Gardening in Texas: Part 7 – Growing Fruit and Nut Trees

By Ebony Porter, July 25, 2016, Green

Welcome to Gardening In Texas from Bounce Energy! We hope this series will steer you in the direction of planting a green Texas garden with a eco-friendly lifestyle in mind. We’ll discuss shaping a garden that uses less water, grows in harmony with animal and insect life in the area, and provides you with more than just a pretty view.

Can I Grow My Own Fruits and Nuts in Texas?

Texas summers are marked by the appearance of the Kiowa blackberry fruit and fig trees start producing their first harvest right around the Fourth of July.

So, this is an exciting time for my daughter! She loves to pick fruit with me because we eat the fruit fresh from the trees and bramble, and when we have too much fruit to consume while it’s fresh, we make jam.

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

Obviously, growing my own bushes and trees to produce local fruits and nuts has risen to the top of my list of gardening passions. Fruit trees can become a landmark feature in your garden. They’re exciting because they grow free organic food, and once established, you don’t have to do much regular maintenance – unlike your average vegetable garden.

How Do I Start?

It’s pretty easy – research which fruit grows best in your area, talk to your local garden center about the size and soil of your yard, and plant what works.

Think about it. A Rainier cherry tree won’t produce in Texas simply for the reason that it grows in states like Montana where the ground is snow-covered much of the year. So, if you see a cherry tree for sale in Texas, resist the temptation and don’t buy it!

Seven Simple Suggestions

Before you run off to your local nursery to start shopping, I want to share the fruit trees and brambles that have delivered successful yields in my yard and in those of my friends and neighbors across the Lone Star State.

1) Bay Leaf Tree

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

Bay leaf trees literally like to be ignored once they are established. A hardy tree with dark glossy leaves used in soups and sauces, the bay tree can grow up to 20 feet tall and produce gorgeous branches perfect for making homemade wreaths. They like well-draining soil, so don’t let them sit in water for too long, but DO give them a deep watering every two weeks if your area experiences a drought.

2) Meyer Lemon Tree

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

Meyer lemons have been a go-to lemon for bakers and chefs particularly in the last few years for their subtle flavors. It’s good news that they grow well in Texas. After 4 years, my Meyer lemon tree is still a sapling, but from seeing the production from my friend’s trees, I have faith that mine will one day create pounds of these sweet, mellow lemons so we can make homemade lemonade.

Keep your tree well-mulched with hay, and slowly water it during the summer evenings.

3) Peach Tree

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

As the leading deciduous fruit crop in Texas, peach trees grow wonderfully well between and outside of San Antonio and Austin (the greater Hill Country). Why? Because they require what are called “chill hours,” time when temperatures dip below 45 degrees F. Since most peach trees in Texas need at lest 500 chill hours, you probably should attempt peach trees if you live on the Gulf Coast or in East Texas.

Don’t plant peach trees close together or else they will compete. Choose La Feliciana, June Gold, or TexPrince, all bare-root varieties that do well in our state. A well-established large peach tree will produce up to 500 peaches in one season. Get ready to become everyone’s favorite neighbor by delivering baskets of fresh peaches to their door!

4) Pecan Tree

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

As the beloved state tree of Texas, pecan trees produce lovely green foliage and a delicious nut. Eaten raw, in candy, in pies, or roasted with meats, pecans are food that fall from the sky. Gather the kids to help you pick them up.

Be patient with your pecan tree! It won’t produce massive amounts of pecans the first few years, as it must get large enough first. On average, it will produce nuts 3-4 years after its graft date.

5) Blackberry Bramble

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

Blackberries on average require 200-500 chill hours depending on the variety. Living in Houston, I have a Kiowa Blackberry growing that only needs 200 hours of 45 degree or lower temperatures each year in order to produce a harvest. I planted my bramble about 4 years ago, and at the tail end of each spring, white flowers emerge and the bees find their way. Soon enough, the flowers turn red, and within 3 weeks I have juicy blackberries larger than a quarter. We make crumbles and jam with them, and there is nothing like pulling a fresh blackberry from the bush in your front yard.

Blackberries need some support, so prop them up along an existing fence or put stakes in the ground to allow them to grow in an arch. Other varieties to look for include Chickasaw (500 chill hours), Natchez (500-700 chill hours), and Navaho or Apache, which both require 800 chill hours. If you live closer to Oklahoma, then the longer chill hours will be better in your garden.

6) Grapefruit Tree

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

Find a Ruby Red, Henderson, or Rio Red grapefruit tree to plant in your yard, and watch it become a gorgeous, dark leafy tree that will give you more grapefruits than you can likely handle in about 5 years.

The fruit is ready for harvest in the winter months, perfect for making fresh juice to ward off the common cold with its high Vitamin C content. Plant them in loamy soil as they don’t like clay or gumbo-type soils. Plant your tree away from the house in a location where it can really spread out and soak up the sun’s rays.

7) Fig Tree

Gardening in Texas: Part 7 - Fruit and Nut Trees | Bounce Energy Blog

I struck my fig tree from a neighbor’s massive fig about 5 years ago, and it now stands outside my fence at 15 feet tall by about 10 feet wide. It grew like a weed, which tells you how successful the right fig can grow in Texas.

Look for the Celeste variety, or the Texas Everbearing fig. It’s really important you get a variety that is known to grow well in Texas, otherwise you end up with disappointing trees that don’t produce much fruit.

It’s often hard to keep the birds and squirrels away from the figs, but once they are producing massive amounts of fruit, rest assured there is plenty for all. We pick ours fresh and eat them with yogurt for breakfast, or once they are over-ripened, I make jam to enjoy for the rest of the year on toast and with cheese plates.

If your neighbor has a fig tree that produces well, ask them to cut you off a 12-inch piece during the wintertime when the fig tree is dormant. Get three cuttings just to be safe. Slice the cut stem about 2 inches up and immediately plant into rich soil in a pot. Keep watered. When spring arrives, you should see buds appear, and then leaves. Allow the cutting to fully develop before you transplant it.

Do you have any favorite fruit and nut trees you’d recommend for your fellow Texans introduce into their backyards? Share with us in the comments!

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