Growing fruits and nuts not for the faint of heart

Mike McGrath,

WASHINGTON – Jim in Silver Spring writes: “Thanks for last week’s report listing the best and (worst) shade and ornamental trees for this area. Now: What about best and worst fruit and nut trees for our region? I want food as well as all the other benefits trees provide.”

Well, that’s both a long and short list, Jim. Pears and figs are by far the easiest-care of the tree fruits that grow well in our region.

Peaches, apples and cherries also grow well in our area, but forget the “easy care” part. Peaches and apples are plagued by seemingly endless disease and insect problems, and require an enormous amount of care. They must be pruned heavily at the end of every winter. The developing fruits must be thinned heavily every spring.

How heavily? Three-quarters of the little fruits have to come off if you hope to get full-sized, good-looking specimens at harvest time. And birds tend to get most of the cherries a tree produces. Raspberries and blueberries are easier fruits for homeowners to grow.

Two nuts come to mind as growing well here. Black walnuts love our climate, but the nut meat is an acquired taste (most people find it to be too sour), and it’s difficult to process. Hickories are much better tasting and easier to process. They’re great trees that produce great nuts

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