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Fruit trees for Maryland

Posted by herbal z7NoVA (My Page) on
Fri, Jan 7, 11 at 18:46

I am just buying my first home with 1/2 acre of land. There are a lot of mature trees on it already but I plan to add as many fruit and nut trees as I can. I plan to purchase 2 each of peach, apricot, plum, apple and cherry initally. What are your suggestions for taste and ease of care?
I value your opinion, also sources would be great if you know of any.

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RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

Herbal, all of the fruits you mention will grow in Maryland but will require significant spraying for diseases and bugs. None of them will be very easy. The particular pests that will be bad are the plum curculio (on all of them), the codling moth ( on apples), and the oriental fruit moth (on the apricots peaches and plums). For diseases, they are not usually as bad but you will probably need to spray a preventative (copper) to keep them from causing trouble. You will need half a dozen well-timed sprays per year to get a good harvest. Also the deer, squirrels, birds, and other critters can be a big problem and you may have to be controlling them as well. The PSU guide linked below is a good start if you have not read much yet. Make sure you know what a big commitment you are making, and consider starting off with only a couple different kinds of fruit to make your task easier.

The only apricot variety I can strongly recommend is Tomcot. It is early, disease-resistant, and reliable. It is self-fertile.

For cherries, if you want a sour cherry Montmorency is by far the best. For sweet cherries they may not work well since they do not like the heat; they are also susceptible to bacterial canker which will kill the tree. Cracking is also a big problem so make sure you get a variety resistant to cracking. So, unless you really want sweet cherries you may find it easier to just grow sours. I don't have a favorite sweet cherry but both Black Gold and White Gold have been good ones for me. You need two sweets for pollination; the Montmorency is self-fertile but will not pollinate sweet cherries. Birds love cherries and often they need to be netted if you want to get a harvest.

For plums, the Japanese types fruit much sooner and are easier to grow in terms of diseases than the Europeans. Right now my favorite variety is Satsuma. Purple Heart is also looking promising. Shiro is a very reliable yellow plum which isn't quite as good tasting as the first two but is easy to grow. You need two Japanese plums for pollination.

There are many varieties of apples which work well. Both Gala and Fuji are highly productive and easy to grow. I prefer apples with more flavor and my favorite is Freyburg.

For peaches there are also many varieties that work. Any backyard peach picked ripe will be much better than any store peach so variety choice is not as important. My favorite varieties are old ones which are pretty hard to find.

In terms of places to order from, I would probably recommend Adams County Nursery as the best place for you. They have varieties suited to the mid-Atlantic since they are in southern PA. Vintage Virginia Apples in VA is a great source for unique apple varieties. For some of the varieties I mentioned above you may also need to order from other nurseries; Raintree, Cummins, and Fedco for example are also very good nurseries.


Here is a link that might be useful: PSU guide

RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

Herbal, although not on your list, Pawpaw and persimmon are very easy to care for, and usually do not require any spraying.


RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

Thanks Scott, great info! Looks like I'm going to be busy with all the resources and varieties you listed! I've waited 13 years to have my own land, believe me, I'm ready to get in the dirt! I plan to learn all I can and I am already thinking sprays, netting, etc. I just don't want to give myself more of a headache than necessary. I'm beginning with these 10 trees, trust me, this is scaling back for me. I have a group of middle school boys that I teach writing to privately. I keep envisioning them digging 30 holes in my huge front yard to begin an orchard. I'm trying my best to keep it simple. Ultimately, funds keep it simple for me.

RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

herb, I install and manage many home and estate orchards around southeastern NY and I've been doing this exclusively as a business for over 2 decades and have had my hands full time in the dirt twice that.

Before I ever went to hort school I was making my living as a self taught gardener and even after my more formal horticultural education, sources for information were scarce on taking care of fruit trees in a home orchard setting. Now with a few clicks you can be flooded with information on this subject.

It sure would have been easier if this was the case when I started, but one thing I got out of my experience was that by the time I had access to information, I had already found out that it is often inaccurate. It doesn't matter if it is from a nearby grower or from a land grant university, it is wise to always have a certain amount of skepticism and try things out yourself.

My point is, take advantage of the advice you will find on this site and elsewhere but test out that advice sometimes. When your trees first start to bear you can study your pests by not keeping them covered with poison. You will learn to identify the specific problems to your site. Pressure is different site to site- even in the same region, and the only way to find out exactly how little spray you can get away with is to risk some fruit and learn.

That said, Scott is a great source of information for you as he's a very smart grower who is close to your site. I agree with his advice on varieties and would add that cherries, even on the years you might have some success, almost always need to be netted to protect from birds.

I'd also suggest that apricots might not be on my first 10 list as much as I love the fruit. They are often wiped out by late frost because they are the first in the orchard to flower and they tend to be fragile trees- at least in my area. Maybe consider a couple fire blight resistant pears instead.

Unfortunately, insects and disease are not always the most difficult issue to solve in an orchard. Before you get started you might want to consider a layout with an electric fence system to keep squirrels out of the equation- unless you have a great dog.

RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

This is a good question for me as well. I live in Loudoun County, Virginia and want to plant just a couple fruit trees on my one acre lot. I have a mature white peach tree that I do not spray and consequently do not get mature fruit from it very often. I do not mind marred fruit (like apples with funny looking skin) but REALLY want to steer clear of sprays - period. I do not mind some fruit loss as I just want to use the fruit for home use (apple sauce, fresh eating, canning, jams, pies, juice, wine, etc). I am going to try to plant two quince bushes in my front yard this year. I was thinking a couple dwarf apples but am having trouble picking which variety. If not apples, can anyone make any other suggestions. I don't like persimmons (at least wild ones that is) and am only so-so on paw paws (pun unintended but pleasant). I have two hardy kiwis about ten years old or so. Generally do not do much with their fruit either but snack on it. Also have several self seeded elderberries that I usually let the bird have as they do not produce enough fruit right now to make it worth my while. What about plums? We used to have ornamental plum trees but some sort of canker hit them and I ended up cutting them down.

RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

Eric, I have found quinces much more difficult to grow than apples, they are much more susceptible to fireblight, rust, and codling moth. That is just my experience but I have head it from others as well. I chopped my quinces down a few weeks ago. Plums are not a no-spray crop, the curculio will usually get them all if you don't control them.

I would say you should look seriously at both asian and european pears, they are great for cooking and can do pretty well without sprays. Emphasis on "can", various diseases and bugs can come along which will require action. I didn't spray my pears this last season and this annoying pest called the pear leaf blister mite ruined nearly all of my asian pears. It can be controlled with oil sprays in the spring but I was not spraying for it. Other years I have done fine with no sprays.

If you are willing to use some non-toxic and more mildly toxic sprays it is possible to grow most fruits in our area, but it is more difficult than if heavy-hitting sprays are used. There is fortunately a completely non-toxic (in fact edible) spray called Surround which will minimize the curculio damage and that is how I control the curculio on my plums. About three sprays are needed in spring. The Surround also deters the moths later in the season if you keep on spraying it. You won't get all worm-free apples but you won't find it hard to cut out the minimal damage. I use mating confusion lures and a virus targeted at the moths as well, but those are hard to find in a home grower quantity. The other big problem is diseases and for this I have found I really need to do copper sprays in the dormant season. Copper is "natural" and "USDA organic" but its basically a poison. Some of the diseases I get on peaches, plums, and apples would be very difficult to control without the copper -- I am thinking of bacterial spot on the peach/plum and fireblight on the apple. You could try doing without it, but you may find your trees dying in front of you.

Herbal, harvestman makes some very good points about the importance of watching your orchard. My philosophy is a bit extreme, I use no spray until I have seen a problem either this or the previous season(s). So, every spray I do is directed at a particular disease or pest which I have seen, identified, know the lifecycle of, etc. By knowing what you are going after you will be able to use the minimal number of sprays. Harvestman has a spray schedule he uses of very few sprays per year. Since I am using organic sprays only I need to do more since they are not very powerful. You have several years to figure this out since the primary need to spray comes when the trees start bearing fruit.

Harvestman, I would say apricots are more reliable here than for you, I have yet to get completely frozen out in seven years. They also get fewer disease and bug problems on the fruit since the harvest is earlier. In fact overall they are the easiest stone fruit to grow. The microclimate makes a big difference, they should be planted in the coldest spot in the yard so they stay dormant as long as possible. I have my trees just uphill from the cold trap behind my house. A north-facing hill is another good cold spot. The way you know where the cold spot is is think where the snow melts last.


RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

Herbal and Eric,

Here's my two cents. I must say that I've found the comments by Scott, Harvestman and Jellyman the most useful for my purposes, living here in Maryland, and would take what they say very seriously.

I agree with the suggestion to try persimmons for Herbal. I have found them to be trouble free (so far), though the branches may need support when they set fruit. They are also very pretty trees.

I agree with Scott about quince. I have a variety supposedly more resistant to disease than others. Well, yes, it is, meaning that while it gets diseased it keeps on going. Unfortunately I lost all fruit on it last year to disease and it may serve as a disease reservoir for my other trees. Don't confuse regular quince with flowering quince, however, as they are different species. Flowering quince (chaenomeneles) have set plenty of fruit for me, and have beautiful flowers in the spring (but are ugly bushes the rest of the year). You can do many of the same things with their fruit as with regular quince (Cydonia).

I'd also recommend figs, particularly Celeste, if you have a sheltered spot facing the south -- perhaps a south-facing wall.

I am not sure how worried I would be about disease in Eric's case, with just a few trees on an acre. Scott has a lot of trees in a small space, which no doubt increases disease pressure. I have had relatively little problem with disease here in MD with fewer trees and good sun and air drainage and a late winter/early spring spray of lime-sulphur + oil. Some of the new disease-resistant apples really do avoid the big three diseases (Fire blight, cedar apple rust, and scab) and taste pretty good. You will still need to do something about insect pests. I've found the big three here in MD in my small orchard are: plum curculio, oriental fruit moth, and codling moth. Fruit moth is particularly hard to deal with without spraying and is my number one problem. I use a combination of Surround and bagging (search for posts on this), which works well on pears and apples for curculio and codling moth, but I have ended up spraying insecticide on stone fruit, since Surround simply has not stopped oriental fruit moth. The organically approved Spinosad has worked, but is not registered for the large number of sprays needed to stop this pest, so I ended up spraying permethrin last year.

Regarding varieties, I agree with Scott about Montmorency sour cherry and with the need for netting. You might also put in a smaller North Star sour cherry, which I have found to do well. With apples the most disease resistant include Williams Pride (summer), Enterprise and Liberty; Goldrush has some disease resistance and certainly tastes better, but I believe it is susceptible to cedar apple rust, a common disease around here. With elderberries you will find that planting the selected varieties found in nurseries on line will give you a lot of fruit.

Finally, Backyard fruit growers in Lancaster will be having their winter meeting on Saturday Jan 15 up near Lancaster, and this meeting will have a talk by Ike Kerschner of North Star Orchards near Philadelphia on fruit growing in this part of the world. He probably knows more about growing plums around here than anyone. If you have a day to spare, you might find this an interesting event. If you send me a personal message I'll send you notes I took from a talk Ike gave on plums last year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Backyard Fruit Growers

RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

I am absolutely thrilled! I love all of the advice.
Thanks Scott for the advice about finding the cold spots on my land. That won't be a problem with the current weather.
Austransplant, I WISH I could go to Pa. It's this raising five little boys thing that really cramps my gardening style. For instance, Edible Landscaping, a nursery in Va. has a volunteer day that pays you with credit to their nursery= FREE FRUIT TREES! Problem: weekday and only over 18. Yes, I do believe in child labor LOL
Harvestman, thank you for the reminder. I will keep my eyes open and try to take good garden notes. Any fire blight resistance pears you like for flavor?
I should explain that these ten trees will be surrounding my vegetable plot. I plan to train them into espaliered trees. Also, the trees will be regularly visited by my future chickens once they are mature enough. I hope to let the chickens forage for bugs and other pests, also donating some fertilizer. I plan to be preventative and organic. Sulfur, soap, oil and surround. Interestingly, surround is kaolin clay, which I have used for years to make face masks and handmade soaps. I have 5 lbs to get me started.

RE: Fruit trees for Maryland


I have no personal experience in this area (yet), but from what I've read online, you can't use raw Kaolin clay as if it was Surround.

This URL speaks of the early problems with using the raw clay (not filtered to 1.4 microns):

"Work done in the 1920's and 1930's with pottery-grade kaolin proved unsatisfactory, as plant health suffered and insects still maneuvered through the large (relatively-speaking) clay particles."

And another one:

"We have heard of one grower who bought a traincar load of "generic" kaolin clay, and killed most of his apple trees! Surround is, at this point in time, the only kaolin product suitable and registered for horticultural use."

RE: Fruit trees for Maryland

Magness is grown in the south (therefore fire blight resistant), totally delicious but pollen sterile so 3 varieties may be necessary for adequate cross pollination. I would recommend grafting at least another variety on it- 2 if you only want one pear tree.

I'm not in your area but Harrow Sweet ripens somewhat later than Mag and is a really nice pear that's supposedly FB resistant. Tyson ripens much sooner and is widely grown in the south and of very good quality for such early fruit as long as you pick it before it gets mushy.

Pollination issues with pears are unpredictable as most (all?) are capable of producing fruit without pollination or seeds if the weather is warm enough around flowering time. Southern growers often write about consistent success without pollination whereas up here it's an unreliable event for most varieties.

You should know ahead of time that Euro pears tend to be very slow to come into bearing with most varieties taking at least 6 years- I think Magness takes even longer. If you like Asian pears they do have the advantage of bearing very young.

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