bear) and disease resistance. Your Asians will pollinate your Warren if they are in bloom at the same time, but I’m not sure if that will be the case, and the specific overlap of bloom times differs from climate to climate. If you have naturalized callery pears nearby or in the woods, they can also pollinate your pears.


If you get Honey Jar, you will want a second variety for pollination. In the Southeast, I recommend Sugar Cane and/or So off-the-cuff, but there are plenty of others. I really like jujubes – easy to manage, delicious fruit, and relatively care free.


My Saijos haven’t fruited, but they are beautiful trees, with the best-looking foliage of any of my persimmons (glossy, large, dark green leaves). They require almost no care. I’ve heard that they can get pretty big, though. The non-astringents are maybe not quite as tasty as the astringents, but they are usually smaller trees than Saijo and can be eaten firm, and are still delicious.


I haven’t tried growing fuzzy kiwi, but I’ve been struggling with hardy kiwi for years. They don’t seem to be well-adapted here. They grow great during the growing season, but get wrecked by late freezes and early frosts.


I’d consider either using chipdrop or buying in bulk. You’re going to pay too much buying it by the bag.

Haha, she’s crazy. I can stop anytime… :sweat_smile:

Finally, echoing what @JerrytheDragon said – when you’re buying a fruit tree, you’re really buying a root system. The roots matter a lot more than the top for establishment and growth. When I first starting planting my little orchard, I did the newbie thing and paid extra for “big” trees, and got trees with a large top and skimpy roots or (worse) rootbound pots. I later got wiser and ordered more from nurseries like Just Fruits And Exotics, where the top might be little more than a whip but the roots were in a big pot and well-developed without being rootbound. These latter established faster and after a few years, were bigger, healthier trees than the rest.


The most fireblight resistant asian pears appear to be, ‘Shinko’, ‘Shin Li’, and ‘Daisui Li’. Yes ‘Korean Giant’ is moderately resistant, and so are ‘Shinsui’, and so is ‘Pai Li’. I have only begun getting pears myself, I made my first successful grafts last year, both asian and European varieties, and I am still to add to my collection.

I do not grow most types of fruit that you list, although where I live blueberries easily die, I hope that you have better luck.

Please check your messages!

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Yes, stone fruit is a nightmare in North Carolina. It’s mostly the pests, that go in the fruit for me, and it rains a lot here when I should be spraying for those worms.

I grow Improved Meyer Lemon, keep in mind it does not taste or smell much like a real lemon, they are great for making drinks/beverages, and even for cooking, yet they can not be an actual substitute for real lemons, they are a lot like mandarins.

I am trying to get a lemon variety that is way more like a real lemon, that is said to be about as cold hardy as Meyer lemon, yet it’s very hard to get.

Also the following are about as cold hardy as Meyer Lemon as well

  1. ‘Brown Select’ Satsuma (Early-October to Late-November)
  2. ‘Owari’ Satsuma (Mid-October to Early-January)
  3. ‘Kimbrough’ Satsuma (Mid-October to Early-December) tastes different than other Satsuma’s
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Thanks so much for the example pics – that definitely helps set expectations. I may order a plug of Ponca in that case. Those berries look incredible. Thanks for the recommendation of Whitman Farms and Just Fruits and Exotics (looks like they’ve got both Asian pears still in stock), as well as all the other info. This is great! I feel armed with some info when selecting plants at the nursery now. I’m glad all three varieties of pear I have my eye on have been healthy for you, that gives me some confidence. And I may as well throw the Warren in there right off the bat if it will be half a decade before I can expect fruit.