Desert Gardener

Winter is the best time to plant fruit trees and many nurseries will have bareroot fruit trees and roses in stock probably in the middle of December. So what type of fruit trees are best for the Antelope Valley?

Climatically the best type of fruit trees are pears followed by apple trees. Apples and pears are very cold-hardy and bloom later in spring. Pearblossom and Pearland are two communities in the Antelope Valley named after a crop.

Pears are better suited for the Antelope Valley than apples because pears tolerate slightly warmer summer temperatures. Apples prefer summer temperatures in the high 70s to mid-80s, Pears will tolerate into the 90s.

The worst fruit trees for the Antelope Valley are typically the stone fruits. Stone fruits are peaches, nectarines, cherries and plums. Stone fruits bloom in early to late March and our last frost is around April 17. During this period, the flowers have a chance to be killed by frost.

If your flowers are damaged, then no fruit for that year. We lose our stone fruits to freezes about every other year. Leona Valley and Acton are not climatically the same as the Antelope Valley, so stone fruit tend to grow better because the temperatures stay cooler longer and the flowers will bloom later.

Pistachio, pears, apples, and last stone fruits is the order of trees best suited to our climate, but the best fruit tree for anyone is the type of fruit you like to eat. If you don’t like pears don’t plant them. Here are some additional tips in selecting a variety of apples or peaches, whichever type of fruit tree you want.

Don’t buy a low chilling variety of fruit. ‘Beverly Hills’ or ‘winter banana’ apples are examples of a low chilling variety of apples. All fruit trees require a certain number of hours of cold winter temperatures (45-degree temperatures or less) in order for the trees to develop flowers. For apples, it can be about 1,200 hours and, plums can be over 1,600 hours.

The Los Angeles basin does not get very many hours of the necessary cold, so a normal apple will not grow in Los Angeles. Over the years commercial nurseries developed a series of fruit trees that instead of needing 1,200 hours they only require 300 hours, allowing them to grow in Los Angeles.

These low chilling plants were developed to require less cold, but the fruit usually does not taste very good. A low chilling variety in Antelope Valley can get enough cold temperatures by December and as soon as the temperatures warm up they will bloom in December instead of spring.

The second tip is not to buy the largest fruit. We get carried away with trying to grow the biggest fruit possible. The bigger size the fruit, the longer it takes to grow and the more likely something will happen to the fruit. At the same time you produce such a large fruit that you cannot eat the whole fruit at once. So pick a medium sized apple, peach or whatever type of fruit that you plan to grow.

In my opinion, the best fruit tree for the Antelope Valley is the pistachio tree. The pistachio tree is native to dry, hot climates and will take the cold winters. However, you may not consider a pistachio a fruit tree; we eat the seed, not the fruit.

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