Selecting Fruit Trees for Your Neighborhood

'Santa Rosa' plum (Prunus salicina 'Santa Rosa')

‘Santa Rosa’ plum (Prunus salicina ‘Santa Rosa’)

If you decide to plant an orchard, or just one fruit tree, it is advisable to do some research prior to your horticultural experiment. I say experiment because the growing conditions — soil type, amount of sun exposure, and microclimate — in every planting situation are unique. As a seasoned backyard gardener once remarked, “You are always a beginner in the garden.”
Still, to minimize risk, it is advisable before you plant to gather as much information as possible about trees that do well in your neighborhood. Talk to people who have lived there for a decade or two and ask them which cultivars are the best producers. This time of year, you can walk into the garden department of any home improvement center and select from many different types of deciduous trees, such as apricots, plums, apples and nectarines. Which ones should you choose?
Where apricots are concerned, you cannot go wrong by selecting `Moorpark.’ During the 19th century, when the San Fernando Valley was nothing but ranches and farms, `Moorpark’ apricots were cultivated in what was to become North Hollywood, and Moorpark Street, just north of Ventura Boulevard between Lankershim and Sepulveda boulevards, was named after the apricot variety that grew there.
I recently planted a `Moorpark’ apricot tree. Its label describes it as self-fruitful, which means that you only need one tree to produce a crop. However, to maximize yield, it is advisable to plant another variety of apricot, such as `Katy’ or `Royal Blenheim,’ in the vicinity. To maximize the yield of other deciduous fruit trees, you should also plant two different varieties of each.
The reason for this is that each variety has a slightly different bloom period and planting two varieties will assure pollination over a longer time span.
If you live in the Antelope Valley, planting apricots can be risky because of their early bloom time — the word apricot comes from the Latin praecox, meaning early — in February or March.
Young fruits are killed at 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Correct pruning of apricots depends on determining the location of their flower buds, produced on slow-growing, stubby spurs that elongate less than an inch per year. Some apricot varieties produce spurs on shoot terminals, some in the middle of shoots and some near shoot bases.
When it comes to plums, no variety can match self-fertile `Santa Rosa’ for ease of growing and steady crops, even if it does tend to bear in alternate years, especially when it goes into decline after about 15 years. Some people prefer the less sweet, but larger sized and firmer fleshed `Satsuma’ plum, a self-sterile cultivar which requires another variety such as `Santa Rosa’ in order to produce.
There are several apple varieties that do well in the Valley. My favorites are `Dorsett Golden’ and `Anna.’ Finally, regarding nectarines, the white-fleshed `Goldmine’ is far superior to the rest of the competition. It is also sweeter than any nectarine you will find at the supermarket. Peach trees, incidentally, do not produce well in the San Fernando Valley but respond more favorably to colder, high desert climates.

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