Fall is a good time to plant fruit trees. Cooler temperatures are less stressful on the trees and they don't need to be watered as often when they are being established. The roots become accustomed to the soil and are ready to take off growing in the spring.
We planted four varieties of apple, three plums, and two cherries. I was iffy about the cherry trees since the leaves can be toxic to goats, but they came in the package we bought so I just planned to be extra careful. Both cherry trees died that first year though, and we didn't replace them.
There are three sizes of fruit trees: standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf. Dwarf trees will produce much earlier than standard trees, but the lifespan of dwarf trees is much shorter than standard trees. We planted dwarfs, and had fruit the second spring. Eleven years later though, the trees have pretty much stopped producing. If we'd planted a few standard trees at the same time, they would now be ready to produce fruit. If I were to do it over again, I'd plant some of each.
We've also planted many peach trees and a nectarine, but lost them all to various reasons: winter kill, borers, grasshoppers, and wind damage. We didn't try apricots after research showed that their early blooming usually coincides with frost here in Oklahoma.
We tried grapes, raspberries, and the little native kiwi but I wasn't able to keep them alive. My thumb that was green in Michigan hasn't been as successful in Oklahoma. It's much harder to keep something alive here in the extreme heat and summer drought. We had a strawberry bed for a year, then rabbits ate the plants. So many lessons to learn.
The native blackberries have more than made up for my brown thumb though. They are the hardiest thing on the planet I think, and the problem isn't keeping them alive but keeping them under control. One "patch" in our hayfield is bigger than our living room and kitchen put together.
With the exception of one year when the drought was so bad that all of the immature fruit shriveled up and dried before they were ripe, I've braved the heat, mosquitoes and chiggers and filled buckets with wonderful, delicious blackberries. What a blessing they are. I can them whole, make jam and jelly, eat them fresh, and freeze the rest.
Another Oklahoma blessing is the native sand plums, tiny red jewels with a large seed on a thorny plant. They're not really worth eating raw, but they do make good jelly.
There's a saying that the best time to plant a fruit tree is five years ago; I completely agree with that. I've tried to at least replace the trees that have died each year but I'm a bit behind on that. Our elderly neighbor, a widow who lives up the road, always plants new trees each year. That reminds me of another saying, "to plant a tree is to believe in tomorrow."
Canning: Sweet and Sour Plum Sauce
Harvest Apple Jelly
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