In a few weeks Lowe's and Home Depot will start selling trees and shrubs in their garden section. Buying a fruit tree at a big box store is like buying a Christmas tree at a box store; they'll have them, but their quality is going to be terrible.
According to the the University of Illinois Extension Service there are over 2,500 varieties of Apple trees grow in the United States of America. Not all of these varieties are suggested to be grown by a home gardener. As we learned in last week's insight, fruit is one of the most chemical laden food groups on the market, and there are reasons for that. With mass production of any food source pests and diseases will exploit it. To keep the fruit production safe from pests, fungicides are sprayed on a schedule to keep diseases at bay, and insecticides are sprayed to rid orchards of insects.
Home producers of fruit do not have access to these chemicals, nor would we want to, they are downright bad, bad for the planet, bad for the applicator and bad to eat as a residue.
While some fruit trees were bred for their visual appeal (the modern human tastes with their eyes rather than their mouth) or shelf life (those apples we eat in spring have to come from somewhere that is experiencing the beginning of fall), others were bred for cold hardiness, or resistance to fire-blight or scab. The Pennsylvania State Extension Service offers their list of disease resistant varieties to be grown in Pennsylvania. I use these lists to decide which fruit trees Wilson Home Farms will plant. These lists can be found here.
In addition to good varieties there are nurseries that are better than others. Some nurseries will sell you any fruit tree at any time of the year. That is a hint that they are not a good nursery. There is a specific time to plant trees and there are certain trees that should not be planted in Pennsylvania. Nurseries like Adam's County Nursery grow fruit trees in Pennsylvania and only will ship out their trees once a year, in late winter, after the ground thaws and before the buds burst.
So before you buy that pretty flowering peach tree from the box store, remember, there is a lot more to the investment than the tree.
Wilson Home Farms plants fruit trees in April. Order now, before March to get them in this year! Popular varieties for home gardeners are selling out quickly.