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Fruit trees are a worthwhile addition to any landscape. For cost effectiveness and best selection, purchase them bareroot in fall or late winter.
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The most important consideration is suitability of the variety to your region. The fruit varieties in grocery stores may not be the best varieties to grow. Consult your local Cooperative Extension agent or nursery professional for advice.
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Next, consider pollination requirements. For apples, pears and most cherries and plums you need at least two varieties to ensure pollination. Or choose a tree with two or more varieties grafted on one rootstock.
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Consider the ultimate size of the tree. Choices generally include those grafted on dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard rootstocks. Trees on dwarf rootstock grow to 10 - 12 ft. Those on semi-dwarf reach 12 - 16 ft. Trees on standard rootstock get quite large; purchase them only if you have plenty of space.
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Once you've settled on varieties and sizes, choose the individual plants carefully. Confirm that the trunk and stems are straight and sturdy, with no injuries or signs of canker or disease. Look for branches uniformly positioned around the trunk.
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The graft union is the spot where the scion was grafted onto the rootstock. This union should be completely healed and stout. A weak graft union can cause serious problems down the road.
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Next, look for a root system that is well branched, with plenty of fine roots. Avoid trees with primary roots that grow all in one direction.
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Examine the root systems closely for any signs of drying. Gray or brittle fine roots indicate a tree that was allowed to dry out, a sure recipe for failure. With proper planning, inspection and care, you are sure to be satisfied with your choice, and enjoy the fruits of your labor for a long time.