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By Barbara Elmore, HCMG

four fruit trees for the hill country

   If you are looking for specific fruit trees to grow in the Hill Country, try these: peaches, plums, apples and pears. Late fall through winter is a good time to plant, although you can plant container-grown trees anytime. Anyone searching for good trees to plant might try these:

   We have many good varieties, says the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. Peaches are a major commercial crop in the Hill County and a good tree for the home garden. Three good varieties, which will produce at different times, are Harvester, Majestic and Redskin. All are freestone, which means the flesh separates easily from the seed.
     Big pest problem: Stinkbugs, which cause misshapen fruit.
   General advice: ďPeach trees are not necessarily long-lived trees,Ē says Dr. Larry Stein of Texas Cooperative Extension. If you can get 15 years from a peach tree, you are doing well. Take care of peach trees with water and fertilizer and donít baby along a sick old tree. Get rid of it and start over.

   Plant at least two varieties to guarantee pollination. Two good varieties are Morris and Ozark Premier. Both ripen in mid to late June.
   Biggest disease/pest problem: Plums are susceptible to disease, so when you prune them, disinfect pruning shears in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water before you move to another tree. Alcohol also works well.
   General advice: Plums trees have white blooms that some people use in the landscape.

   Although Texas apples donít get as red as their counterparts from other states because of high summertime temperatures, two varieties with high eating quality can be grown here. Mollies Delicious and Gala. Two apples of different varieties are required to pollinate the tree.
   Best root stock for this area: Dwarf root stock varieties, which produce smaller trees but regular-sized fruit, are M9 Mollies and Gala. The roots of dwarf trees are not deep, so anchor these varieties against a wall, like the side of a house, so they will grow without leaning over. They will produce fruit in three to four years.
   Biggest disease/pest problem: Cotton root rot, which causes the tree to die suddenly, usually in July through September.
   General advice: Cotton root rot is a fungus in the ground, and thereís no control for it. Both apples and grapes are sensitive to it, and pecans, while resistant, can also be susceptible. If you have cotton root rot throughout your planting area, you may have to grow your fruit in containers.

   These are long-lived, upright trees. Good varieties are Warren, which produces small but high-quality pears, as well as Orient and Garber. Some varieties of pears that ripen on the tree are also good, but you may have to fight the birds for them. These varieties include Asian or 20th Century pears. A fire blight-resistant pear with a good flavor is Hosui.
   Disease/pest problem: Fire blight, spread by bees. You can cut it out, but be sure to disinfect your shears after pruning. Fire blight will affect other landscape plants, including photinias, apples and roses.
   General advice: Pear trees grow upright, but you can fool a little tree into thinking itís an old tree by bending the limbs and tying them down to make them force shoots. This will keep the limbs smaller.


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