May 19, 2024

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Sarah Browning: Apples, pears flourish in Nebraska | Home & Garden

Tree fruits look very appealing in garden magazines and catalogs. But not all tree fruits in the catalogs do well in eastern Nebraska. Important considerations to make sure trees thrive and produce well include winter hardiness, bloom time, disease resistance, growth requirements and regular maintenance.

Hardiness

Extreme winter conditions are the biggest limiting factor for backyard tree fruits. Nebraska typically experiences periods of unseasonably warm weather in mid-winter, during which trees may begin to lose full winter hardiness. When warm periods are followed by normal winter temperatures, damage often results including death of flower or leaf buds or damage to the tree’s bark. Or sudden temperature drops in fall, following abnormally warm fall conditions. Hail, wind, high summer temperatures and frequent drought also contribute to early fruit tree death.

Crops such as peaches, nectarines and sweet cherries frequently suffer flower death when grown in our climate. Apricots have difficulty because they bloom so early in the spring, making them very susceptible to spring frosts. Choices for the home orchard are therefore best made from a list that includes apples, pears, sour cherries, and plums.


Sarah Browning: Seed selection a great winter activity

Growing requirements

All tree fruits prefer full sunlight. Although they may in fact grow in partial shade, fruit quantity and quality will be lower. Choose a site with well-drained soil and elevated somewhat higher than the surrounding terrain so cool air will “drain” to lower landscape levels. This helps avoid cold air pooling around your trees and resulting in frost damage, which is especially important during spring bloom.