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How to Grow Fruits, Nuts, Grapes, and Berries

Copyright March 1, 2011 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.


Fruits, Nuts, and Grapes It is very easy to read gardening advice. However, when you actually start to dig that first hole you will quickly discover how much work is really involved. Therefore please be prepared for some really hard work if you decide to plant a small orchard, or a vineyard, or a berry patch.

I planted my first fruit trees, nut trees, grape vines, and berry bushes in the year 1977. Everywhere I have lived since then I have had some type of fruit, nut, grape, or berry bushes growing on my property. Sometimes I was successful and sometimes I was not. The purpose of this article is to share what worked for me and what did not work.

Let me begin by mentioning that some climates and some locations are well suited to the growth of certain trees, vines, and bushes due to the number of days of winter weather, and the number of frost-free days, and the average rainfall, and the average wind conditions. Therefore you will probably discover you are very successful with some things and you are a complete failure with other things. This may have nothing to do with your gardening skills. It may simply be that your climate or your specific garden spot is either suitable or not suitable for a particular type of plant. Therefore please try to maintain a balanced perspective and do not take the credit for your successes and do not take the blame for your failures. There are other factors involved that can make your efforts succeed or fail that have absolutely nothing to do with you.

The Big Three

The following three issues are the most important ones for fruit trees, nut trees, grape vines, and berry bushes:
  1. Full Sun.
  2. Hole Size.
  3. Dirt Quality.
Let's examine each of the above three topics one-at-a-time.

Full Sun: Any type of tree, vine, or bush that produces food for human consumption must receive a lot of sun on a regular basis. Therefore the first critical decision that must be made is the location where you will plant your tree, vine, or bush. That location must receive good sun for at least six-hours each day during the spring and summer months. Remember that the position of the sun in the sky in relation to the earth is different during the different seasons of the year. Please keep this in mind as you select your planting site. The planting site you select should be one that receives direct sunlight for at least six-hours each day during the spring and summer months. More sunlight is better than less sunlight. Also please remember that trees will grow very tall and they will eventually cast a shadow behind them. This must be kept in mind as you create your layout for your orchards, vineyards, and berry patches. Plant your vineyards and berry patches on the sun side of your orchard, which in the northern hemisphere will be on the south side of your property.

If you plant a tree that is an early bloomer and your area has a history of late spring frosts, then it is better to plant those trees where they do not receive more than six-hours of sun in the early spring. This will help the tree to remain dormant just a little longer and hopeful the tree will not bloom until after the last spring frost. This will prevent the tender young fruit blossoms from being killed every spring by a late frost.

Hole Size: The hole should be at least three times bigger than the root spread of the tree or bush you are planting. By digging a bigger hole you will be providing space for the roots to grow while they are still young and trying to establish themselves. This will increase the odds that your new planting will survive and mature into a healthy tree or bush. The hole should also be at least six-inches deeper than the depth of the roots you are planting for the same reason. Many, many years ago I heard some really good planting advice and I would like to pass that advice along to you at this time: "It is better to plant a 50-cent tree in a five-dollar hole than to plant a five-dollar tree in a 50-cent hole." The hole for a tree should be at least a three-feet diameter circle and at least two-feet deep. The hole for a grape vine or berry bush should be at least two-feet in diameter and at least 18-inches deep. If you can dig a bigger hole then do so but please do not dig a hole that is too small for your new tree, vine, or bush. If you dig a hole that is too small then you will regret it later when your new plant dies, or when its growth is stunted, or when it takes a few extra years for it to start producing fruit.

Dirt Quality: Although you may have extremely fertile rich dirt in your new orchard, or vineyard, or berry patch, the vast majority of us will probably have dirt that is not suitable for fruit production. Therefore you will need to shovel the dirt out of the hole into a wheelbarrow and then move that poor quality dirt to another location where it can be strategically used, such as filling in a low spot on your property. Then you will need to put some really good dirt around the roots of the plant in the hole you just dug. I have lived in Maine, and in Florida, and in the mid-west, and in the mid-east. Everywhere I have lived I have had to improve the quality of the dirt on the land I owned. By trial and error I have found the following mixture to be very agreeable for fruit trees, nut trees, grape vines, berry bushes, and vegetable gardens.

Grandpappy's All-Purpose Dirt Mixture

1 Part Top Soil
1 Part Humus (or Peat)
1 Part Composted Cow Manure
1/2 Part Pure Sand (the type used in a child's sand box or when mixing cement)

The above soil enhancers are usually sold in 40-pound bags in the garden departments of many stores in the spring of each year. The top soil is usually good rich soil. The humus or peat will help to hold moisture in the soil. The composted cow manure will provide some nutrients for the roots. The sand will aerate the soil and allow it to breathe. I pour approximately 1/2 bag of each of the first three items into an empty wheelbarrow, and then I add about 1/4 bag of sand. Then I use my shovel to thoroughly mix the four ingredients together. When I have finished you cannot tell them apart and the consistency of the dirt inside the wheelbarrow looks uniform. Then I firmly pack that dirt into the bottom of the hole, and around the roots of my new fruit tree, or grape vine, or berry bush. Or I pour that dirt into a raised bed vegetable garden area.

"Grandpappy's All-Purpose Dirt Mixture" is a "universal dirt" and I have had very, very good success using it with fruit trees, and nut trees, and grape vines, and berry bushes, and vegetables, and herbs, and flowers, and ornamental plants.

Note: I need to mention that the quality of the top soil, humus, and composted cow manure is not the same at all the different garden stores. When I need to make dirt I will usually buy one bag of each of these items at each of the different garden stores in my area. When I get home I will open each bag and put it beside the bags of the same item from the other stores. When you compare the contents inside the bags side-by-side it is usually easy to see which store has the highest quality product. For example, it is not unusual to find high quality top soil at one store, and high quality humus at a second store, and high quality composted cow manure at a third store. I then buy the highest quality soil enhancers available that year. I do not discard the few bags of low quality soil enhancers that I purchased. Instead I mix just a little bit from each low quality bag into each wheelbarrow of dirt I make so that they are evenly distributed in my garden area and no single spot gets all the low quality material.

Day of Planting: Do not put any fertilizer on top of the ground on the day you plant your tree, vine, or bush. However, after you have finished planting your fruit tree, or grape vine, or berry bush, you should water the ground thoroughly. This will help to drive out any air in the ground and it will help the new dirt to more firmly pack together. It will also give the roots some water to encourage their acceptance of the new dirt and start their normal growing process.

First Day after Planting: Water the ground again the next day.

Second Day after Planting: Water the new plant again.

Routine Watering: If it doesn't rain then you will need to water your trees, vines, or bushes at least once per week the first year.

Mulch: You should also put a layer of mulch around the bottom of your trees, vines, and bushes to help keep the soil damp, and to prevent the sun from baking the soil, and to make it more difficult for weeds to grow in the fresh rich dirt that surrounds your new planting. However do not push the mulch up against the trunk of the tree, vine, or bush in order to avoid the potential problems of trunk rot and above ground root growth.


First Year: There are two schools of thought about using fertilizer the first year:
  1. Don't Use Any Fertilizer: The first year is important for plant establishment and the most important issue is root growth. If you do not add any fertilizer then the roots will be forced to extend outwards in search of nutrients. This will result in a healthy root system.
  2. Add a Normal Amount of Fertilizer the Second Week After Planting: The fertilizer will feed the roots and the roots will feed the above ground plant and this is critical the first year. If you don't add any fertilizer then you could starve the roots and the plant will die.
Grandpappy's Compromise: There are good arguments for using and for not using fertilizer the first year. Therefore I have adopted a simple compromise. I mix about 30% composted cow manure (approximately 0.5 - 0.5 - 0.5 in its original bag) into my "dirt" when I make dirt and this adds a very, very small amount of fertilizer into the original hole (approximately 0.15 - 0.15 - 0.15 after mixing). It is enough fertilizer to keep the roots and the above ground plant alive but it is not too much. Therefore it will still encourage the roots to spread out in search of additional nutrients.

How to Add Fertilizer: When you add fertilizer you should sprinkle that fertilizer on the ground above the outside tips of the original roots and just a little bit beyond those roots. This will encourage the roots to stretch out and grow into the richer soil that is just at the tip of their original roots.

Spring Fertilizer: In the early spring of each year add some fertilizer around each of your plants. This will help to feed the plants when they start to produce new growth each year.

Late Summer: Do not add any fertilizer in the late summer of each year.

Fall Fertilizer: In the fall of each year after the leaves have died you should put some more fertilizer on the ground around each of your plants. In the spring and summer the above ground portion of a plant thrives and grows. But in the fall and winter the below ground roots of the plant thrive and grow. You need to provide some fertilizer in the fall of each year so the roots will be encouraged to grow and store nutrients for the following spring.

Amount of Fertilizer: Too much fertilizer or too little fertilizer is not good. For each of your plants you will need to determine how much fertilizer to use based on the type of plant and the age of the plant.

Type of Fertilizer: The second year an 8-8-8 fertilizer may be used. After the second year I switch to a 10-10-10 or a 13-13-13 because I want fertilizer and not the inert ingredients. If you have a more powerful fertilizer then you simply use a little less of it. For example, a 10-10-10 is 25% stronger than an 8-8-8 and therefore you would only need to use about 3/4 as much fertilizer. A 13-13-13 is about 62% stronger than an 8-8-8 and you would only need about 2/3 as much fertilizer.

Fertilizer for Nuts, Grapes, and Berries: Beginning in the third year most nut trees, grape vines, and berry bushes will only need a nitrogen fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate. Pecan trees will also benefit from small quantities of zinc.

Other Soil Enhancers: Depending on your geographical area you may need to add lime, or bone meal, or some other soil enhancer to your soil. Check with at least two different garden supply stores in your area and then compare their advice.

Now let's look at each of the different types of trees, vines, and bushes.

Fruit Trees

Fruit Tree The key to being successful with fruit trees is to select a variety that is suited for your specific geographical area. Do not assume that just because a specific variety of fruit tree is available at your local garden shop that it will do well in your area. For example, the Bartlett pear tree is the most popular pear tree in the United States and it is usually available for sale each spring in almost every garden store in the United States. However, the Bartlett pear tree does not do well in some southeastern states. The reason the garden shops in the southeast have it is because each spring people come into the store and ask for it by name. Therefore these garden shops sell their customers what they ask for.

Before you invest in any fruit tree you should consult a gardening book for your area, or do some internet research on the fruit tree varieties that do exceptionally well in your area, and then invest in those specific varieties. A little advance research on your part will yield huge dividends in the future when you harvest your fruits, and it will prevent the disappointment of planting a fruit tree and then watching it slowly die, or waiting years and years and the tree never yields any fruit.

For example, the Bradford Pear Tree and the Purple Leaf Plum Tree will both produce beautiful flower blossoms every spring. But both trees are considered "ornamental" trees and although they will produce a type of fruit, that fruit is not considered to be a good high quality fruit. Every spring many people mistake the Bradford pear for the Bartlett pear and they buy the Bradford pear tree instead. You can avoid a similar mistake by doing just a little research on the varieties available for sale at the garden supply stores in your area before you invest in a specific type of fruit tree.

If the fruit trees are sold as "bare root" trees with their roots packed in sawdust chips then shake off the sawdust chips and soak the roots of the fruit tree in some room temperature water for about six hours. Then immediately plant the fruit tree in its hole. Pack the dirt firmly around the roots but be careful to not damage the root system. (Note: Sawdust chips are actually small wood chips and they are usually dark brown or black in color. This is not the type of sawdust you generate when you use a saw to cut a piece of wood. The reason sawdust chips are used is because they weigh a lot less than real dirt and this minimizes the shipping cost to your location which allows the nursery to sell the trees at the lowest possible price. These sawdust chips should not be mixed with the dirt inside your planting hole. However, after you have firmly packed the dirt into your hole, and watered your new plant, then you could use the sawdust chips as a mulch around the base of your new plant.)

If the fruit trees are sold as "balled root" trees with their roots still encased in their original soil (instead of sawdust chips) then carefully remove the burlap bag, or plastic bag, and then plant the tree with the original soil still in place around the roots of the tree. (Note: Examine the soil and verify that it is soil and not sawdust chips. Soil is heavy. Sawdust chips are not heavy. Soil will crumble between your fingers. Sawdust chips will not crumble between your fingers.) If the tree is inside a plastic or metal pot then carefully remove the tree from the pot and try to keep as much of the original soil as possible around the root system. Then pour the rest of the dirt from the pot into the planting hole. Pack the dirt firmly around the entire root system.

If the fruit tree has been grafted onto a better type of rootstock then plant the tree with the grafting union between two to four-inches above the ground, unless the grafting union is very close to the roots.

Plant your fruit trees a minimum of twenty-feet apart. As they grow they will need this room for their branches to spread out. Do not plant your fruit trees too close to your property border. You do not want to upset your neighbors with "rotten fruit" that falls on their property.

Do not purchase dwarf fruit trees. These trees have been grafted onto dwarf root stock and it is the dwarf root stock that keeps these trees small. The dwarf root stock limits the amount of nutrition that travels upwards into the tree. This not only keeps the tree small but it also starves the tree and the tiny fruits will drop off the tree each spring because they cannot get enough nutrients to survive.

Some nurseries are now selling semi-dwarf trees. I have not had any personal experience with these semi-dwarf trees so the following comment is nothing more than an educated opinion on my part. I personally would not invest in the semi-dwarf fruit trees for the same reason I will no longer purchase a dwarf fruit tree.

No fruit set or poor fruit set on a fruit tree is usually due to the absence of a suitable cross-pollinator or to a late frost that kills or weakens the blooms before they are fertilized.

Some fruit trees may be grown from seed and some may not. If you plant a seed it will usually take between eight to twelve years for it to grow into a fruit tree that will begin to bear fruit. On the other hand, if you plant a fruit tree that you purchase from a nursery then it will usually begin to bear fruit in about three or four years. Therefore, if you can afford it, I personally recommend the purchase of fruit trees from your local garden store, or Walmart, or Lowe's, or Home Depot, of hardware store, such as Ace Hardware.

However, if you can't afford the price of a fruit tree, or if a hard times event forces you to relocate to a different area, then you can start an orchard by growing your fruit trees from seed.

Apples: Most apple trees are not self-pollinating and therefore two or more varieties will need to be planted. There are exceptions, such as Golden Delicious, which is self-fruitful. This means it can pollinate itself. However, even the self-fruitful varieties will perform much better if they are planted near a different variety.

The four varieties that are totally non self-fruitful are Jonagold, Mutsu, Stayman, and Winesap, These four varieties produce sterile pollen and therefore they should be avoided, in my opinion.

Apple Seeds Golden Delicious is the best choice as a universal pollinator because it is a mid-season bloomer and its blooms will overlap early and late season apple varieties.

Apple trees may be grown from seeds. Buy several good brands of apples from the grocery store, such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan, and Red Delicious. Do not mix the varieties together but keep them separate so you will know which apple is which. When you get home, wait for the apple to fully ripen, and then very carefully slice each apple and remove its seeds. Do not mix the seeds from different varieties of apples. Eat the apple after you have removed its seeds and make sure you enjoy the taste of that particular type of apple. Instructions for growing apple trees from seed are on another page on this web site.

Please don't become discouraged if someone severely criticizes or ridicules you for planting apple seeds. The original settlers of the United States of America brought apples seeds with them from England and they planted those seeds to grow apple trees. John Chapman, born September 26, 1774 in Massachusetts and died March 18, 1845 in Indiana, was nicknamed "Johnny Appleseed" and he was responsible for planting thousands of apple seeds throughout the Midwest. That is one of the reasons apple trees are now grown in almost every state in the United States.

Cherries Cherries: Cherry trees are frequently grown from seed, which is the pit at the center of the cherry. If you can find fresh cherries for sale in your area, and if the cherries are named, then you can buy a pint of them, eat the cherries, and save the pits of the cherries and plant them. However, please read the following information because you may need a pollinator.

There are two basic categories of cherries: sweet and sour (tart).

All sour (tart) cherry trees are self-fertile and they do not need a pollinator. Sour cherries are the typical pie cherry. Montmorency is the most popular sour cherry and it will even pollinate some sweet cherry varieties, such as Bing. Other good sour cherries are Early Richmond and North Star.

Most sweet cherries are not self-fertile and they will not pollinate themselves or other sweet cherries that are closely related to them. Sweet cherries need to be pollinated by another sweet cherry that is not similar to itself. Therefore, if you plant sweet cherry trees you will need to plant at least two cherry trees and each of those trees should be from a different group. Since one of your trees may die it would probably be a good idea to plant at least one cherry tree from each of the following groups below.

Cherry trees in any one group below will not pollinate the other cherry trees in that same group.
Cherry trees in any one group below will pollinate the cherry trees in any other group below.

Sweet Cherry Trees by Group
Group OneGroup TwoGroup Three
BingSodusBlack Eagle
LambertVanBlack Tartarian
NapoleonVenusEarly Rivers
NationalKnights Early Black
Royal Ann

A few sweet cherry varieties are considered to be self-fruitful. These include Black Gold, Index, Lapins, Skeena, Sonata, Starkrimson, Stella, Sunburst, Sweetheart, Symphony, and White Gold. These varieties may be used to pollinate any of the varieties in the above table.

Although I have planted approximately 15 different cherry trees during the past 35 years I have never personally been successful with cherry trees. All my cherry trees died within two years after planting, with the exception of one Black Tartarian cherry tree. That one cherry tree is still alive and doing well, and it flowers every spring, but it never produces any cherries because there is no pollinator sweet cherry tree nearby. Every few years I try my luck planting two new pollinator cherry trees but so far none of those trees has survived for more than two years.

Figs: Common fig trees are self-fertile and will pollinate themselves. Fig trees will produce two crops of figs each year: one crop in the Spring on last year's growth, and another crop in the Fall on the current year's growth. Good varieties are Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Celeste, and Desert King.

Peaches: Most peach trees are self-fertile and will pollinate themselves. However, better pollination and a heavier peach crop will usually result from planting two different varieties of peach trees. Peaches can be grown in southern climates. The non self-fruitful varieties are Candoka, Earlihale, Hal-Berta, J.H. Hale, and Mikado and these varieties should be avoided, in my opinion. Some good heirloom varieties are Belle of Georgia, Elberta, and Redhaven. (Note: Nectarines are similar to peaches but they are more difficult to grow. Therefore I have never experimented with nectarines and I have always been content to simply grow peaches.)

Pears: Some pear trees are self-fruitful and some are not. Pear trees will usually grow straight up instead of branching out to the sides. It is not unusual for some pear trees to live 40 or 50 years. The most common pear tree in the United States is the Bartlett pear but it will not grow in every geographical area. Anjou (D'Anjou) and Bartlett are partially self-fruitful and they may be used to pollinate other varieties of pear trees. Other good heirloom varieties are Bosc, Comice, and Seckle.

Plums: There are two types of plums: European and Japanese. European and Japanese plums will not cross-pollinate one another.

European varieties are Damson and Stanley and both are self-fruitful.

Japanese varieties are Abundance, Burbank, Friar, Methley, Redheart, and Santa Rosa. The Methley and Santa Rosa plum trees are partially self-fruitful.

Some plum trees produce a sterile pollen that will not pollinate any other plum tree. If the Methley plum variety will grow in your area then it is a good choice because it is self-fruitful and it will successfully pollinate almost all other Japanese plum varieties.

Nut Trees

Pecans Pecan Trees: Pecan trees do well in southern climates. Each tree has a female flower (the pistillate) and a male flower (the staminate). The female flower appears on the new growth each season and the male flower appears on last year's growth. On some trees the female flower matures first and later the male flower matures (called a protogynous variety). On other trees the male flower matures first and later the female flower matures (called a protandrous variety). Therefore it is critical to have at least two different varieties of pecan trees in close proximity to each other, and one of those trees should be a protogynous variety and the other tree should be a protandrous variety. This will ensure good cross fertilization because in the early part of the season the female flower on one tree will be mature when the male flower on the other tree will be mature. A little later in the season the opposite flower on each tree will be mature. Most employees in a garden center are not aware of this information and the only thing they will tell you is that you just need two different varieties of pecan trees. This is not true. If you have two trees and both have the male flowers mature first then cross-pollination will not occur. You need to have the female flowers on one tree mature at the same time the male flower is mature on another tree. The following table lists some of the more common varieties of each type of pecan tree. Please pick at least one variety from each side of the following table if you desire to have a good crop of pecans each year.

Female then Male Male then Female
Protogynous Protandrous
Choctaw * Caddo **
Curtis *** Cape Fear
Elliot ** Desirable ***
Harris Super Farley
Mahan Hastings *
Mahan-Stuart Moore
Moneymaker Success
Schley *
Wichita **

The Barton pecan variety (**) is the one pecan variety that is considered to be self-fertile because there is a good overlap of its mature male and female flowers each season.

In my opinion the best varieties are the ones with an * after their names. Three *** is a higher rating than one *.

I have planted pecan trees in three of the different places I have lived. The vast majority of my pecan trees died the second or third year after planting in all three areas. However, I was very successful with one Desirable pecan tree and one Elliot pecan tree and both trees reached a height of about 30-feet tall and they both produced a big crop of pecans each year. Then I sold that property and moved to a new location. I have tried planting pecan trees at my current location but I have not been successful with them here. The pecan trees I plant here always die either the second or third year after planting. I mention this so you will know that I am not an expert gardener and that I also have failures as well as success stories.

Note: If your local nursery has pecan trees for sale, and those pecan trees are simply labeled "Papershell Pecans" then do not buy them. You do not know what variety you are buying and therefore you will probably never get a crop of pecans from those trees. If this is the situation in your area then you may need to mail order your pecan trees from an internet store that sells the exact pecan varieties you will need.

Black Walnut Trees: Black walnut trees will grow in almost every state and in southern Canada and each tree will live about 200 years. Black walnut trees are wind pollinated. To start a new tree I first remove a fresh black walnut from inside its outer slimy protective casing called a husk. I wear kitchen rubber gloves when I do this to keep the stains off my hands. But I do not crack the inner walnut shell. I then plant the entire black walnut inside its shell during the fall about two inches below ground and about twelve inches apart. About one out of every five walnuts I plant will produce a short tree the following year. I normally allow the small trees to grow for between one to three years and then in the late fall I transplant my black walnut trees to their future permanent locations. The black walnut will produce a long tap root so you should not wait more than three years to transplant your trees. Or you can plant your black walnuts in the ground where you want them to grow into a tree. If you do this then plant at least four or five black walnuts in one small area about ten-inches apart in a big circle and wait and see which nuts begin to grow into a tree. I space the walnut trees about 25-feet apart. The tree will start producing nuts in about ten years but it takes about 20 or 30 years to reach a high level of nut production from each tree. (Note: This is the way black walnut trees have reproduced themselves for thousands of years. Please keep this in mind if you are told you shouldn't plant a black walnut but that you should buy a special black walnut tree from a nursery because the nursery trees are disease free or they have been grafted onto special root stocks. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a black walnut tree from a nursery and there is also nothing wrong with planting black walnuts yourself and growing your own trees.)
Chestnut Trees: The American Chestnut will not survive due to a blight that will attack it in the United States of America. Several years ago I planted one "Dunstan" Chinese Hybrid Chestnut tree and two "Sweetheart" Chinese Hybrid Chestnut trees. All three trees grew extremely well for about five years. The Dunstan tree grew the tallest. Then one spring a blight appeared on the Dunstan tree and by the end of the summer it was dead. However, both of the Sweetheart trees are still doing fine, they are both about 25-feet tall, and they both produce a nice crop of big chestnuts each fall.

Almond Trees: Almond trees frequently do well in climates where peach trees do well. I have only planted two "Hall's Hardy" almond trees. They both grew well for about six years. Then one of the trees developed a blight and it died. The other almond tree is still alive but it is a very weak tree and it never produces any almonds. Therefore I cannot offer you any good practical advice about almond trees.

Grape Vines

Bunch Grapes Grapes are highly recommended because:
  1. Grapes can be eaten fresh.
  2. Grapes can be easily dried into raisins for future consumption.
  3. Grapes can be made into a delicious jelly.
  4. Grapes can be fermented into a delightful wine.
There are two different major varieties of grapes: bunch grapes and muscadines. In some regions bunch grapes yield superior results and in some regions muscadines yield superior results. At the current time I have both types of grapes planted and they both do well. The bunch grapes mature in late August or early September and the muscadine grapes mature in late September or early October.

When I start a new vineyard I always purchase my grape vines from a nursery in the spring. My personal experience has been that about one grape vine out of every five that I purchase will not survive.

Bunch Grapes: The grapes grow in clusters with between 40 to 100 grapes per cluster.

Muscadines: The grapes grow on short stems with between 2 to 5 grapes per stem. A single muscadine grape is usually about twice a big as a single bunch grape.

Grape vines need to be pruned every year. If you decide to grow grapes then you should do some internet research on how to prune the types of grapes you buy, or you should acquire a good book on how to grow grapes.

Berry Bushes

Blackberries Blackberry Bushes: Blackberries will thrive and spread far beyond their original planting site. Their underground root system grows and grows and new stalks shoot up each spring from these underground roots. The first year the stalk grows between four to six feet tall. The second year the stalk produces blackberries. Then the stalk dies. However, the underground roots continue to grow and spread out and the blackberry patch will continue to get larger and larger with each passing year. The easiest way to start blackberries is to dig up the roots of some wild blackberries and transplant those roots in a very sunny location on your property. However, there is now a "thornless blackberry variety" for sale at some garden shops and if I were starting a blackberry patch from scratch today then that is probably the type of blackberry I would invest in.

Blueberry Bushes: Blueberries require cross-pollination. There are two basic types of blueberries as follows:

Highbush Blueberries: They were named because they grow taller than wild blueberries, which are called a huckleberry. Huckleberries grow very close to the ground, usually no more than about 12-inches high. The highbush blueberries are usually grown in the northeastern United States. Some good varieties of highbush blueberries are Bluecrop, Bluejay, and Spartan.

Rabbiteye Blueberries: They were named because the fruit starts off pink, which is the same color as the eyes of a white rabbit. As the berries ripen they gradually turn a bright blue. The rabbiteye blueberry is usually grown in the southeastern United States. Rabbiteye blueberries have almost no diseases, they are easy to grow, and they will live about twenty-years. They will grow to a height of between six to seven feet tall. Some good varieties of rabbiteye blueberries are Climax, Powder Blue, Premier, and Tifblue. I have two plants of each of these four different varieties planted in one long row on my property, with the early varieties at one end of the row and the late varieties at the opposite end of the row. Every year all the varieties produce flowers at almost the same exact time and later the blueberries all mature at almost the same exact time. Some of the blueberries on all the different plants will ripen and turn a bright blue and they will contain enough sugar to be harvested. Therefore I pick the ripe blueberries off all my bushes the same day. Several days later a few more blueberries on each bush will be ripe and I will harvest them. This will continue for about four weeks and at that time I will have harvested all the blueberries on all the bushes. The reason I mention this is because I no longer believe that it makes any difference whether a blueberry variety is named an early, mid-season, or late variety. They will all mature at approximately the same rate over the same approximate time period.

Strawberries: Strawberries grow close to the ground. The strawberries themselves are actually in contact with the ground. This makes it easy for insects and other critters to gnaw on them. I have personally never been satisfied with the performance of strawberries where I have lived so I no longer plant them. However, your area may be more receptive to strawberries and you may have more success with them than I have had.


I have over 30 different gardening books and I have read them all from cover to cover. Many of my books are about one specific topic and a few of them were written as a reference book for a professional grower in order to help him or her maximize the yield from his or her commercial crops. Over the years I have tried many of the strategies recommend in these different books.

Based on my entire collection of gardening books, the two gardening books I would recommend today to a new gardener would be the following:
1. New Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Reader's Digest, 2000.
2. Seed Sowing and Saving, Turner, 1998.

After I post a gardening article on my web site I sometimes receive emails from people who ask me which books I copy my gardening information from. I politely reply that I don't just copy the information from any gardening book.

Instead I simply start writing about a garden topic (or a firearm topic or a economic topic) with which I am familiar and that I have some personal knowledge about. When I am finished typing everything I know into my computer then I check the spelling of some words that I don't have memorized, and I sometimes complete a list with the names of the items I don't have memorized.

For example, in the above article I did not remember the name of every pecan tree that fell into each of the two categories. I only remembered the names of the pecan trees I have personally planted and that I have had some success with. Therefore I checked my pecan book and filled in the table with the names of the other pecan varieties to make that list as useful as possible to anyone who might be interested in that topic. The same thing applies to the names of the different types of fruit trees. The only ones I have memorized are the ones I have actually grown and I had to look up the names of all the other varieties. I also looked up the birth and death date of "Johnny Appleseed" who I first heard about when I was in the fourth grade.

But at least 95% of this article (and most of my other articles) is nothing more than a "system dump" from the information stored in my brain. There is nothing special in this article. This article only contains common knowledge information that almost all other older gardeners also know.

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Grandpappy's e-mail address is: RobertWayneAtkins@hotmail.com