Question from Rachel:
Pat, your book has been a lifesaver! But I have a specific question to ask, and I can’t find an answer anywhere.
I live in zone 10, Long Beach, CA. I have a sunny backyard that has 2 citrus trees: a lemon tree that became wonderfully productive once I did a major pruning a few years ago, and a Valencia orange that produces sweet fruit with surprisingly few seeds. We pull fruit from both trees all the time. We have room for 1 or 2 more trees, and would love a lime tree. Do you recommend any particular variety? And do lime trees have to be planted at any particular time?
Answer from Pat:
Glad to know that my book is helping. What a delight to have two good citrus trees. I strongly recommend Bearss Lime as the best lime tree for home gardens in California and Hawaii. It needs a frost free zone. Leave fruit on the tree until very ripe and they will be loaded with juice. You might be able to find one on a dwarfing root stock. If not a dwarf it’s quite a large tree eventually to 20 feet tall, and with much foliage in summer. In winter it drops many leaves.
Regarding peaches, why not consider peach and nectarine both? I don’t recommend either one unless people know their requirements and are committed to prune harder in winter than for other deciduous fruit trees and to treat with dormant spray at least twice in winter against peach leaf curl disease and other diseases and pests. Prune while the tree is dormant after leaves fall and then spray more than once in winter. Even organic gardeners should use dormant sprays on peach trees after leaves fall.
Now for peach varieties. Actually, there are several good, low chill varieties available for where you live—probably Zone 24 (the Sunset climate zone closest to the ocean). You mention Zone 10, but that is a USDA zone and it covers a huge area, even some parts of Zone 10 are in the desert which is pretty silly when one considers you can’t grow a fuchsia in the desert and you can’t grow tomatoes there, either, in the summer since the heat makes blossoms fall off. The Sunset Zones cover smaller areas and work much better in the West. If you are not familiar with Sunset Western Garden Book, you might consider purchasing a copy. The opening pages explain the zones including Zone 24 or possibly 23 where you live. Zone 24 is in the fog bank along the beach. Zone 23 is a bit back from that. Sunset Western Garden Book and my book are all one needs to garden here successfully. Peach and nectarine varieties are listed on pages 517 to 520 of the Sunset book. A discussion of peaches in general is on page 516.
Two of the best low-chill peach varieties are ‘Floridaprince’ and ‘Midpride’. I would like to warn you against buying ‘Bonita’. This is the low-chill variety that is most often available in nurseries since it was the first low-chill varieties developed. In my opinion it’s not worth growing, so please steel yourself and don’t let anybody talk you into buying it!
Among nectarines, I suggest ‘Panamint’ nectarine. Everyone to whom I have recommended that tree loves it. The fruit has bright red skin and yellow flesh. It is one of the best home-grown fruits I know of and fairly easy to grow. Another good nectarine for home gardens close to the coast is ‘Arctic Star’, which has white flesh. In bare root season go looking at a fine nursery for these specific varieties. Don’t take second best! Nurseries will often try to talk you into what they have on hand. Panamint nectarine is easy to find, however, and it’s a real winner! Very productive too. Don’t forget to fertilize when blossoms swell in spring, and also thin the fruit. See my other posts on this blog on the subject of peach trees and deciduous fruit trees.
Apricot trees along the coast are iffy most years. (This year, 2010 was unusual and the ‘Blenheim’ apricot tree across the street from me bore massively this year due to cold nights.) In normal conditions, however, ‘Autumn Royal’ apricot variety is the only apricot tree that will reliably bear fruit every year in Zone 24. Be sure to wait until fall to pick the fruit. (This apricot bears fruit in fall not in spring.) Prune apricots lightly in winter, and follow up with dormant spray several times in winter. Fertilize lightly when blossoms swell.
When knowledgeable folks go out to look for the right things to grow they often find it’s difficult. I suggest internet searches—all the fruit varieties I’ve mentioned can be found on the internet. And good local nurseries are willing to order the best varieties for folks that demand the correct plants. Stick to your guns and don’t get second best.
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