Hi all, first time posting here! Have lurked every now and then but finally decided to register. I would like plant trees and berry bushes and would greatly appreciate recommendations, since it’s kind of daunting at the start. We have neutral, well draining soil with plenty of sun and space. We are considered 6A but right on the border of 6B in western CT.
My most important criteria is flavor. I do not care about productivity as there are just 3 of us, and anything we cannot use will be preserved. It would be nice not to worry about a late frost destroying the season’s crop, but this is New England and the weather cannot be trusted. I have no objection to spraying if needed.
I am looking for:
Other berries I should consider? I’m not terribly fond of blueberries or blackberries, but I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever had blackberries from your average grocery store. I’ve always found them grassy tasting. I’ve never had a honeyberry and see they’re hardy to Z3, even Z2. What are they like?
Here’s what I’m looking for in fruit trees:
Nectarines - these seem like they’d be less reliable in 6A, but I’m just guessing that since many are listed as 6B or warmer, though I see a few Z5s. Thoughts?
Not sure about apples…I have access to a decent amount of heirloom apples from local orchards, and I’m generally far more satisfied with those than I am any of the above, whether they’re from the neighborhood grocery store or a small orchard, so I don’t feel compelled to have any, though I’d love to try Cox Orange Pippin and some others.
I’ve found potted blueberries easy in Richmond, VA (a 7a/7b area).
Brambles like raspberry & blackberry and their hybrids are also fairly easy, but you need to control canes early with supports of some kind. Otherwise you’ll have a bramble patch on your hands fairly quick. I’ve just started trying yellow raspberries and they seem to do ok here. You can probably grow purples and blacks too, as those are just out of reach here.
You should be able to grow currants & gooseberries, but they may not appeal to you. I’ve tried, but had the same heat/mildew problems that purples & black raspberries have.
You are probably not going to do well with sweet cherries. I’ve read on here that they are the most common fruit to fail to beat store bought with. I haven’t gotten a single one despite a multigraft cherry being one of my oldest trees.
I think scottfsmith is in your same zone, and he’s had decent success with peaches and nectarines. But if there aren’t any local orchards that grow stone fruit, there is likely a reason for that.
Apricots are probably right out, as are just about any kind of citrus that I know of.
That’s too bad to hear about sweet cherries! I guess just because it may be hardy doesn’t really mean much in beating the varieties at the store (I find nothing wrong with most store bought cherries, I’m just kind of a nerd about finding out about other varieties, I guess).
I’ve never had jujubes but I’m intrigued! How is it as a fresh fruit?
@Bobvance and @alan are geographically very close to you. I’m on the other end of the state, and I’m also a noob with tree fruits. @scottfsmith’s annual reports were very helpful for me when choosing apples. He had bad luck growing Cox’s Orange Pippen in Maryland. Here is his most recent apple report and here is a peach report from him.
For apples I went with GoldRush, Hoople’s Antique Gold (the pair is pretty redundant, both being Golden Delicious types), and Kidd’s Orange Red (a Cox child).
As for pears, I ordered Harrow Sweet based on this old post of Alan’s on Gardenweb. He also had a similar post about GoldRush apple, which I cannot find. He might be able to point you in the right direction as far as stonefruit cultivars go.
Have you ever had a really good blueberry, or just store bought? Connecticut’s the perfect zone for growing them.
I’m also in Fairfield county, but only about 5-6 miles from the ocean (er…Long Island sound).
Boysenberries make incredible jam, but are a bit acid/sour (in our climate in most years). I still like them fresh, but only when they are dead-ripe. They are also a pain in that they are thorny and trailing. Marionberry make incredible fruit, but they are thorny, trailing and would need winter protection. Among the “normal” blackberries, I like Triple Crown best. But you will need to watch out for SWD (and possibly spray). I don’t spray them- just avoid the mushiest berries with the worms…
Prelude is a good early variety. Anne (yellow) is the tastiest in my experience so far. It is also a bit more resistant to SWD. At least, you can pick them a bit less ripe and still have them be tasty, which helps you avoid the worms.
I haven’t found any strawberries which really blow me away. The organic ones from the store are usually as good or better. And strawberries are a lot of work- keeping the weeds out and protecting them from birds/animals. I’ve seen a lot of chipmunks running around with unripe berries in their mouths…
I’ve got several varieties and from what I can tell so far they are an earlier, more tart blueberry. They get eaten by birds just like blueberries. They may not be as tart if you let them hang longer (I’ve seen people say 3 weeks after turning blue), but they are long gone by then. I suppose netting them would be needed for that, but I haven’t bothered. Maybe when they get big enough, they can outproduce the bird’s appetite
For Euro’s Harrow Sweet is good and Magness is good if you are very patient. For Asian pears, Korean Giant would be #1. I also like Jillin, Mishirazu, and 20th Century.
I don’t bother with them anymore. Disease, insect, and cracking (rain) will damage the crop and possibly kill the tree. If you manage to get it to maturity, a bird will eat it. If you protect it from a bird, then it still won’t be anywhere near as good as the ones from the grocery store. Sour/pie/bush cherries aren’t bad- then you just need to worry about birds.
I am a big proponent of jujube. It is the vast majority of what I plant now. 20-30% sugar and no spraying. Texture is iffy for some varieties (a bit dry) and more apple-like for others. Honey Jar, Sugar Cane, and So would be good ones to start with which have good texture and produce here. My wife also likes dried ones in soup. Make absolutely sure they get full and complete sun. Without it, they produce very little.
I second Goldrush and Kidd’s Orange Red. I have Hooples grafted, but haven’t gotten fruit from it yet. I am a fan of another russet, Golden Russet which gets into the 20’s for brix. I would also add Sweet Sixteen to the list, as it has several very unusual flavors (I like it in the Cherry twizzler stage), though it isn’t especially productive.
As far as stone-fruit, I’m pretty happy with Loring peach (large and a bit sweeter than average). Carnival is a very good late September peach. Euro plums can be very good in this area. Empress tastes great (I’ve had them from both the farmer’s market and Alan’s yard) and Castelton is a good early variety. Lavina and Toka are both good Asian/American plum varieties. I also like Satsuma, but it may not be hardy for you, as you are a bit further north than me.
It seems like you may have already realized at least some of this, but I’ll offer a few very basic recommendations:
(1) Don’t trust any information in nursery catalogs. I’ve seen lots of bad and even flat out incorrect information in nursery catalogs, especially zone ratings. It seems like some nurseries will list a tree as zone 5 hardy if there’s a chance it might survive the warmest winter in the last 100 years that any zone 5 location has experienced (which is basically to say a zone 7 winter).
(2) Just because a tree (or bush/vine…) is cold hardy definitely doesn’t mean it’s viable in your location. Even though a tree may survive the winter fine, fluctuating spring temperatures may kill the bloom every year in your location so that you never get fruit or late winter/spring cold injury may kill the whole tree. In a particular location, especially in humid regions, pest or disease problems may be practically impossible to deal with even with every chemical available to commercial growers with pesticide licenses. Your growing season may not be long enough to mature fruit or to ripen it properly. And there may be other issues. As Bob suggests, there may be very significant climate differences even within the same county, such that a particular fruit tree might be far more reliable near a large temperature-moderating body of water or near the top of a north-facing slope with good cold air drainage but not elsewhere in the county. On the other hand, I think the most promising information you can get is what other growers in your county or otherwise very close are having success with (so long as they’re not using chemicals or winter protection or frost protection or bird protection or deer protection, etc. that you can’t or don’t want to use.)
(3) I would highly recommend looking beyond the common commercially available types of fruit. Some of the best fruits for growing in the home orchard are fruits you may not be very familiar with if you’ve mostly just bought fruit at the grocery store and even the farmers market. Some excellent fruits just aren’t very well known in the States, particularly some of the fruits that are fairly common in East Asia but not so well known in the rest of Eurasia. The climate in the eastern US is probably more similar to East Asia than the rest of Eurasia anyway, even though we have weaker links to East Asia in terms of our food culture. There are also some improved varieties of North American fruits that are excellent (even if not as different from the wild versions as some of the species that have been carefully bred for centuries in the Old World.) Other excellent fresh eating fruits are just really difficult to sell commercially because they’re really fragile or have extremely short shelf lives. Other fruits aren’t especially good for fresh eating but are outstanding as dried fruit or for baking or for jam or processed in other ways.
Bob’s list may be useful, but his method of orcharding is somewhat scattered and evaluations based on somewhat limited intervention and attention, which may be similar to how you will tend your trees, Bob has a full-time job and two beautiful girls, one of whom seems like a delightful hand-full- his youngest.
My relationship with fruit trees is much different as I have an extensive orchard on my property and also tend to about 100 other home-estate orchards. Quite a few are in CT. but only one near Danbury which sounds like might be near where you are. I’m, only a few minutes from Danbury and if you are in the hills above it, your conditions may be similar to mine. Night temps tend to get a few degrees below Danbury on my property.
Bob doesn’t yet focus on having peaches and nectarines for the entire length of the season and still buys fruit from other growers. My obsession in my own orchard is to extend the stone fruit harvest season from earliest to latest possible times with highest quality fruit possible. I started my orchard over 25 years ago and this has always been my ambition.
You can probably grow nectarines just fine, and most varieties. Their hardiness isn’t that much different than peaches, with some having more bud-hardiness than others. However, just because Flavor May peach is more likely to be wiped out by a late hard frost doesn’t stop me from wanting to grow it. Most years it provides tasty peaches in late June, way before any other early peach. Some great nectarines are also a bit more tender, but it isn’t because of extreme lows in winter, which is what zones are based on. We are in flux anyway, and Zone maps may be obsolete. Night lows seem to have risen even more than overall temps due to global warming. When I started, -15 was a pretty common winter low but we haven’t seen anything below -10F for years.
Nectarines are more prone to brown rot and stinkbug damage than peaches, but don’t really require much more spray input to overcome this problem if you have the best materials.
However, if you mean to grow organically, peaches are your best bet, and may still be difficult to keep from rotting once they are established. It will depend on the relative wetness of the season and the temperatures and maturity of fruit when they are wet.
I don’t have time this morning to compose a list of favorite varieties, but if you research prior posts you can find plenty of recommendations from me.
If your sweet cherry standard is Bing or Rainer, the varieties of sweet cherries that can grow well in New England probably won’t produce cherries as good as store-bought Bing. Growing cherries here needs spray for both insects and diseases but protection against birds.
As for E plum, I like Empress and Coe’s Golden Drop in addition to Castleton. E plums need cross pollination.
Satsuma is a good Asian plum. It needs another A plum for cross pollination.
Jujube taste, it depends on a person. My hubby barely can tolerate them. My friend loves them. My daughter does not eat them again. My friends can’t have enough of them. If you have Chinese grocery stores or supermarket nearby, you may want to check if they have jujubes for sale. Best to eat them before planting them. It also needs cross pollination.
Cross pollination can be done easily by grafting a compatible variety on to the mother tree. No need to buy all the trees. Good luck.
Guilty as charged. I’ve planted ~200 trees and grafted hundreds more varieties. But my list of true success is rather short. I basically planted everything and then waited to see what problems I would have. Then, gradually identifying and (hopefully) addressing them. It’s a good way to use up the better part of a decade. It’s still a work in progress, but I think I am getting better.
At least 1.5, if not 2. And that isn’t counting kids, sports, and fruit. I took a half day from my “normal” job today to get some stuff done on rentals and ended up not getting home until 9:30 (time to get the kids in bed). That must be what it’s like for Alan every day during pruning season. It’s also why I usually post after midnight.
The youngest is still a handful, but she is actually easier to deal with now than the older one. She’s reached her teens…
I have peaches/nectarines planted for almost the entire season- I just don’t succeed in getting fruit for the entire season. Rot, bugs, animals, under thinning, and/or under-pruning seem to keep me buying fruit, except for brief periods of excess. I’ll eventually have a year where all the issues are solved in the same year
I’ve got several late ones, including Heath Cling, Carnival, Pumpkin Spice, and grafts of a few others.
I should graft it- PF1 was my earliest, around July 4th, and I was never happy with the quality (fruiting 4+ times). So now I’ve removed it and Gold Dust is my earliest (I’ve only had twice, but was very good).
You’ve run into more people who don’t like them than me. I’ve brought them into work before and am struggling to recall anyone who didn’t like them. Then again, I work in IT, so there is a very high degree of immigrants, who could be more receptive to strange fruits.
I agree that Loring is a high quality peachy peach and it has several sports that share its quality but bare earlier in the season, such as Johnboy, which is as good as any I’ve had in its season. Loring is said to have delicate buds, susceptible to late frosts, but here it generally bares reliably.
These days I rely more on nectarines than peaches for my own use because they tend to have higher brix fruit and be more acidic, except the intentionally bred for low-acid varieties.
The low acid ones need to get very high brix to achieve their best quality and the problem for me is they are the hardest thing I try to grow to protect from animals. My Honey Royale crops lightly and I’ve only eaten a few of its fruit because all of my wildlife focuses on its light crop. The last time I tasted the fruit was a drought year and it had fruit with 28 brix, 10 points higher than I get on good years from other nectarines. It didn’t taste like a temperate climate fruit at all, more like something tropical and was very delicious in its own way.
Early nectarines don’t require more spray for me than early peaches because I have to protect both from brown rot from July on but nects seem to require spray right up until two weeks before harvest while peaches have always been fine for me with a month interval between last spray and harvest.
However, peaches are much more likely to produce sound fruit with no fungicide apps at all than nectarines.
I think that is an excellent way to do things. You see what really works. Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks!
I have filled my trees with grafts, as I’m out of room, so testing from there.
Yeah my daughter bought a lot and it has 2 unknown peach trees, I’m going to butcher them this spring with multiple grafts. I can’t wait!! I’m alo buying all kinds of plants to make a hedge. I had to quit buying, now I can buy more to feed the addiction. It’s going to be a blast!
I don’t have early ones, and don’t want them as my berries keep me way to busy early in the year to deal with stone fruit too. At one time I thought about adding some, but in the end decided against it. You have to stick with what you like and for me bush berries are my favorite fruit. I would rather add more bushes (I am this year, more black currants, more honeyberries).
It’s the middle of February and I still have gallons and gallons of peaches, I really do not need more. I just bought a cook book on cooking with berries. I saw it at the store and the recipes looked great. And I need to eat more of these peaches! This year I’m renewing many trees cutting off scaffolds and letting new grafts take them over, so it’s going to be a lean year.