Recap: Ray Sher on Selecting Fruit Trees for Your Yard [read more]

November 9, 2015

We began the meeting showering Ray with questions about ‘our various issues with our trees’, i.e., when to prune. When to thin. So it took a while to get started on the presentation. FYI, thin peaches on the stem to 1 every 6″. Apples one per stem. Wait until after they drop excess fruit so they do most of the work. Prune avocados when most dormant like January. And dry molasses repels ants, including crazy ants.

So, the presentation began with the pros & cons to weigh when considering whether you should plant fruit trees.

Cons include the cost and how long it takes for them to produce. Will you be in your home that long? Do you have the space & sunlight? Will you pick the fruit or will the falling fruit become a messy nuisance? Will you do the labor as some require quite a bit of care?

Pros include the fruit, wildlife habitat, beauty, privacy screens, shade for home or other plantings which reduces moisture loss. They also stabilize soils and complete the ecosystem by providing habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife, which means they can help with insect control in your vegetable garden.

In Houston, we need trees that can survive freezes, our extremely hot summers, drought, excessive rain, warm winters with too few chill hours, and for most of us, our clay soil.

We should seek out the best varieties for this area no matter how difficult it may be to obtain. Wait until you can get tried and true varieties. Don’t settle for less.

Planting Fruit Trees in Houston or Clay Soils

Lay a board across the hole so you can gauge depth. Plant at the same depth as in the pot. And fill with the same soil from your yard. Do not fill with a lighter soil as the surrounding clay will create a slow draining tub to drown the roots in heavy rains. You want to keep that tub as small as possible. Mulch with several inches of compost, tree trimmings, etc, out to the dripline. But keep it at least 2″ away from the trunk. You can lay down cardboard first to block weeds. Mulch 2x per year.

Water frequently the first year. No need to fertilize when you first plant it. Then use cotton seed meal or Microlife, 2 cups per inch diameter of trunk measured 1 ft above the ground. Fertilize in Feb, May & Sept.  Once mature, only add mulch/compost.

Fruit tree varieties categorized from easiest to hardest. Ease criteria includes labor, time to produce, climate issues, etc.

Easiest Fruit Trees & Shrubs

Figs – Produce in Summer
Varieties: Choose Closed Eye. Celeste or LSU Purple. Figs do not make good container plants.

Jujube – No care if you plant in lawn area where you can mow down the suckers they produce. They need full sun. Produce late in summer.
Varieties: Sugarcane, Ant Admire,

Persimmons – Produce in fall
Varieties – There are astringent & non-astringent
Astringent – Saijo
Non-Astringent- Fuyu

Pomegranate- produce in late summer
Varieties: Desertnyi and others (not Wonderful)
Some pruning every winter. Keep to 3 main branches.

Moderate in Difficulty


Grapefruit – become large trees. And need protection from freeze. Try to plant on south side of building.
Varieties: Bloomsweet, Golden, Cocktail, all the TX varieties like Ruby Red.

Varieties: Satsumas are the most cold hardy. Seedless Kishu is very ornamental.

Oranges – fairly easy. Protect in hard freeze.
Varieties: Cara Cara, Republic of TX, Moro Blood, Navel, Mars, Ujukitsu which is a lemon cross.

Kumquats are easy and take up less room than most fruit trees. Can be in a container. Very cold hardy. Meiwa and Changshou are best varieties, Seedless Meiwa is not sweet like Meiwa, but sour.

Lemons, Limes are good container plants. Protect from a freeze. Meyer lemon and any limes.

Blackberries – Need pruning yearly and support. Prune old cane after fruiting in late spring.
Variety: Kiowa.

Muscadine Grapes – Produce late summer. Need Trellis. Prune in winter. Male & Female plants needed.
Variety: Darlene as one of the females, need a male as pollinator, any will do.

Apples – Prune yearly
Varieties: Anna, Dorsett Golden, Carnavale

Pears – Prune yearly
Varieties: Acres Homes, Southern Queen, Southern King, Tennosui

The Most Difficult Fruits

Blueberries – Takes some $$ & effort to create & maintain the right conditions.– acid soil (He said planting under pine trees wasn’t enough in response to my suggestion), Good drainage and regular watering, i.e., raised bed with irrigation.
Varieties: Southern High Bush & Rabbiteye. Get both for a longer harvest period. Each type needs a pollinator

Stone Fruit are the most difficult
Peaches & Nectarines – Lots of pruning, lots of pests. Choose early varieties to get fruit before the bugs (low chill varieties).

Plums – choose Gulf Series Plums (I had to google this. Bred by U of Florida, Japanese type plums, They say to plant 2 varieties for pollination)
Gulf Beauty, Gulf Blaze, Gulf Gold, Gulf Rose, etc.

List of Things to Experiment with:
Avocado, Papaya, Guava, Star fruit, Dragon fruit, Cherry of the Rio Grande, Jaboticaba, Mulberry, banana

Avocado varieties: Fantastic, Opal, Wilma
Banana varieties: Blue Java/ Ice Cream

[My note: Grow papaya from seed from supermarket papaya of Mexican/Central American origin. Easy, like weeds because they really aren’t trees, but only if they don’t freeze. There will be very little yield the first summer. Although maybe better if you can start seeds early in green house. Last Organic Outpost had a big yield three summers ago because we didn’t have any freezes the winter before. This past year, they froze but not to the ground probably because of the mountain of tree trimmings going on there & some did sprout from the old trunk. So there was some yield.]

Another Note: My permaculture tip via Bob Randall: You can grow muscadines & blackberries in same space aka layering. Grapes above, berries below. You’ll prune the old berry cane before muscadines come along so they won’t be in the way. Bob Randall uses t-posts which can be bolted together for more height, with wires running from one post to the next. Or use your fences.

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3 Responses to “Recap: Ray Sher on Selecting Fruit Trees for Your Yard [read more]”
  1. beverly twaddell says:

    please move back to the multi service center on west gray

  2. Joan Walker says:

    To Ray Sher
    I have been hoping you were still active in Houston. It made me feel so pleased to see you active on this website.
    Wishing you all well,

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