Choosing Cultivars

There are so many cultivars (short for cultivated varieties) to choose from! Deciding what to plant is one of the most enjoyable tasks of growing fruit trees. But it also can be frustrating for those who are new to growing fruit.

Fortunately, there are many tried-and-true cultivars to consider (see Table 3 and "Sure-Fire Winners," pages 16 and 15, respectively). Lengthy test periods have proven the value of many newer fruit tree cultivars that offer home fruit growers the widest choice ever of high-quality fruit with other desirable characteristics, such as disease resistance.

Many older cultivars are still available, but they are planted infrequently because either the trees are too challenging to grow or the fruit they produce is often of poor quality.

When choosing cultivars, look for those with outstanding hardiness, disease resistance, and fruit quality. Many of the newer cultivars provide top-quality fruits not often available in local markets. For example, try growing the disease-resistant apple cultivar Liberty rather than the popular but apple scab-susceptible Mcintosh. Home fruit growers whose livelihoods do not depend on their garden harvest may find a lower-yielding yet higher-quality cultivar the best choice.

Keep in mind that peaches and sour cherries are the only tree fruits grown in New York that are self-fruitful. When growing other tree fruits discussed in this publication, you need to plant at least two different cultivars to get good pollination and fruit set (see "Pollination and Fruit Set," page 8). Look in nursery catalogs for information about which cultivars make good "pollenizers."

Cultivars also need to be winter hardy in your area. For more information, see "Climate Concerns," page 4.

The cultivars listed in Table 3 are adapted to a wide range of conditions and yield fruit for eating fresh as well as for storing or preserving. By choosing early-, mid-, and late-ripening cultivars from this list, you can stretch your tree fruit harvest season.

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