Monday, August 13, 2012

Fresh, Local, Organic Fruit From Your Backyard

Learn the tricks to growing fruit such as plums, pears, apples and hard kiwi in the Pacific Northwest.

Apple tree
Sixty percent of apples in the United States come from Washington state.

Growing your own fruit is easier than you think, especially in the Northwest where it soon will be harvest season for many local trees. With a little work and some patience, you will be growing fruit in no time.

Tips to Get You Started

  • When selecting your fruit tree, first check whether the tree is self-pollinating. If not, you will need to plant two trees to ensure fruit production.
  • Fruit trees need well-drained soil and four to seven hours of sunlight a day. Dig a hole large enough to fit the roots, keeping them spread out when placed in the hole. Cover the roots with soil and water generously.
  • Organic fertilizer can be applied regularly.
  • If you want fruit in the fall, you need to plant after the first frost in the spring season.

Plums

These are good starter fruit trees for first-time growers. The best type of plum tree for the Pacific Northwest climate is the European plum.

Harvesting: Plums should be slightly soft and come off easily when pulled from the tree. You also can pick plums when they’re slightly harder; store them until ripened.

Apples

Hundreds of varieties of apples exist. Sixty percent of apples in the United States come from Washington state.

Harvesting: Dependent on the type of apple, the best time to harvest is from July to October. You will know the apple is ready when it comes off the tree with ease and with the stem still attached.

Pears

Washington’s climate allows for excellent conditions for the pear tree. In fact, Washington and Oregon are home to 1,600 different pear growers.

Harvesting: Fall harvest is from September 10 to October 21. Be careful: Pears left to ripen on the tree will break down, becoming soft and mushy.

Hard Kiwi

Grape-sized and lacking a fuzzy skin, these are sweeter than standard kiwis. It is helpful to start the growing process in a pot, transplanting the tree after the last frost. It can take one to three years to produce fruit.

Harvesting: Kiwis should be picked while still hard between September and mid-October; allow to ripen off the vine.

Although these are just four different kinds of fruit trees that can grow well in the Northwest, don’t feel limited by these options. Enjoy the fruits of your labors!

— Jessica Hoffman, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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