British Columbia

Tips for growing fruit trees, from master gardener Brian Minter

"If you have a garden pretty much anywhere in the province and you do have sun between basically 10 o'clock to three o'clock," you can grow fruit trees, says Brian Minter.

With many hardy and compact varieties around, fruit trees can be grown all around the province

A bee buzzes around a flowering Crab Apple Tree. (AFP/Getty Images)

Growing a fruit tree used to be onerous, but now — with more compact varieties and trees that grow in different shapes — it's become a lot easier to have a beautiful fruit tree growing in one's garden, says master gardener Brian Minter.

However, there are some pointers one should keep in mind.

Minter joined host Gloria Macarenko on B.C. Almanac to share his tips on growing fruit trees.

1. They can be grown across B.C.

Fruit trees can be grown "if you have a garden pretty much anywhere in the province and you do have sun between basically ten o'clock to three o'clock, or a good portion of sun in that area," Minter said.

He said harder varieties can even be grown in the parts of the province north of Prince George.

"Your northern garden places would have those varieties available," he said.

2. Know how large they're going to get

For very compact trees, one will need to get a "dwarfing root stock," Minter said.  

He also said the dwarf or compact varieties will have to have a stake to stand up for the entire life of the tree, because they are not strong enough to withstand wind. 

"Pears you can get in a more dwarfing variety, as opposed to a standard variety. The same with plums and so on," he said. 

3. Control their shape

The trees don't have to grow to full size either, Minter said.

"Train them to be the shape you want. You don't have to say that's going to be a regular tree. And you can have a lot of fun doing that."

Furthermore, ensuring the tree fans out flat against a wall can help protect it — which is especially important in the Lower Mainland, Minter said.

"If we want to grow peaches ... apricots or nectarines, you simply have to fan them out against a south or west wall. It cannot be in the open — it's too wet in the Lower Mainland to do that."

4. Make sure there is something to pollinate it

"Very few apples are self-fertile, very few pears are self-fertile," Minter said. 

He said feeding the tree with micro-nutrients containing boron will help the flowers provide fruit.

"If you just don't see a lot of bees and pollinating, put a flowering heather plant under your tree, it will attract them right now."

5. Protect the trees

Tree diseases such as canker, which can develop over the winter months, can be treated with a copper spray, Minter said.

"It's a spray we use to prevent tomato blight and potato blight as well, so it's useful in the garden. It won't cure it, but it will keep it in check," he said.

He said cankers can be cut out if they are on a branch or trunk, or if it is a smaller branch the entire branch can be cut off.

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac

To hear the full interview with Brian Minter, listen to the audio labelled: Tips from master gardener Brian Minter on growing fruit trees 


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