Fruit trees are fascinating plants. Some bloom early; some bloom later. Some require another variety of their species for cross-pollination, while others are self-pollinating. Some have easily trainable shapes, while others can be a disgruntling headache to shape into a desirable fruit-bearing structure. With all the nuances regarding individual fruit tree species, it is best to learn their natural life cycles as well as their needs for successful fruit set and production.
Fruit trees bloom in the following time sequence—apricots and peaches are first in the season and bloom in that order. Most apricots are self-fruitful, but will have a better fruit set if they are able to cross-pollinate with another apricot. Some varieties of apricots, such as a Moongold or Sungold apricot, perform dramatically better when they can cross-pollinate with each other. This is dramatic enough that you could almost consider them a necessary pairing when planting.
Peaches are the next to bloom and are successfully self-fruitful. In our area, most peaches tend to freeze off their flower buds and have poor fruit set. Additionally, they suffer from winter damage and spring frost damage. Except for a few microclimate pockets, most of eastern Idaho north of Blackfoot and Fort Hall struggle with producing peaches successfully. Apricots are more successful, but once again can be adversely affected by spring frosts.
Cherries follow apricots and peaches. Most pie (sour) cherries do well in our area and can produce pretty well. Most pie cherries are also self-fruitful, but sweet cherries are not and they need a cross-pollinator to have good fruit set.
Something to keep in mind regarding all three of these fruits is that they can suffer severe damage, and even death, in a hard, late spring frost. For example, about 14 years ago I planted nine pie cherry trees in the Ammon foothills area. They had blossomed and were leafing out and doing very well but were all killed one morning by a hard, late spring freeze. (That was a sad day at my house.) Unusual weather patterns, such as that hard freeze 14 years ago, or an unexpected weather event can damage and ruin trees that otherwise would thrive in our area.
Speaking of bad weather, the hail storm that went through the Ammon and Idaho Falls last year were another example of challenges to fruit growing. But, luckily it happened early enough in the season that no trees had fruit on them yet. Any damage was limited to broken branches and possibly some bark bruising. After intense thunderstorms with high winds and hail, I would recommend you inspect your young fruit trees for limb and bark damage. Many times there is nothing you can do, but sometimes there is, such as pruning off a broken branch. It’s good to know if they were hurt, as this may be a possible entryway for infection.
Pears and apples are the last to bloom in our area and are generally the most reliable producers in our climate. We can grow several varieties of pears in our area, and you should plant the kinds you prefer eating, whether it is a Summercrisp, Parker, or an Asian pear. You will need two different varieties for best pollination. Anjou and Asian pears tend to blossom earlier than Summercrisp, and can, therefore, lose blossoms/fruit to frosts. Growing an earlier-blooming fruit tree is always going to be hit and miss with success depending on the spring’s frosts, making east Idaho an inconsistent place to produce fruit.
Lastly, are apples—the most recommended fruit tree to grow for production in our area. Apples need two different varieties to achieve good fruit set. An ornamental crabapple tree can be a great source of pollen for your apple tree if you only have one and need a pollinator. Select apple varieties that have similar bloom times so that they have sufficient pollen available for good fruit set.
For further question on fruit trees, please contact Lance at 208-624-3102.