Alas, fall is upon us. The good news is the cooler weather is a great time for planting trees and shrubs. If you already have a variety of fruit trees, or just want to try something different, here are five suggestions for fall planting.
Persimmons: The persimmon is a usually small, temperate zone tree with a seedy and astringent fruit which is almost impossible to eat. A lot of work has been done with the persimmon, however, and now there are cultivars available that have fruit which is described as superb. The taste defies comparison with other fruits; and must be experienced when it is at the peak of ripeness, which is a good reason to grow your own. The trees are often grown in groves. Seedlings can be male or female, so grafted cultivars are best. Work has been done on cold-hardiness in persimmons also; and some varieties can withstand temperatures down to -20F. Trees planted in the fall in northern climes will still need some protection however.
The American plum: If you’re looking for cold hardiness, this one’s for you. This small tree (topping out at 20 feet or so) is hardy to -40° F. If you plant seedlings this fall, expect the trees to begin bearing small fruit in about five years. The fruit is great for preserves or pies and is a favorite of wildlife. Keep in mind that the trees sometimes have thorns, so you may want to consider these thorns when choosing a planting spot.
Jostaberries: Pronounced “yostaberries,” this shrub has both gooseberries and currants in its ancestry. These bushes are nearly maintenance-free and produce lots of wine-colored fruit in midsummer. The fruit is similar to gooseberries in taste, but sweeter. These plants are very cold-hardy and do well in full sun or partial shade. Birds love these, so you may want to cover them with netting when they begin to bear.
Elderberries: Elderberries are not very palatable right off the bush but, when cooked in a pie or used in jams and jellies, they are delicious. They are also touted for their immune-system enhancing qualities, and can be transformed into a very elegeant and rich-colored wine. There are named varieties available from nurseries, or if you know where there’s a thicket of elders, you can dig your own. Look for shoots at the base of the mother plant. These may be dug and transplanted when the mother is completely dormant.
The Medlar: This is a small fruit tree related to the pear that is seldom seen in American backyards, but is widely grown in Europe. The fruit of the medlar has the distinction of only being palatable when it is finally soft and mushy. At that point, it is very aromatic and has been described as tasting like fruit butter or custard. Some trees produce fruit that is grittier than others. This compares to the grittiness one sometimes encounters in certain varieties of pears.
All of these trees and shrubs may be ordered from nurseries. Simply enter the tree name into the information box of your favorite search engine.