A: The key to growing fruit in Newfoundland and Labrador is selecting cultivars that will produce mature fruit in a short growing season. Advances in plant breeding have led to the development of many early-maturing cultivars that perform well in cool climates. Note that certain cultivars or even types of fruit trees sold locally may not necessarily be suitable for Newfoundland and Labrador. Three fruit trees that typically do well in Newfoundland and Labrador are cherry, plum and pear.
‘Toka’ sweet early plum
Prunus and Pyrus
Prunus is a large group of plants that includes cherry (sweet cherry and sour cherry) and plum. It also includes apricot and peach, but these trees are unlikely to produce mature fruit in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sweet cherries were traditionally self-sterile but now self-pollinating cultivars are available, eliminating the need to plant a second cultivar. Sour cherries are self-pollinating. Plum trees are classified as American, European or Japanese. Pollination can be quite complicated with respect to pairing compatible cultivars, but several self-pollinating cultivars are now available. However, yield may still be greater if a second cultivar is introduced.
Pears belong to the Pyrus genus, of which there are several early-maturing cultivars that perform well in Newfoundland and Labrador. Pear trees are self-sterile. To ensure successful cross-pollination, two different pear cultivars must be planted within a distance of 30 m.
Ornamental cousins of cherry, plum and pear have been bred for their floral display rather than fruit production. The fruit from these trees are typically insignificant and inedible; some do not bear fruit at all.
Planting and Care
Commercially grown fruit trees are usually grafted. Grafting is a highly specialized technique whereby a superior cultivar is united with a hardy rootstock. Grafted trees can be identified by the presence of a large lump (graft) near the base of the trunk. The planting hole should be twice as wide as the root ball and deep enough so that the graft is set just below the surface of the soil. Mix organic matter and agricultural lime with the soil that is removed from the planting hole.
Each year in late spring apply a general-purpose fertilizer (e.g. 15-5-15). Another technique that works quite well for fruit trees is to mulch them with seaweed each year and supplement with a light application of general-purpose fertilizer. Do not apply commercial fertilizer after the end of July.
Early spring, before new growth begins, is the best time to prune fruit trees. Dormant pruning is less stressful to the tree plus it is easier to view the shape and form of the canopy while the leaves are off. Some guidelines for pruning include:
* remove the lower branches to a height of about 120 cm above the ground,
* remove any branches that grow straight up in the centre of the tree to allow the plant to capture more light,
* remove sucker growth that develops below the graft, and
* remove dead or broken branches and branches that cross over each other.
Black knot is a serious disease that affects plums (especially damson plums) and some cultivars of cherry. It is extremely common on the native pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), a major source of infection for cultivated plants.
The black knot fungus, Dibotryon morbosum, causes black “warty” looking growth on the branches. To control the fungus, remove any wild cherries growing in the area. Inspect the trees every spring and fall and remove any branches containing the black knots. It is important to prune at least 10-15 cm below each knot. Bury or burn affected branches immediately after pruning. Chemical control is neither effective nor practical for the home gardener.