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The Year for Fruit Trees - by Carl Wilson, Extension Horticulturist

A year like this when most all spring blooms escape freezes and fruit trees set a bountiful crop is rare. Large numbers of fruit also can be too much as peach tree owners are finding out in late summer. Limb breakage from too heavy fruit loads is not a good thing. Once limbs are broken there is nothing to be done but saw off the jagged break to a smooth cut. It is recommended that excess fruit be removed in June by thinning to 6 inches apart on limbs. See our Front Range Food Gardener blog for how. Fruit thinning not only helps to prevent limb breakage, it also results in sweeter and larger fruit.

Before you decide to plant a peach or apricot tree next spring, know that these trees may have fruit in perhaps 1 out of every 5 years. They are among the first to bloom in spring and often get caught by Front Range freezes. More reliable fruit trees are sour cherries, pears, plums and apples - see variety recommendations here.

Don’t overlook the “small fruits” like strawberries, raspberries, and now blackberries. Strawberries can either be June bearing or everbearing. June bearing types set the whole crop to mature at one time for June harvest. This works fine if blossoms don’t freeze. To hedge your bets you may also want to plant some everbearers, ones that bloom several times and produce smaller crops over the summer even if the first flowers freeze. See here for details.

Red and yellow raspberries have proved reliable here and are again of two types, summer bearing and fall bearing. Planting both can provide a longer period of fruit harvest. See our raspberry fact sheet for details.

Recently, a new type of late bearing blackberry is being marketed that appears to be cold hardy on the Front Range. They bear on first year canes instead of having to wait for canes to be two years old. 'Prime Jim' is the variety that appears best adapted.

Plant a mix of small and tree fruit to better ensure you will have some harvest every year.

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Updated Saturday, September 25, 2010