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Just moved to where we have a very large backyard. I want to plant a large variety of fruit trees, but I don't know what will grow well in this climate. What types of fruit grow best in the Salt Lake area? (eg peaches, apples, nectarines....?) And which kind of each fruit would you suggest? I'm also new to this, so where should I go to buy the trees and find info on how to grow them correctly?

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A

That is a great question and very broad question with many variables and factors to consider.  One of my first suggestions is to have a basic soil analysis done.  This will help determine your pH, soil texture, salinity and nutrient levels.  Utah State University Analytical Laboratories has this service.I highly recommend the initial $14 routine soil test before spending lots of money on trees and soil amendments.  Their website with the questionnaire and soil sample information is at http://www.usual.usu.edu/ and the soil submission form can be found at http://www.usual.usu.edu/forms/soilform.pdf .

The next thing to realize is that fruit trees require some investment in time and labor for maintaining  good health and productivity of fruit. New trees may take several years before they will begin to bear fruit.  Many fruit trees can grow in the Salt Lake area and the types of trees you want depend on what fruits you like to eat, pest management for common pests, self-fruitful varieties, planting compatible varieties for pollination, water or irrigation for trees, training and pruning trees.  I'll just give you a few examples of common pest problems (all manageable with time and effort) with fruit trees.  Which also begs the question of wanting to be chemical free or using chemicals to control pests.

Cherries (Sweet and Tart) - Western Cherry Fruit Fly
Peaches - Peach Twig Borer and Peach Crown Borer
Apples - Codling Moth

A great resource about orchard pest management is the Utah Home Orchard Pest Management Guide available online at http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/home-orchard-guide.pdf

For peaches and nectarines, there is an online guide to varieties at http://www.larrysagers.com/weeklyarticles/recommended_peach_and_nectarine_varieties_for_northern_utah.html

Even with a large backyard, planting apples trees with dwarf or semidwarf rootstock is recommended.  This will make training, pruning, harvesting trees much easier for the life of the tree. Here is a link to varieties of apples for northern Utah by our Horticulture Agent in Weber County.  http://extension.usu.edu/htm/news/articleID=1936

As for planting fruit trees, as with all trees, a common mistake is planting too deep.  Almost all fruit trees are budded or grafted onto rootstock.  An old habit which is not longer encourage is to bury the graft.  The ideal way to plant all trees is to find the root flare or collar where the trunk is differentiated from the roots, and the root collar should be at the level or slightly above the soil.  The means the hole you dig should be shallow and wide to encourage good establishment of the root system.

Lots to think about, and for a successful home orchard, please read through some of this material. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Posted on 14 May 2008

Maggie Shao
Horticulture Agent, Salt Lake County

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