But when you can actually EAT part of your tree... well, that's definitely a very tangible benefit!
The part of the tree I'm talking about, of course, is fruit. Fruit trees can be the ideal addition to your landscape, but they do need some special attention if you wish to reap the full benefit of abundant, lush and healthy fruit.
One of the most important elements in successful fruiting is the very first one you must decide upon: Where to plant your fruit trees. Pick the wrong location now and you won't be picking fruit in the future.
Here are some pointers to help you find the perfect spot.
Let there be light. Fruit trees need sunlight. The amount and intensity of sunlight needed will vary with different varieties, so check the planting instructions and eliminate those locations that cannot provide the right amount of sun.
Look left, look right, look up. Your fruit tree may be a cute little guy when you bring him home, but like that Great Dane puppy you couldn't resist, he's going to get bigger! In the case of some fruit trees, a LOT bigger. Look around and be sure the site isn't too close to pools, ponds, pathways and driveways. You don't want the roots cracking the concrete and you don't want low-hanging branches scratching your car. More important, you definitely don't want the upper branches snagging utility lines or phone and television cables.
Soil check. What are the soil requirements of your prospective trees? If your trees didn't come with this important information, call your supplier or another reliable source and find out before you plant. If you are in any doubt, send me an e-mail at email@example.com describing your soil conditions or the trees you're considering, and I'll respond with some advice. Soil factors that can make a big difference include drainage, compactness and pH balance.
The birds and the bees... If your trees need cross pollination (not all varieties do) they will need to be within 150 - 200 ft of each other if you want your trees to, uh, "be fruitful and multiply."
Looking good. Finally, what about aesthetics? Decide on a location for your fruit trees that will be pleasing to the eye and add to the overall balance and attractiveness of your landscape. They should also be planted in a location that will allow easy harvesting of the fruit.
So you have determined the perfect location for your trees and your mouth is watering at the prospect of all those delicious fruit pies in your future. Which fruit trees will you plant?
Firstly, be sensible about trees that suit your geographic area. An orange grove in Alaska? I don't recommend it. Secondly, it makes sense to select trees that will produce fruit that members of your family really enjoy eating.
In future columns, I'll discuss the pros and cons of some fruit trees that have become favorites of ours. But meanwhile here is a quick scan of a few that might help start thinking of what is right for you.
Viva Sweet Cherry If you like a cherry that has medium-red, semi-firm flesh and a sweet taste, look out for this variety.
Arkansas Black Apple Here's a somewhat unusual apple in that its deep purple skin turns almost black at maturity. A very tart, crisp apple that is excellent for eating fresh or cooking in pies, or even in homemade cider.
Ruby Queen Plum This tree produces plums that are about 2 inches in diameter. They have the advantage of ripening about 3 to 4 weeks after most other varieties, so you can have fresh plums when no others are available.
Plant your trees in the right location with the right soil conditions and look forward to some good eating in the years ahead!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org