GROWING A COMBINATION FRUIT TREE
Raintree Nursery wants to empower people to become more self-sufficient with their food. Below you’ll find our growing guides for many of the plants that we sell. If you still have questions, please call us and our horticulturalists will be happy to help you along your edible plant journey!
CHOOSING A VARIETY
Combination trees are fruit trees that have been bud grafted to produce multiple varieties of compatible fruits off of a main grafted variety. Combination trees are valued by home growers that want a variety of fruit, but do not have a lot of available land to plant single variety trees. As with single variety trees, there are many kinds available and so it is important to choose one that is right for your area.
Size is an important consideration when choosing a combination tree. Combination trees come on in a wide range of sizes and can be grown in everything from a container to an orchard.
Take a look at this size chart showing trees grown on different rootstocks.
By design combination trees are intended to be functionally self-fertile and require no pollinator, however if a branch or branches carrying critical pollinators are lost due to disease or damage, the tree may lose its self-fertility.
Pollination is important during your orchard planning as well, since you need pollinators to fly between your apricot trees. The pollinizers should be planted no further than 50 feet apart, to ensure proper cross-pollination.
USDA HARDINESS ZONE
Many fruit trees are hardy to USDA zones 4-9, unless otherwise noted . This rating tells you the minimum winter temperature the plants typically survive when properly hardened off. On our web site you will find a USDA Hardiness Maps which provides information on the average minimum winter temperature in your location, by zip code.
Many plants native to locations that have cold winters have a Chill Hour requirement to ensure uniform waking up of flower and leaf buds in the spring. The chill hour requirement of plants varies by species, by cultivar, and sometimes by the level of dormancy achieved.
WHERE TO PLANT YOUR TREE
Fruit trees need to be planted where they receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight measured in early summer (late June to early August). Sufficient sun exposure triggers the initiation of new flower buds for the next growing season, without which there will be no fruit. Fruit ripening and flavor development are also benefited by the carbohydrate production stimulated by the sun, as well as it’s heat.
Fruit trees tolerate a wide variety of soils so long as they are well drained and moderately rich with a pH around 6.3-6.8. Improve your soil where you intend to plant by mixing an inch or two of plant based organic matter (manures are best for vegetable gardens), peat, or coconut coir into an area 1 1/2 to 2 times the diameter of the needed planting hole and up to a foot deep. A 2-4” deep layer of mulch (straw, leaves, or wood chips) applied after planting will continue to improve the soil.
Allow sufficient space for both the top of the tree and it’s roots when selecting the planting location. Refer to size descriptions for each variety, keeping in mind these are generally managed or pruned sizes, not maximum potential sizes. If you are planting an orchard be sure to include enough space between rows for transporting supplies in and fruit out.
GROWING IN CONTAINERS
Mini-Dwarf combination apple trees are the best candidates for growing an apple tree in a container. Because combination trees are self-fertile, if you are only going to plant one Fruit tree in a pot, this is a strategy that can work for you!
To grow a fruit tree in a pot you need a container of at least 25 gallons. Larger is better, but make sure you have the ability and tools to move the pots heavy weight.
Do not use soil from your garden in the pot, instead use a potting soil mix with some added compost.