Gentle Garden Fruits

Intro Info
Tree Guilds
Planting Time Ref
Planting Fruit Trees

Pears, Asian


Intro Info

mySA: Fruit trees that survive Citrus make desirable lawn and container trees but have varying degrees of cold tolerance. The species in descending order of cold tolerance are:

Changsha tangerine
Satsuma mandarin
Navel orange
Meyer lemon
Mexican lime

Calamondin fruit is small and sour. Use the plant for an 8-foot-tall evergreen hedge and use the fruit as you would lemons in cooking. Satsuma mandarins are very productive large sweet fruit. They can tolerate temperatures to 28 degrees. Changsha are generally more cold tolerant than Satsuma, but they are very seedy, and the fruit is small. Navel orange and grapefruit will produce fruit if you protect them from extended temperatures below 30 degrees. Use Meyer lemons and Mexican limes in half whiskey barrels on the patio, where you can enjoy the foliage, blooms and fruit, and where they can be protected from temperatures below 30 degrees.

Peaches are among our favorite fruits. They can be grown here, but trees are generally short-lived (seven to 10 years) and require a disciplined spray program to fight off diseases and insects.

Apples are even more difficult to grow than peaches for many of the same reasons. It is best to have two varieties of apples that bloom at the same time to accomplish pollination. The combination that works best is Dorset Golden and Anna. Red Delicious apples will not produce in our area.

Fruit Trees in San Antonio Have you ever considered planting a fruit tree in your yard? Mid-winter is an excellent time to plant fruit trees in the Bexar County area. Planting at this time allows the tree to place its energy toward root development in preparation for spring growth. Most fruit trees require a growing space of 25 feet by 25 feet; but dwarf fruit trees need only about 12 feet by 12 feet. The site must have exposure to full sun for at least 7 to 8 hours per day. Don’t plant too many fruit trees! A single peach tree can easily produce two bushels of fruit–about 100 pounds!

Prior to planting, the site should be prepared as follows: clear the site of perennial weeds and thoroughly till an area at least 4 feet by 4feet in size. Any hard pan layer beneath the soil should be broken up as well. Level the site, then till again. Organic matter may be added to the planting area, but it is not necessary. Don’t add fertilizer. To allow for better drainage, the planting site may be built up so that the tree will be sitting on a small berm.

At planting time, plant the tree in the middle of the prepared area in a hole as big as the root system, usually about 12 inches square, and at least 18 inches deep. Plant the tree and refill the soil to the same depth that the tree grew in, at the nursery. Be careful that the tree does not settle too deep. If the trunk of the plant is submersed in soil at a higher level than it was originally grown, the tree will die. In April or may, as the grass greens up, spray a 3 or 4 foot circle around the base of the tree with a glyphosate herbicide. It is critical that this be done if the tree is to grow well. If you do little else, maintain this weed-free circle around the tree. The tree will do better than if nothing else is done.

Recommended fruit varieties for our area include:

Peaches: Springold, Bicentennial, Sentinel, Ranger, Harvester, Red Globe, Milam, Denman, Loring, Dixiland, Redskin, Jefferson, Surecrop, Belle of Georgia

Apricots: Bryan, Hungarian, Moorpark

Plums: Morris, Methley, Ozark, Premier, Bruce, Allred

Pears: Orient, Moonglow, Kieffer, LeConte, Ayers, Garber, Maxine

Apples: Jerseymac, Gala, Starkspur G. D., Starkrimson R. D., Mollie’s Delicious, Ozark Gold

When buying your new fruit tree, select a mid-size tree. They are usually cheaper and grow just as well, if not better, than the larger trees. It is also easier to cut a 3 to 4 foot tree back to 18-24 inches, than to prune a 5 to 6 foot tree to that small size. Such strong cutback is necessary not only to remove apical dominance, but to put the top in balance with a reduced root system, and force out strong vigorous shoots which are easier to train. When purchased, the trees should have healthy white roots with no brown streaks. Also reject any tree with borer presence or damage. With proper care, it is very possible for your fruit tree to fruit the second year after planting.

SAWS: No-Fail Fruit Trees for San Antonio Around February, area nurseries will begin receiving shipments of fruit trees for the year. Did you know there's a large assortment of fruit trees you can grow with much success in San Antonio? The key: choosing the right variety.

Some fruit trees such as pears, oriental persimmons, figs, and pomegranates are easy to grow since they do well in our native soils and don't require extensive pesticide spraying to survive and produce a crop.

Apples, peaches and plums are another story. They do best in raised garden beds with drip irrigation and must be sprayed every week with an insecticide and fungicide to prosper.

It is best bet is to select fruit trees that are suited for our warm winters. Consider these:

For peaches, 'June Gold,' Tex Royal' and 'La Feliciana' do best; 'Elberta' will not survive here.

For apples, try 'Dorset Golden' and 'Anna;' forget about 'Red Delicious.'

The best pear varieties are 'Warren' and 'Kieffer;' 'Bartlett' pears are highly susceptible to fire blight.

The 'Methley' plum is the best choice for San Antonio.

Full sun and good drainage are musts for all fruit trees whether they're grown in native soil or raised beds.


Grow Organic: Warren Pear Tree, European Type (Semi-dwarf) 5* Excellent Disease Resistance and Cold Hardy $13.99

Warren Pear pyrus communus x Warren Pear was named after T O Warren from Hattiesburg, MS. Thought to be a seedling selection from the breeding work of USDA's fruit breeder Dr. Magness, Beltsville,MD. T O, a fruit explorer, found the tree at a pear test plot near his home and popularized the variety. Warren pear comes from the same seed stock as Magness Pear and is very similar in appearance and disease resistance.

Zone 5-8 semi dwarf tree space @ 10' circles.Estimated Chilling Requirement 600 hours below 45°F USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 - 9 Pollination Self-fruitful. Bloom Season within fruit type. midseason to late midseason.

Warren Pear Tree

Harvest Season within fruit type midseason. Harvest Dates August 7 to August 27. (approximate for Hickman, CA) 3 weeks later in Virginia.

Warren is an excellent quality dessert pear, tree is highly resistant to fire blight. Medium to large, long-necked fruit with pale green skin, sometimes blushed red. Smooth flesh (no grit cells) is juicy and buttery with superb flavor. Good keeper. Cold hardy to -20 deg F. From Mississippi.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced gardener, planting and caring for a pear tree should be easy. If a spot is already considered for planting, good. The semi-dwarf need a 10 - 15' circle and dwarf's 8 - 10'. Standards are 15 - 20' circle. Full sun is best. Pears have an upright growth habit, they are usually taller than wider. Soil prep will go along way. If the area chosen has been cultivated for the last few years, good. If it's just lawn, there's some work. Pears exceed in a loose, moisture retentive soil with good drainage, adequate nutrition of organic matter with a Ph @ 6.2 or 'fairly sweet'. If the area is usually acidic then annual lime is a good course. The additions of this calcium works well with pears, especially if they have some susceptibility to fireblight. Compost will increase the organic matter and manure, if old, works, but not a lot. Once the plant is set in place a mulch of 1 to 2 year old bark works well to keep all things snug and weed free for the first growing season. Hopefully, your chosen spot is not frequented by deer, and is easily watered. Deer browsing on a young plant can set it back a lot. Sometimes never to recover. Bunnies like to nibble on the young bark near the ground of pears, as do voles. To prevent this, aluminum screen around the trunk and stapled together at the ends, will keep them off. The screen should go into the loose soil about 1" to protect below the soil surface too. Keep the diameter of the screen larger than the trunk diameter. Oh yes, and another aspect of your chosen site. Make it hard for squirrels to get to it. If a taller tree is near your pear they can easily jump from it to your fruit. Squirrels do not like being on the ground to long, especially if there are dogs around. So, keep this squirrel tip to add to others you may learn in the future years, because there will be more. Tip one - make squirrels run to your tree.

Warren Pear Tree

Crows will also peck the heck out of the fruit, usually to the point they drop before you think they're ripe. Choosing a site where human activity usually is, can keep the crows away. To get a better idea of your pears evolution, familiarize yourself with it's family heritage. Knowing about what part of the world it originated gives you a good idea of what attributes and limitations it evolved with. Now that you've made the pear feel like a honored guest with its own 'room' with a 'view'. It should have no trouble becoming a healthy member of the family. As the tree matures and begins to set fruit there will be questions that arise from your observations. Insect knowledge, pruning, harvesting, ripening and animal knowledge will mature in you as the tree grows. None of these areas of endeavor are 'rocket science' since pears are fairly easy to grow. Challenges for success don't come all at once, but are seasonal. Plus the season from one year to the next will differ in the severity of the challenge. Aggie: Pears We always look forward to the end of August and September for the maturity of one of my favorite fruit, and really one of the easiest to grow sustainably, pears. Across Texas, and indeed all of the south, the variety of pears we can grow is limited by fire blight, a bacterial pathogen that will flat out kill susceptible varieties like ‘Bartlett’.

In the highest rainfall, most hot and humid part of the state, standards like ‘Kieffer’ and ‘Orient’ are the most durable and long-lived choices, but in the Hill Country, drier parts of Central Texas and West Texas, we have many other varieties we can grow successfully. . At our sustainable fruit planting in Fredericksburg, we have 14 pear varieties planted, both Asian and European Hybrid types, and we like what we see.

The first is the old blight resistant standby ‘Orient’. Not a favorite fresh eating pear, its great for canning or cooking. Very blight resistant and productive, this pear is a good choice for growers in East Texas or the Gulf Coast.

The next and one of my favorites is ‘Ayres’, a 1954 release from the Tennessee Ag. Experiment Station that arose as the result of a cross between ‘Garber’ and ‘Anjou’. ‘Ayres’ can be a bit small, but its attractive blush, sweet, aromatic flavor and melting flesh make it one of the best pears we can grow. ‘Ayres’ is pollen sterile, so it must be planted with other varieties to set fruit. It has held up to fire blight pressure very well across the Hill Country.

This next pear came to us from my neighbor across the creek, Lewis Hussing. His pear tree is easily forty years old and when he gave me fruit a few years ago, I flipped. Easily the best pear I have ever had. Sending photos around, George Ray McEachern identified this pear variety as ‘LeConte’. That’s what we think it is, and fruit from our Fredericksburg orchard this past year did not disappoint us. Amazing that from the old heirloom varieties we already have that there are pears we can grow that are this good!

Kieffer Pear: An Unexpected Delight The Kieffer pear tree is said to be an accidental hybrid, a cross of the Sand Pear and Bartlett. It was first cultivated on the farm of Peter Kieffer in Philadelphia in the 1860s. So how did the Kieffer pear come to be? Peter Kieffer planted a seed from a Sand pear tree, and it was pollinated by a nearby Bartlett pear tree. The effortless product that came grew in popularity for its mixed characteristics, resembling that of a pear and an apple.

Kieffer pears are large and golden yellow with a coarse, white flesh (drier than Orient Pear) and musky aroma. They are very hardy, tolerating both drought and floods (hardiness zones 4-9). The tree blooms small, white flowers in the spring and has dark glossy leaves. Similar to other pear trees the Kieffer is self-fertile, but for optimal results planting a second pear tree is beneficial. It is fast growing, so it won’t be long before you can enjoy the fruit under the shade of its canopy. Kieffer pear trees reach up to 20 feet at maturity.

Keiffer Pear: an Unexpected Delight

The Kieffer Pear Tree In Old World folklore, planting a pear tree was a living good-luck charm. Our lovely little peach tree was planted eight years ago on the exact spot where my daughter and son in law stood to exchange their wedding vows. It's a Kieffer pear (originated near Philadelphia in 1863), the only pear tree in our orchard. Because it is special to us, we have enjoyed watching it's slow and steady growth with patience and anticipation. We were not disappointed. This year, for the first time, our pear tree was was loaded with fruit!

The Kieffer Pear is considered a self fertile, hearty, heirloom pear tree that seems to have lots of mixed reviews. After a little first hand experience, I can honesty tell you that I also was a little confused about how and when to harvest this little jewel of a tree!

As September rolled around, the little pears had turned into lovely big fat pears. Their color was a beautiful spotted golden-green. We watched and waited until the middle of October for the pears to turn yellow and soften into that delicate, buttery eating stage ... but they just never did!

Keiffer Pear: an Unexpected Delight. In the spring, the tree is covered with beautiful white blossoms!

After a little research, I think I totally understand this pear! First, I went back through my files and read the description for the tree, "large, yellow skinned fruit with dull red blush. Crisp, juicy white flesh with coarse texture. Great for canning and baking. Hardy, vigorous tree, tolerates hot climates and is a heavy producer". This tells me it's a CRISP pear and it's good for canning and baking. It says nothing about eating!

The kieffer Pear is considered an Oriental pear. Think... crunchy like an apple, only with a coarse texture. When picked green and refrigerated this pear will keep for weeks. When you're ready to use, ripen in a brown bag. Now that we know what to expect from our long awaited peaches, they are best pickled, baked, poached, thinly sliced for salads or with a little cheese, the Kieffer pears are worth the wait. They are loaded with a high potassium and fiber content, making it a very healthy fruit!

Keiffer Pear: an Unexpected Delight

KIEFFER PEAR TREE fast growing. The pear tree that grows anywhere in the US! Kieffer Pear Trees produce delicious pears for fresh snacking, baking and desserts. The Kieffer Pear tree is one of the latest ripening pears available,

Kieffer Pear trees are one of the later producing pears, ripening from October to November. The Kieffer Pear is fire blight resistant and requires roughtly 400 chill hours for fruit to produce (3 weeks of 45 degree temps. or below). The Kieffer Pear Tree is a large pear tree of the antique variety, that produces large, aromatic, golden-yellow fruit that also has a ruby red cheek.

Can Two Kieffer Pears Pollinate Each Other? Among the kinds of pear trees referred to as European, Kieffer pear trees (Pyrus communis x P. pyrifolia) produce ripe fruits as long as fruits are picked off the trees well before they become soft and ready to eat. Typically producing ripe fruits in winter, Kieffer is a hybrid pear tree variety. A Kieffer pear tree needs successful pollination from itself or another pear tree, which can be another Kieffer pear tree or a pear tree that is a different variety. Kieffer pear trees are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9.

LECONTE PEAR TREE Leconte Pear are an early season producer that requires low chill hours. Leconte Pear trees require pollination from another variety of Pear. The Leconte Pear Tree is an old North Carolina variety that produces bell-shaped fruit that is bright yellow, with a pink overlay. In the Fall, the yielding large crops of fruit ready to be eaten fresh.


mySA: Growing peaches on a backyard tree isn't as tough as it seems Too much trouble? Not necessarily, says Larry Stein, co-author of the new Texas Peach Handbook (Texas A&M University Press, $24.95). Many home gardeners see fruit trees as magnets for insect pests that require spraying.

"You can grow fairly good peaches without a whole lot of spraying," says Stein, who with co-author Jim Kamas

Stein and Kamas, both horticulturists with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, work with commercial peach growers, and their book is one that will work for growers with 100 trees or one tree. And one peach tree is all you need in your yard.

"Don't plant 10 trees. Then you can't care for them," Stein says. "And if planted too close, they compete with each other." In a good year, a single tree should produce about 500 peaches. How much cobbler can you make?

Other tips for growing peaches:

Start with the right variety. Choose a bare-root specimen of 'La Feliciana,' 'TexPrince' or 'June Gold,' all varieties that bear fruit with about 500 chill hours, or time with temperatures below 45 degrees.

Plant in January or early February in a spot that will receive at least eight hours of sun a day. Grow in deep, well-draining soil - about 20 inches deep, even if that means building a raised bed. Give the tree room to spread to about 20 feet wide.

Keep the area from the trunk to the outer edge of the branches free of weeds and grass. Apply a layer of mulch 4 to 6 inches deep to that area.

Apply an inch of water a week at the drip line if there's no rain.

As buds start to swell in mid- to late January, spray with dormant oil to suffocate eggs and tiny insects. The key, Stein says, is to spray every surface thoroughly and to shake the oil-water mix as you spray so the oil stays in suspension.

Fertilize new trees in May with 1 cup of nitrogen fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate. Organic gardeners should adjust the amount to achieve the same rate of nitrogen.

Give mature trees, those about 5 years old, two doses of fertilizer a year, one when the buds break early in the year and another in May if they have peaches. Use a half-pound of nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter at each feeding.

Once the tree blooms, prune it. Yes, you are removing a lot of potential peaches, but that's good for the tree. "A mature peach tree will put on 5,000 flowers. You need 500 to make a good crop," Stein says. Leaving all 5,000 on the tree will stress the tree.

Stein and other horticulturists say to prune the tree so it has an open center and looks like a wine glass. But he advises homeowners not to get bogged down in technicalities. "Just take off 60 to 70 percent of the wood that grew the year before."

Follow those steps, Stein says, and "every once in a while you're going to have peaches regardless of whether you spray for insects."

June Gold Peach Estimated Chilling Requirement 600 hours below 45°F. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 - 9. Pollination Self-fruitful. Bloom Season within fruit type(see note) midseason. Harvest Season within fruit type early midseason. Harvest Dates June 20 to July 4

Large, firm, yellow-fleshed fruit is red-skinned and freestone when fully ripe. Early midseason harvest, 7-10 days before Redhaven. Long time leading fresh market peach in Texas. Frost hardy, showy blossoms.

June Gold Peach

June Gold Peach Produces yellow fruit with sweet, juicy yellow flesh. Freestone. Perfect for eating fresh or for baking.

Botanical Name Prunus persica ‘Junegold’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 10-15' H x 10-15' W. Hardiness Hardy to -10°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season and more during times of drought.

Peach 'June Gold' Prunus persica June Gold normally grows to a max height of 17.88 feet (5.50 metres metric). June Gold Peach tends to need a moderate amount of maintenance, so ensuring that you are aware of the soil, sun, ph and water requirements for this plant is quite important to ensure you have a happy and healthy plant.

June Gold Peach

Try to plant in a location that enjoys full sun and remember to water moderately. June Gold is generally regarded as a hardy plant, so it can be safe to leave outdoors for the majority of winter (although if in doubt, using a row cover is often a good idea). The USDA Hardiness Zones typically associated with June Gold are Zone 5 and Zone 9. June Gold needs a loamy and sandy soil with a ph of 4.5 to 7.5 (moderately acidic soil to weakly alkaline soil).

Transplanting June Gold--June Gold is hardy, so ensure you wait until all danger of frost has passed in your area before considering planting outside.

La Feliciana Peach A later ripening variety that yields a large, sweet, freestone peach. Big producer and excellent flavor. Great for the home orchard. Self fertile.

Botanical Name Prunus persica ‘La Feliciana’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 10-15' H x 10-15' W. Hardiness Hardy to -10°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season and more during times of drought.

La Feliciana Peach

Tex Royal Peach Yellow fleshed, red freestone fruit. Self fertile. 600 chill hours.

Botanical Name Prunus persica ‘TexRoyal’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 12-18' H x 12-18' W. Hardiness Hardy to -10°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season and more during times of drought.

Tex Royal Peach


Anna Apple * Self Pollinating Semi-dwarf growing tree that produces large sized sweet fruit. Yellow-skinned fruit with a heavy red blush ripens in mid-summer. This is a popular low chill variety but requires a pollinator for best yields. 300 chill hours.

Botanical Name Malus domestica ‘Anna’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 15-20' H x 15-20' W. Hardiness Hardy to -30°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season and more during times of drought.

Anna Apple

Dorsett Apple One of the best low chill apple varieties. Skin is golden with a hint of red blush. Very flavorful, similar in taste to ‘Golden Delicious’. Self fertile. 200 chill hours.

Botanical Name Malus domestica ‘Dorsett’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 15-20' H x 15-20' W. Hardiness Hardy to -20°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season and more during times of drought.

Dorsett Apple

APPLE TREES - DORSETT GOLD Scientific Name: Malus domestica Best Planted In Zone: 6-9

5* The Dorsett Gold Apple tree produces a medium sized, firm, and sweet apple that is perfect for eating fresh off the tree. The apples, a soft yellow with a pink blush, ripen in late June, and after picked, they can be kept for two weeks if refrigerated. The Dorsett Gold is perfect for Gulf Coast planting. It requires 250 chill hours and needs a pollinator. The Dorsett Gold Apple trees prefer full sun and slightly acidic soil. At maturity, the Dorsett Gold apple can reach a height and width of 10-20 feet. The Dorsett Gold can be pollinated by the Anna or the Ein Shemer apple.

Dorsett Gold Apple


Methley Plum * Self Pollinating Medium to large reddish-purple fruit with red flesh. Excellent quality. Sweet mild flavor. Excellent for eating fresh or processing. Self pollinating. 250 chill hours.

Botanical Name Prunus salicina ‘Methley’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 10-15' H x 10-15' W. Hardiness Hardy to -20°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season and more during times of drought.

Methley Plum


Wonderful Pomegranate Wonderful deciduous shrub or small tree with outstanding qualities. Showy orange-red flowers give way to delicious, reddish, vitamin rich fruit.

Botanical Name Punica granatum ‘Wonderful’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 10' T x 10' W. Hardiness Hardy to 0°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season

Wonderful Pomegranate


Niagara Grape Strongly flavored white grape that is produced in large clusters. Used for eating fresh, juice and making wine. Vigorous vine.

Botanical Name Vitis labrusca ‘Niagara’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width As trained. Hardiness Hardy to -30°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season.

Niagara Grape


Texas Everbearing Fig Violet-brown skin and amber colored flesh. Bears well, having two crops of fruit a year.

Botanical Name Ficus carica ‘Texas Everbearing’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 10-15' H x 10-15' W. Hardiness Hardy to 0°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season .

Texas Everbearing Fig


Texas Mission Almond One of the top almond producing trees. It is very ornamental with a showy white bloom in spring. Produces a sweet nut.

Botanical Name Prunus dulcis ‘Texas Mission’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 10-15' H x 10-15' W. Hardiness Hardy to 0°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season .

Texas Mission Almond


Prairifire Crabapple Showy landscape tree with bright red flowers and red-purple fruit. New growth is reddish, maturing to dark green. Rounded canopy with age. Good disease resistance.

Botanical Name Malus ‘Prairifire’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 15-20' H x 15-20' W. Hardiness Hardy to -30°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season .

Prairifire Crabapple

Hopa Crabapple Upright, spreading ornamental shade tree with masses of fragrant, pink blooms in early spring. Showy round fruits in late summer, persisting into winter.

Botanical Name Malus ‘Hopa’. Exposure Full sun. Height-width 20' H x 20' W. Hardiness Hardy to -30°F. Water Keep moist until established. Needs average water during the growing season .

Hopa Crabapple



Strawberry plants

Seven Tips for Growing Strawberries

1. Of the three main types of strawberries, the Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends the Junebearer type for home gardens, which bud in the fall and produce a bounteous crop in the spring.

2. Strawberries like full sun, so make sure you have a spot for them in your garden that soaks in as much daylight as possible.

3. The sooner you eat the strawberries after you pick them, the sweeter they’ll be. Their sugar starts to convert into starch as soon as they’re picked, so it’s best to eat them fresh off the vine!

4. To make sure the central plant is getting all the nutrients, pinch off “runners” (long stems that grow out from the central plant). Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it will promote a greater yield of strawberries!

5. If planting in a garden bed, choose a space that has not grown tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant within the last three years.

6. Use drip irrigation to keep the strawberries’ shallow roots wet while keeping the fruit itself dry, preventing rot.

7. Strawberries can be grown in a planter instead of a garden bed. Master Gardeners recommends planter dimensions of 6″ to 8″ deep by 5″ to 7″ wide by 18″ to 4′ long, with plants spaced 10″ to 14″ apart.

7 Tips for Growing Sweet Strawberries The best way to eat strawberries is when they are ripe and fresh from your own garden. You won’t get the same juicy flavor from store-bought berries.

1. Spring is the best time to plant strawberries. You want all the frosts out of the way, but you want to plant soon enough that they will be already growing by the warm summer weather. April is usually the best time to plant strawberries.

2. Choose the right planting location for you. With strawberries, you have quite a few options for where to plant. You can pot them, put them in the ground, or plant in raised beds. The last option will give your fruit a proper drainage system, though pots are great if you want to grow strawberries and don’t have a ton of space.

3. Look out for gray mold. It is not uncommon for a few strawberries to be affected by gray mold. Once it gets on the berries, it can cause rot and spread to other plants in the same area. Monitor your strawberry plants often and remove any mold as soon as you spot it.

4. Give your berries lots of sun. Strawberries crave direct sunlight in order to grow properly. Choose a location for your pots or beds where your berries can thrive. However, on the day of planting, the weather should be overcast. This prevents the plants from starting to wilt before you give them their first watering.

5. Cover the soil with black plastic. This helps to reduce the amount of weeds that grow around your strawberry plants. You should keep watch for weeds and remove them promptly. The plastic will also help cut down on the chances of fungus growing or spreading through your crops.

6. Give your strawberry plants lots of space. Since each plant will yield a lot of berries, you want to space them about 18 inches apart when you plant. Ensure the roots are thoroughly covered, but that the crown of the plant can get lots of light and air.

7. Pinching creates bigger strawberry yields in the future. Pinching the strawberry runners in the first year prevents any berries from forming, but the yield from your second and future seasons will likely be even more than you would have gotten in the first year. If you are yearning for some berries in your first season of planting, pinch half for the future while leaving the other half to produce berries.

Tips for Growing Strawberries Begin by choosing an area that gets 8 hours of sun per day. If planting from seed, you want to use soil that is rich and well drained. Make a hole about ¼ inch deep in the soil and drop a strawberry seed in. Strawberry seeds are tiny, so be sure to use tweezers or some type of pincher to make the job easier. Cover the seed with soil.

Place the seeds six inches apart when planting. If planting from seedlings, you will follow this same spacing guideline as well.

How to grow strawberries in containers:

If you don’t get a lot of sun in your yard, or you don’t have a lot of space, growing strawberries in containers is a great idea. This way, you can use up less space or move the container as the sun moves. Most lawn and garden shops carry strawberry specific planters, which are the deep pots with multiple openings for the berries.

If you wish, you can use a basic flower pot or hanging basket for your strawberries. You want to just be sure it is deep enough for the roots to stretch out and drains water well. Even when planting in containers, be sure to follow the spacing and planting depth guidelines mentioned above.

How to care for strawberries:

Once your strawberry seeds or seedlings are planted, you will want to take good care of them. You can begin by making sure the soil is always kept moist. Water every few days to ensure the plants are getting plenty to drink.

Enrich the soil by sprinkling coffee grounds around the base of the plant. Strawberry plants thrive off of nitrogen rich soil and the coffee can help achieve this. It will also act as a mulch and can help keep moisture in.

General tips for producing a good crop:

Keeping your strawberries well watered with plenty of sunlight is the key to a good crop. If it appears that pests are starting to enjoy you strawberry plants, you can place a light netting over them. This will help keep birds, rabbits, and other pests at bay.

If you do see any yellowing or rotting of the plants, remove the damaged area as soon as you can.

When and how to harvest strawberries:

Strawberries are typically ready about 30 days after you see the first bloom. Pick as soon as they are bright red, as leaving them on the stem too long can cause rot. When you pick them, pick the green cap of the strawberry with them. Immediately take the berries to a cool place.

How to divide strawberries:

Strawberry plants will come back year after year and produce berries for you. It is best to keep plants 4-6 inches apart to allow plenty of room to grow. If you notice any underperforming plants, simply remove them to make room for the hardier plants. You can also remove plants that are causing crowding and replant them elsewhere.

Planting Bare-Root Strawberries Each time we have planted a strawberry patch we have learned a little more about how and where to plant our strawberries. That first little patch of strawberries started out with only 6 plants that we bought at a local nursery. They were live plants and I think even back then that 6 pack of plants cost around $5.00. Establishing a large patch of strawberries using nursery grown seedlings could be a very expensive proposition. Our current patch started with over 100 plants. The most cost effective method for starting a large strawberry patch is to use bare root plants. Depending on how many you buy, I’ve seen plants costing as little as 30 cents per plant!

There are a few things you need to know about planting bare root strawberries:

1. Plan on starting early – bare root plants need be planted in late March or early April. The sooner the better.

2. Even if you plant early, plan on losing about 5 to 10% of your plants. So order a few extra.

3. If you are planting June bearing plants you will not get a crop the first year!

4. If you are planting ever bearing plants you will not get a spring crop but you will get a decent fall crop.

5. Planting at the right depth is super important (see more below).

6. You can get away with planting bare root plants in May, but you will not get a crop that year at all!

7. Once your order of plants arrives the clock is ticking to get them in the ground, the longer you let them sit un-planted the higher your loss rate will be.

Getting the right planting depth is super important. The crown of the plant needs to be set just at soil level, too deep will effect fruit and runner production. To high will effect the plants overall health. Just get those roots in the ground and be sure the plant is stable, but don’t bury that crown too deep!

Fourth, be sure to keep the plants wet and then be very patient. Don’t give up on sick looking plants, it takes a bit for them to get established. You can see our new patch above about 3 weeks after planting. They still look pretty sickly, but don’t be fooled, the root system is just getting established, give them a little care and occasional watering of fish emulsion!

Fifth, remove all the blossoms. The plants need time to focus on growing, so you need to be patient and give the patch some time to get established. You accomplish this by removing all the blossoms on June bearing plants the first year. If it is really killing you it would be okay to let one blossom develop on each plant, but I would recommend removing them all the first year.

Ever bearing (or day neutral) berries are a little different. You want to remove all the spring blossoms, for us that means removing all the blossoms until about mid July (this is based on a zone 4 to 7 garden). After that you can let the blossoms that show up in late July and August develop into a nice fall crop. The first season your crop will be small, but just you wait until next spring!

You will be amazed at how many strawberries one patch can produce. Even a small patch of ever bearing plants can produce all the strawberries you want to eat fresh. A larger one like we grow usually about 50 or 60 square feet can produce upwards of 50 pounds a year!

How to Grow Strawberries in Rain Gutters

Asian Pears

Meet the Asian Pears Perhaps it's no surprise that Asian pears suffer an identity crisis. Are they apples or pears? Like apples, they ripen on the tree and have a crisp, firm texture, but they have juicy, white flesh with the flavor and fragrance of pears. Since their introduction to this country more than a century ago, these fruits -- primarily descendants of two Asian pear species, Pyrus pyrifolia and Pyrus ussuriensis -- have been commonly known as apple pears. They have also been called sand pears, Oriental or Chinese pears, sha li (Chinese for sand pear), and nashi (Japanese for pear).

Asian pears are deliciously sweet and low in acidity, and each variety has a distinctive bouquet. In China, Japan, and Korea, thousands of different varieties are cultivated, and even in this country, a few dozen varieties are commercially available. Among these are a cornucopia of flavors; some, like 'Yoinashi', are as smooth as butterscotch, while others, such as 'Seuri', have the subtleness of apricot. A few are spicy, including 'Shin Li', which has a hint of cinnamon.

The fruits may be smooth and thin-skinned, in colors ranging from moonlight yellow, and yellow-green, to caramel, or they may be russeted shades of these.

Because of Asian pears' increasing popularity, more varieties than ever are available to home gardeners. And that's good news, because Asian pears sold commercially are often picked before they are ripe. Unlike European pears, Asian pears must be tree-ripened for peak flavor and sweetness. Once picked, the fruits will not ripen further. By growing your own, you can decide when the fruit has reached peak flavor.

Primary Considerations

Although fruit flavor is a major factor when selecting varieties, consider also disease resistance and hardiness, which are determined in large part by the rootstock. As a rule, Asian pears do well in the same places as European pears. They grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9, though some varieties, such as 'Seuri' and 'Ya Li', are hardy to zone 4. Typical chill requirements range from 300 to 600 hours (for trees to fruit and grow properly, they require a minimum number of hours with temperatures that fall below 45 degrees F. but remain above freezing). 'Hosui', 'Shinseiki', and 'Twentieth Century' are least chill sensitive and are best suited to warmer regions such as zone 9.

While most Asian pears are partially self-fruitful, they'll produce more and larger fruits with cross pollination. Plant more than one variety, or if space is limited, choose a tree that includes several grafted varieties. Although it's a European pear, 'Bartlett' is a good pollinator. Check with the nursery to confirm that the bloom periods coincide and pollen is compatible for the varieties you select.

Before making a decision on a variety, consider its susceptibility to fire blight and bacterial canker, bacterial diseases influenced primarily by weather and prevalent in regions with rainy, humid springs and summers. Flavor varies depending on climate (summer warmth helps to sweeten flavor) and harvest time. Even water and soil conditions can affect flavor. Many growers agree that adding trace minerals, such as rock dust, to the soil results in better-tasting fruit.

Some varieties may also be better adapted than others to your growing area. In my zone 8 orchard with heavy clay soil, 'Hosui' has never fruited, while 'Shinko' and 'Shin Li' produce abundantly. Paring Down the Choices

To help get you started, here's a rundown of popular varieties; all, except 'Chojuro', are well suited to home gardens. All produce round fruit and are Japanese varieties unless otherwise noted. Ripening dates are given for zone 8 and will vary from two to four weeks earlier in zone 9, and one to three weeks later in zones 5 to 7.

The Right Rootstock

Rootstock plays a key role in a pear tree's productivity, longevity, and hardiness. Incompatibility of rootstock and variety can result in poor growth and declining crops. Pyrus betulifolia is most widely used because it is long-lived, versatile, vigorous, and it tends to produce abundant crops and large fruits and resists fire blight. However, it is less tolerant of alkaline soils and extreme cold.

In cold-winter regions, choose P. ussuriensis, which is less vigorous but hardy to -40 degrees F. In zone 9, the best choice is P. calleryana, which resists fire blight, oak root fungus, and crown rot, but it is subject to pear decline.

Planting and Care

Late winter or early spring is the best time to plant bare-root trees. Choose a site with full sun and well-drained soil, ideally with a pH of 6 to 6.5. When mature, a typical 12-foot tree will have a span of 12 to 15 feet, so space trees 12 to 15 feet apart, making sure that the graft union -- which looks like a scar or knob near the base of the trunk -- remains 2 to 4 inches above the soil.

Water requirements vary depending on soil conditions and climate, but in all cases, trees need adequate irrigation to produce good-sized fruits. In many areas, summer rainfall is sufficient for mature trees, but young trees will need deep watering once a week. Trees 5 years and older can get by with less frequent watering. In my dry summer region of the Pacific Northwest (zone 8), each tree receives about 100 gallons of water every 7 to 10 days. A thick layer of organic mulch around each tree helps to retain soil moisture.

In early spring, apply a mulch of compost, and every three to five years dress with rock dust (for trace minerals). Go easy on the nitrogen. A good guideline is the 2-foot rule: If your trees are growing more than 2 feet per year, they are receiving too much nitrogen. This can result in diminished fruit flavor, susceptibility to bacterial diseases on young trees, and winter damage from tender growth.

Thinning and Pruning

Trees usually produce fruit the second or third year after planting. Fruit is borne on spurs, 1- to 3-inch nubby twigs, on 2- to 6-year-old branches. Soon after pollination, trees will set many fruiting clusters, sometimes with five to eight fruits. Thinning is essential for larger, more flavorful fruits and to prevent bearing in alternate years, reduce insect damage (two fruits touching provide an excellent area for codling moths to lay their eggs), and keep branches from breaking. Thin when the fruits reach cherry size; in Oregon, that's sometime in June. Depending on the intensity of fruit set, leave one fruit per cluster or every 6 inches.

Asian pear trees can be pruned in any of three methods: open center (vase), modified central leader, or espalier trellis. Prune lightly the first couple of years, just enough to shape the tree. Do heaviest pruning when the trees are dormant but after the danger of a hard freeze has passed. Always remove any dead, broken, diseased, or crossed branches. Remove all rootstock suckers or low-growing branches, and pinch the main stems to keep the height manageable. Some growers head them at 8 feet; others, who aren't averse to using a ladder, limit them to 15 feet.

Diseases and Pests

Several bacterial diseases can affect Asian pear trees. The two most common are fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) and bacterial canker (Pseudomonas syringae). The diseases look similar and are easy to spot: the infected branch or twig will look singed with scorched leaves remaining attached. Wet weather promotes both diseases, with fire blight thriving in warm temperatures and bacterial canker in cool ones.

If you live in a disease-prone region, select resistant varieties. Note, however, that disease resistance varies by region, soil conditions, and climate. If your tree is affected, prune infected branches 12 to 15 inches below the infection, and sterilize tools with alcohol or bleach between each cut.

A dormant oil spray will destroy many overwintering insects and even some diseases, but codling moth (Carpocapsa pomonella) requires more control. Careful fruit thinning helps, but the easiest and most effective control I've found is an annual release of parasitic trichogramma wasps. I release them when I see the first moths fluttering in mid-April, and again two to four weeks later. Releasing 5,000 wasps each time is sufficient for two to three trees. Before our release program, up to 30 percent of the fruit suffered codling moth damage. Now less than 5 percent is affected.

Harvesting Fruits

Expect a healthy young tree to produce 5 to 15 pounds of fruit, a 5-year-old tree 30 to 50 pounds, and a mature tree, from 100 to 400 pounds. Wait to harvest fruit until its background color has changed but the fruit is still firm, then begin tasting it for peak flavor. If the fruit is picked too soon, the sugars won't develop fully. However, don't wait until the fruit is soft, or it will be overripe and spongy. Never pull fruit off the tree; wait until it lifts off effortlessly. The tender skin also bruises easily, so handle fruit gently.

Asian pears keep up to two weeks at room temperature, and many varieties will retain their quality for up to five months in a cool, humid environment (about 34 degrees F.). The fruits also freeze and dry well. I prefer, however, to enjoy the crisp, juicy fruits in the cool of the morning -- right from the tree.


For peaches, 'June Gold,' Tex Royal' and 'La Feliciana' do best; 'Elberta' will not survive here.

For apples, try 'Dorset Golden' and 'Anna;' forget about 'Red Delicious.'

The best pear varieties are 'Warren' and 'Kieffer;' 'Bartlett' pears are highly susceptible to fire blight.

The 'Methley' plum is the best choice for San Antonio.

Edible Landscaping

Texas Fruit and Nut Blog

Texas Pecan Nursery Texas Pecan Nursery carries more than just the highest quality pecan trees. Browse our website and see all the varieties of nut, fruit and shade trees we have to offer.

David's Garden Seeds 7715 Tezel Drive San Antonio, TX 78250 (210)390-9873... Huebner to Bandera, go north. Left on Guilbeau. Left on Tezel. On right before Mainland St. Open weekdays 9-5.

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Planting Time References

White Flower Farm See plant descr. then click on Growing guide

West Coast Seeds see plant descr. then go to Growing Guides

Johnny's Select Seeds


Plant Hardiness:

By Zip 1st freeze 11/12... last freeze 3/20

USDA 8b 1st freeze 12/1... last freeze 3/1

Rainbow Gardening by the Month

Tree Guilds

How to Build a Fruit Tree Guild A guild is a grouping of plants that supports a central element—such as a fruit tree—for maximum harvest and use of space. Learn more about this permaculture technique for creating a low-maintenance system that also improves biodiversity.

Guilds are Interconnected Mini-Ecosystems

The use of guilds came about by observing how certain plants would naturally group themselves together in an unmanaged setting without human intervention, as if to demonstrate that their proximity to one another was mutually beneficial (like how birch trees and Douglas firs are interdependent). The concept of designing human-made guilds is relatively new, and many of the early experiments are still in progress.

Still, guilds provide a roadmap for developing interconnected ecosystems, which may reduce our workload and yield more harvests.

The goal of the guild is to underplant a central element, such as a fruit or nut tree, with plants that are highly useful and multifunctional.

For example, underplantings in a guild might include plants that fertilize, repel pests, attract beneficial insects, create mulch, and suppress grass.

The general idea is to take advantage of the benefits of plants to reduce cost, labor, and the need to import materials.

Now, to be certain, planting a tree guild will take more effort than simply planting the tree by itself, and it may also cost a bit more at the outset for the extra plants. However, in the long run, guilds will likely be more resilient and vigorous, even if solely from a biodiversity standpoint.

How you plant a guild will depend on your space, whether you have several acres or less than half an acre. On larger properties there may be space to build a large guild under an expansive, 70-foot tall nut tree, for example, while on smaller properties, the central element will likely be something smaller, such as a dwarf fruit tree or berry bush.

If you would like to build a guild, choose a central element that is appropriately sized for your property. Fruit and nut trees can be linked together in a grouping, underplanting them all with guilds. Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, would call this a “superguild.” I like to call it an orchard on steroids! Check out the 2-hour film Amazon DVD $19.95: The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic for more inspiration.

This “superguild” could be created in the shape of a long hedgerow, which I discuss in how to plant a hedgerow.

Planting Fruit Trees

5 Steps to Planting Fruit Trees As summer draws to a close and the cool weather drifts in, it’s easy to think that gardening season is over. However, did you know that fall is the best time to plant fruit trees? With a simple planting process, you can set your fruit trees up for success.

Growing apple or cherry trees, for example, can produce high yields with very little maintenance. Budget conscious? Fruit is a high value crop, and the taste of fresh-picked fruit can’t be denied.

You’ll be glad to know that fall is a better time to plant fruit trees in climates with hot summers and ground that doesn’t freeze until December or later.

Summer heat and dry weather can be taxing to a newly planted tree. In a hot climate, summer-planted trees need more water to get established, and rarely get enough to establish a strong root system.

On the other hand, a fall planting of fruit trees follows the natural growth cycle of the tree. During the fall and winter, a tree draws into a dormant stage, and it’s far better to transplant a tree during this stage.

I like to plant fruit trees using a permaculture technique called a guild. In permaculture, we pair plants together that work synergistically to benefit one another. The plants that I use to support fruit trees will have multiple functions.

For example, they might naturally fertilize the soil while also providing mulch. Or they might provide nectar for pollinators and attract beneficial insects. If the trees will be fairly neglected and won’t be planted with compost or supporting plants, I recommend adding fruit tree fertilizer at the time of planting.

Hint: Plant them anytime! Though fall plantings are the best, planting fruit trees in the warmer months is still okay. Plant them on a cloudy day and keep them well-watered during their first season.

PLANTING FRUIT TREES IN THE FALL Summer heat and dry weather can be taxing to a newly planted tree. In a hot climate, summer-planted trees need more water to get established, and rarely get enough to establish a strong root system.

On the other hand, a fall planting of fruit trees follows the natural growth cycle of the tree. During the fall and winter, a tree draws into a dormant stage, and it’s far better to transplant a tree during this stage.

The cooler fall weather offers a reprieve from high temperatures, requiring far less water, and allows just enough time for roots to get established before the colder days of winter set in.

Once you’ve chosen a variety of fruit tree that is appropriate for your USDA hardiness zone, and selected a planting site that is sufficient for the size of the mature tree, you’re ready to plant.

1. Dig a Hole and Add Compost:

Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the roots of the tree. Mix the removed soil with an equal amount of compost soil, breaking up any clumps.

2. Place the Tree

For this step, it’s helpful to have two people. Hold the tree in place at soil level while fanning the roots out like an umbrella. Make sure the trunk of the tree is straight. Another person backfills the hole with soil, building a solid foundation underneath the crown. Cover all roots, and ensure the graft union is above soil level. Lightly tamp down the soil with your foot to remove any air pockets.

3. Prune and Water

Cut the tree back by one-third of its total growth. It might seem harsh, but this will actually encourage more prolific growth in the springtime. Also prune any dead branches and water the tree in well. When using your water spigot, a good rule is 8 minutes of soaking.

4. Mulch

Measure a circle around the tree, marking the expected mature width using sticks or flags. This perimeter is called the drip line. The roots of the tree will eventually extend to this point, and perhaps even farther. Because of this, you will increase success by improving the health of the soil inside this circle. For a weed blocker, spread cardboard under the tree, overlapping the ends so the ground is thoroughly covered.

Tree Guild

5. Support Plants

There are many plant species that can support the health of your fruit trees. Support species offer natural fertilizer, attract pollinators, deter pests, and/or attract beneficial insects. I like to choose plants that provide more than one benefit. Here are two of my favorites.

Dandelion is considered a weed by many. But did you know dandelions fertilize the ground with important nutrients as they grow and die back? The flowers attract pollinators, leading to better fruit set, while the foliage provides shelter for beneficial insects. And we can’t ignore dandelion’s benefits for humans.

German Chamomile is often recognized for its medicinal benefits to humans. But it can also fertilize the ground with important nutrients, and provide early season nectar for busy pollinators. Luckily, chamomile’s pretty flowers don’t suffer the same negative reputation as the dandelion.

Note: Plant dandelion and chamomile from seed in the spring, after danger of frost has passed.

How you plant these support plants will depend on whether you used wood chips or clover as the mulch.

If you mulched your trees with wood chips, make four holes in the wood chips about 18 inches in diameter, one on each side of the tree. Fill the holes with compost soil, and sprinkle both chamomile and dandelion seeds together. Water deeply.

If you mulched your trees with soil and clover, then lightly sprinkle dandelion and chamomile seeds throughout the same area.

A light layer of straw will protect the seeds until they germinate. Water deeply.

Adding mulch and support plants may seem like a lot of additional work, but the result will be a more vigorous and healthy fruit tree.

5. Support Plants

Email Professor Colby Glass, MAc, MLIS, PhDc, Prof. Emeritus