Best Fruit Trees

For a gardener, the only experience more frustrating than planting a fruit tree that does not bear fruit is planting a fruit tree that produces a very small crop. A tree that never bears fruit – such as a cherry tree planted in the San Fernando Valley – soon ceases to be a source of frustration as you quickly give up any expectation of a harvest. Instead, you learn to appreciate the shape of the leaves, the color of the bark and, following leaf fall, the silhouette of your fruitless tree against the winter sky.
When a fruit tree bears a small crop, however, you continue to hope that next year the crop will increase. As the years go by, you describe your harvests in single digits – eight fruit one year, five the next, seven the year after and so on. Finally, you realize that the variety of fruit tree you planted was not meant for your back yard and, if it lives there 100 years, will never give much of a crop.
In the Valley, we can pretty reliably get crops from Valencia and navel orange, Eureka and Meyer lemon, and Oro Blanco grapefruit trees. Avocados will fruit well in the East Valley but may have problems in the West Valley due to colder winters there. There are many exotic subtropical and tropical fruit trees – guava, mango and papaya, for example – that are successful here and there throughout the Valley depending on the microclimate, which can change from one neighborhood to the next.
If the longer days of June and July are best reserved for planting the evergreen tropical fruit trees mentioned above, fall is the season to plant the more cold-tolerant, deciduous fruit trees. These trees may be purchased in bare-root condition in December and January at a discount. Deciduous fruit trees will establish strong root systems in advance of next year’s hot weather if they are planted in the ground now.
Chauncey McAlpine, a certified nurseryman who works for Gardenland Nursery in Sylmar, has 17 years of local horticultural experience and suggests the Fuji variety of apple, the Moorpark and Katy varieties of apricot, and the Gold Mine variety of nectarine.
Santa Rosa is his favorite self-fruitful plum variety – it will produce when planted as a solitary specimen – while Satsuma, another favorite plum, requires the nearby presence of another plum variety, such as Santa Rosa, in order to fruit. Brown Turkey is a fig variety famous for its heavy crops, while Black Mission may be the tastiest fig variety we can grow.
Asian pear varieties are self-sterile and must be planted in tandem in order to produce a crop. Plant at least two out of the following three Asian pear varieties together: Shinseiki, Shinko and Twentieth Century.
“Asian pears produce much better in the Antelope Valley than down here,” McAlpine said, “because of the colder winters up there.
Scientists do not completely understand how winter cold contributes to flower (and fruit) production of certain plants. However, it is simply a fact that each deciduous fruit tree variety, for instance, has a requisite number of winter chill hours – hours during winter dormancy when the temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit or less – without which it will not bloom or fruit the following spring.
Cherries are even more of an Antelope Valley crop than pears, requiring 700 hours of winter chill. Virtually all cherry varieties, such as the popular Bing, are self-sterile. Plant Bing next to Black Tartarian to harvest a crop from each. Peach trees, McAlpine says, also are best planted further north.

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