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Best Fruit Trees for North Texas

Fruit trees produce healthy food for your family, giving you many years of enjoyment. This article and accompanying video will help you select the best fruit trees for our part of North Texas: Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake and the surrounding areas ̶ and choose those that are best for your garden. You'll also learn how to care for fruit trees to keep them healthy and maximize their production.


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How to Choose The Best Fruit Trees for Your North Texas Garden


Editor's Note: The following articled is based on the video transcript and edited for readability.


Fruit trees are a long-term investment that not only beautify your landscape but, once established, produce large amounts of fresh, healthy fruit over many decades. Since they have such a significant impact on your overall landscape, it is worth the effort to think carefully about choosing the right fruit tree and planting it correctly in the right place. In this article, we take a deep dive into which types of fruit trees grow best in North Texas. You'll also learn how and when to plant your trees and how to care for them using organic methods. Let's get started!


A Matter of Taste

Although you may enjoy providing forage for wildlife or attracting more pollinators into your landscapes, the vast majority of us plant fruit trees to enjoy their deliciousness. Therefore, the most important question to ask is, what do you like to eat?


Peaches, apples, figs, plums, and pears all perform well in our area. However, as you will see below, choosing the right variety of each is crucial. There is no point in struggling to grow a tree that's not adapted to the North Texas climate, especially since you're going to be planting it outdoors.


Some citrus trees can also be grown in our area, however, they need to be grown in containers that can be brought in for the winter. We'll discuss these as well.


Allow Space for the Mature Size

The second consideration is to determine the mature size of the tree. Keep in mind that trees affect your entire landscape. As they grow, they will cast shade and their branches and their roots will spread out in all directions, so it is important to choose a site where your foundation, walls, fences or other landscape features won't interfere with this growth.


One of the nice things about fruit trees is that they generally don't get really big. Most will top out at 15 to 20 feet high. The root system is usually about twice as wide as the height. Even a relatively small backyard can accommodate at least one fruit tree, depending on the rest of your landscape.


Not so for nut trees. Pecans, for example, which are native to North Texas, can rise to 70 - 100 feet tall with roots that spread two to four times the height.


Avoid planting other things directly under the base of the tree as these plants will compete with your fruit tree for water and nutrients.


Locating Your Tree

All fruit trees need at least six full hours of sun every day to produce fruits. If they are shaded by a wall, roof line, or other tree, ensure that they are still able to get a minimum of six hours of direct sun. Without sufficient light, they may not properly flower or produce fruit and the tree may become weak.


Chilling Hours

Many landscape plants, such as Tulips and Irises, need to experience an extended period of cold weather in order to properly bloom and fruit. Even some perennials need a "chilling" period to look and produce their best the following spring. Just how much chilling a plant needs is expressed in terms of "chilling hours" — or how many hours the plant needs to be kept between 30 and 45 degrees F.


In North Texas, we generally experience about 600 to 800 chilling hours. Many fruit trees, however, require 1,000 chilling hours. A Washington Red Delicious apple, for instance, needs a minimum of 900 chilling hours while a Gala apple tree needs only 500 hours. So the Gala apple tree is a better choice for North Texas than the Red Delicious.


Peach trees need anywhere from 450 to 1200 chilling hours, depending on the variety, while fig trees only need about 100 chilling hours..


The information sheet below lists some of the best choices.

Best Fruit Trees for North Texas
.pdf
Download PDF • 75KB

Pollination

Many fruit trees are self pollinating, which means each tree has both male and female parts. This includes most peaches, pears, citrus, nectarines, plums, figs, and Asian pears. It is not necessary to have a second tree with any of these. Most apple trees are not self pollinating and need to have a mate to produce fruit. However, you can't go wrong when you plant two or more trees of different varieties. Your entire garden will thrive when it is heavily visited by our native pollinators, so the more you attract, the better.


Planting Your Tree

Many people wonder whether to amend their soil when planting their trees. It's usually best to plant your tree in native soil. This encourages your trees to adapt to the native soil. Amending may cause the roots to circle around each other within the planting hole rather than spreading out into the adjacent soil as they should. When this happens the tree roots may not spread wide enough to support the canopy of the tree, causing the tree to be imbalanced and prone to falling over.


Make your planting hole slightly bigger than the pot your tree comes in.


Avoid Transplant Shock

Always transplant your tree (and all other plants) from wet soil to wet soil. That is, make sure you water the tree while it is still in its original pot and that you have watered the planting hole before you place the tree in it. Placing a plant in a dry hole can cause "transplant shock." which can kill the plant very quickly. When that happens, it will be unable to absorb water at that point and will appear wilted.


We recommend using an organic liquid root stimulator such as our Organic Planting Recipe, Green Tree Elixir or Garrett Juice Tree Tonic to help reduce transplant shock and encourage root development over top growth.


Expose the "Root Flare"

Notice that the base of your tree has what is called a "root flare." The trunk starts to widen out just above the roots at the point the tree submerges into the soil. On a young tree, the root flare may not be obvious, but as the tree gets older, it will become more pronounced.


It is critical that this root flare should always remain exposed. Never cover that root flare with soil or mulch, or anything else. Doing so can cause the trunk to rot, which can kill your tree very quickly First the bark will turn black and fall off. Eventually it will rot all the way through and the tree will fall over.


Diagram of the correct way to plant a tree
How to Correctly Plant a Tree

Set It High

Keep in mind whenever you plant anything, that when you back fill it, the soil is going to be a fluffier than when yo started. When you tamp it down and water it, the soil is going to compress. Because of this settling, when you plant your tree, you want to actually put it in a little bit higher than ground level so that when the earth settles, that root flare will still be exposed.


You also want to make sure that you don't end up with a concaved area around the base of the tree where water can collect.


Mulching

Mulching correctly is very beneficial for all your trees, shrubs and perennials. It helps insulate the roots of your plants and allows the soil to retain moisture longer by reducing evaporation. Mulching also helps with weed control.


Photo showing "volcano" mulching
Photo showing "volcano" mulching

Photo showing damage from "volcano" mulching
Damage from "volcano" mulching can including toppling the entire tree.

Mulch should be applied away from the root flare, as discussed above, to the outer edge of the root zone. Always leave about six inches of space from the base of the trunk out to where the mulch starts. Cover the remainder of the root zone in one to three inches of mulch. Some people like to think of it as making a "donut" versus mounding a "volcano."


(This rule applies to other plants as well. Never push mulch up against the base of the plant. Always leave an inch or two of space for the trunk to breathe.)

Illustration of proper vs. improper mulching of a tree.
Proper mulching leaves the root flare exposed.

Maintenance

Once you've successfully planted your tree, it's time to think about caring for it over the long term.


Establishment

It takes about three years for a fruit tree to become fully established after transplanting. During this period you really need to make sure that they're getting plenty of deep watering.


Forget Your Sprinklers

The worst way to water a tree is to rely on your sprinklers. This is because sprinklers only lightly water the top of your soil rather than watering deeply. Light applications of water will force roots to the surface, leading to shallow rooting and poor root anchorage. Instead, trees (and large shrubs) need deep watering that can penetrate several inches below the surface to the tree roots.


Occasional deep watering (to a minimum depth of 12-inches) attracts the roots downward, which in turn, will help your tree withstand heat and drought. It will also be less likely to fall over in a strong wind. Shallow watering trains the roots to stay up near the surface, which drastically weakens the tree.


To ensure deep watering, use a soaker hose or tree ring hose that applies the water slowly and evenly around the root zone out to the drip line of the tree.


Another option is to use a Gator Bag. A Gator Bag is a canvas or plastic bag that can be wrapped around the tree and filled with water. The water gradually leaks out into the soil to keep the root zone moist for a long period of time. A Gator Bag can hold up to 50 gallons of water, which is enough for a medium sized tree.

Photo of a gator bag wrapped around a tree
Gator bags are wrapped around the base of the tree and slowly release water into the surrounding soil.

Another handy device is a tree watering stake. This is a tube that looks similar to a large flute with a point at one end several holes along the length of the tube. A removeable cap on top lets you pour water or other liquid deep into the soil. Tree watering stakes come in several sizes for different sized trees.


How Much Water is Enough?

For new trees, some experts recommend 10 gallons of water per week for every 1 inch of tree caliper. For established trees, watering monthly during the growing season is usually sufficient, however, in extreme heat, weekly watering may be required. Be sure to count rainfall when measuring.


When the tree goes dormant — usually around Thanksgiving — you can reduce watering to about once ever six weeks. When your tree begins to put on new leaves in the spring, it's time to increase watering again.


Fertilization

Fertilize your tree along with the rest of your large landscape shrubs at least twice a year —once in early spring and again in late spring. Marshall Grain offers several liquid and dry organic tree fertilizers.


Liquids such as Green Tree Elixir or Garrett Juice Tree Tonic are the best options and allow you to fertilize and water at the same time. Both are concentrates intended to be diluted in water based on the circumference of the trunk, so bigger trees require a larger amount of both fertilizer and water than smaller ones. Liquid fertilizers can also be applied as a foliar spray, which gives your tree two ways to absorb the product.


Dry organic fertilizer options include Sustane 8-2-4 All Purpose Plant Food and Texas Tee 6-2-4 Lawn & Plant Food.


Skip fertilizing in the summer when temperatures high.


One way to ensure the fertilizer is reaching the roots is to use a root feeder. Essentially, a root feeder is a hollow tube that can be driven down into the soil. Fertilizer is then fed into the tube to deposit it a few inches below the surface.


Relieving Stress

Heat, drought, freezing weather, pests, and diseases are all sources of stress that can affect the life and productivity of your tree. Additional applications of Green Tree Elixir or Garrett Juice Tree Tonic can help reduce stress during the course of the year.


Citrus Trees & Other Specialty Fruits

All citrus trees need 8 to 10 hours of direct sun. Some of the citrus varieties suitable for North Texas patio containers include:

  • Satsuma Mandarin oranges

  • Myer lemons

  • Calamondin

  • Kumquats

  • Mexican limes

  • Ruby grapefruits

Myer lemons are the only citrus that continues to bloom after the tree has set fruit. They bloom and fruit off-and-on almost all year round.


Limitations of Container Growing

Because of the extreme temperatures we experience in North Texas, some fruit trees can only be grown here in containers because they must be moved indoors during the winter months. Being confined to a portable container also means choosing dwarf varieties. Even so, every 3 to 4 years, they will need to be moved to a bigger pot. Eventually, your plant will become so big that you may want to abandon it and start over again with a younger tree.


Growing in containers also means extra vigilance when it comes to fertilizing and watering. Being confined to a limited space means that your plants will lose water and nutrients faster than in-ground plants.


Container Fertilization

Plant one tree per container using a high-quality, well-draining potting soil such as Fox Farm's Happy Frog or Ocean Forest Potting Soil. Use an organic fertilizer with a slightly acidic pH blended for citrus trees such as Espoma's Citrus-tone. Fertilize yearly in the spring (March).


Container Watering

It is critical that you check your containers daily — especially in hot weather. In extreme heat they made need to be watered twice daily. One way to help determine if you need to water is to plant annual flowers in the pot as an indicator. If they look thirsty in the morning, it's probably time to water.


Thinning Out the Fruit

For the first two to three years, it's better to remove any fruit. Thinning it diverts all of the tree's energy into producing the roots and limbs it needs to support the weight of the fruits. Stronger branches can support more weight without drooping, which can break the branch or permanently bend it in the wrong direction.


Fruit usually grows in clusters of two or more fruits on a single stem. Not only can they get quite heavy but you will actually get bigger, juicier pieces of fruit when you thin your tree.

photo of hand showing proper spacing between fruits
Proper spacing between fruits should be approximately the distance between the and pinkie finger.

Pruning

A healthy fruit tree needs only minimal pruning to shape it and to remove any dead branches.


Container citrus should also be pruned to maintain a balanced shape, and to keep fast-growing limbs from outgrowing the top of the tree.

Diagram showing correct and incorrect pruning cuts. Diagram by Denis Houck, Copyright: Marshall Grain Company 2023.
Correct pruning can prevent problems later.

If pruning is necessary, avoid cutting the "leader branch." The leader branch should extend straight up into the air from the trunk of the tree. Other branches will angle outward, away from the center. Always cut branches at a 45 degree angle. (See diagram.) Whichever way the cut points, is the direction that new growth will follow.


For example, if the cut angles inward, the new growth will angle inward as well and everything would grow up toward the center, making the tree narrower. Whereas if you make an outward facing cut, it will grow outward. Always clip the branch just above a new bud.


An improper cut will cause the remaining section to die and eventually rot, which will invite in pests and diseases. Ensure that your tool is nice and sharp to achieve a sharp, clean cut.


Other Maintenance

Keep weeds and grasses from growing under your trees. As mentioned above, trees need deep watering while other plants compete for moisture and nutrients.


Pests & Diseases

This section looks at what kinds of problems to watch out for and offers the best organic solutions for treating them. By choosing varieties that are suited for our climate, you'll experience fewer problems in general, but the two most likely issues you'll encounter are worms in your fruit and fungal diseases.


Insect Damage

Besides being healthier for you and your family, organic methods for prevention are at least as effective as traditional chemical treatments.


Trichogramma Wasps

One of the most effective ways to prevent caterpillars from getting into your fruit

is to deploy Trichogramma Wasps. These tiny, near-microscopic wasps are non-stinging and highly-specialized parasitic insects. They control webworms, tent caterpillars, tomato horn worms and other caterpillars by laying their eggs on the back of the invading caterpillar. The developing eggs consume the caterpillar as food.


Photo of Trichogramma Wasp and wasp eggs
Trichogrammas are near-microscopic sized wasps that parasitize caterpillars.

The adult Trichogramma wasp is what is known as an "incidental pollinator." It lives on flower nectar, and while it doesn't actively collect pollen like the honeybee, it inadvertently carries pollen with it.


Trichogramma wasps are available at Marshall Grain in season. They are usually sold in egg form on small cards that are designed to be hung from a tree stem or tomato plant.


Horticultural Oil

Another caterpillar preventative is to spray your tree with Horticultural Oil. Peaches, nectarines and other stone fruits should be sprayed annually in early spring, just before the swollen bud stage. The oil works by suffocating the insects before they can burrow into the fruit. Since it is not applied when the tree is flowering, it will not harm pollinators.


CAUTION: Oil-based products such as Horticultural Oil, Neem Oil and Triple Action should be applied early in the morning, if possible. This will help prevent oil burns to the foliage caused by direct sunlight. Plants are also more receptive to foliar sprays in the cool morning air (between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM).


Recognizing and Treating Fungus

Leaf curl is a fungal disease (Taphrina deformans) that attacks stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. Leaf curl causes the leaves to become distorted and discolored. Generally, it weakens the tree and reduces fruit production. Fruit may also drop prematurely.

Photo showing leaf curl fungus on a peach tree
Leaf curl is a common fungus that attacks stone fruits such as peaches and nectarines.

Leaf curl is virtually endemic: the fungus over-winters as dormant spores on the tree branches and re-infect the tree each spring. Although some fruit tree varieties are more resistant to it, it will return year after year. The only control is to apply a barrier spray just before the buds begin to swell and before they show color.


Fire Blight

Fire blight is an extremely destructive bacterial infection that can attack more than 75 different trees and shrubs in the rose family — primarily apples, pears, and crabapples. Watch for browning or blackening of new shoots. Bark will also develop cankers, turn black or begin to ooze droplets of white or tan bacteria.

example of fire blight
Example of fire blight.

Example of fire blight
Example of fire blight

Fire blight can be controlled but only with very aggressive treatment. Often the best solution is to remove the tree and plant another more resistant variety.


Controlling Fire Blight

First and foremost, remove all infected plant material. Pruning while the tree is actively growing can further spread the disease, so be sure to sterilize your pruning tool after each cut by dipping it in a bleach solution. Pruning in winter lessens the chance of spreading the disease.


Make a clean cut at least four inches below any visible dead or dying wood. Never compost or recycle any infected plant material. It should be burned or bagged as garbage instead.


Copper-Based Products

Trees infected with fire blight should be sprayed with a copper-based fungicide-bactericide in early spring when buds are just beginning to swell and are silver to green in color, but no later than when they reach half an inch. Use care when applying copper-based products as copper in large quantities can be toxic to people, pets and wildlife.


Streptomycin

A third treatment is to spray Streptomycin, an antibiotic that can kill fire blight bacteria before they enter the tree. Streptomycin must applied while the flowers are open and may need to be applied multiple times until the flowers fall.

To reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance:

• Apply only at the recommended rate on the streptomycin label • Limit spraying to 3-4 applications per season • Do not use streptomycin after symptoms have developed • Do not use streptomycin for shoot blight or canker control


Protecting Your Fruit

Everyone one loves ripe, juicy fruit! Including squirrels, birds, racoons, and other critters. One way to beat thieves at their own game is to harvest a bit early and bring them indoors to finish ripening.


Another option is to cover fruit trees, berry bushes and other edibles with netting. Special tree and shrub netting is available to deter bandits.


A third option is to share your bounty with your backyard inhabitants. Life in the organic garden promotes a healthy, well-balanced eco-system where everyone can thrive. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results of letting nature take charge of it.


Come to Marshall Grain

We're here to help you identify and solve all of your gardening problems. Bring us your questions along with photos, plant clippings, and any other materials. Our experts can discuss your situation and recommend the best organic products for your specific needs.



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