Express-News Weekly Column Saturday, January
6, 2001 Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Director of Conservation,
SAWS, and Horticulturist
FRUIT TREES IN THE XERISCAPE
Eating fresh fruit that you
have grown yourself is magical. You can plant any fruit as part
of a xeriscape if you choose, but there are some fruits that
are especially well suited for selection because they minimize
the need for supplemental watering or pesticides.
Blackberries lead the list.
Select a sunny location with at least six inches of soil. Raised
beds work well but are not necessary. Plants are available as
roots or in containers. Plant them in a row about three feet
apart and mulch the row three inches deep.
Water blackberries when first
planted and when the soil dries to one inch. After they become
established, one deep watering per month in the summer will
be adequate. A cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per six feet
of row in February will provide sufficient nutrition. If your
soil is alkaline an application of one cup of iron sulfate mixed
in a bucket of compost every spring will help prevent chlorosis.
The hardest part about growing
blackberries is pruning out the old fruiting wood each year
after the crop is harvested. The plants do best if the old wood
(floricanes) is cut to the ground to make room for the new growth
(primocanes). This job is especially challenging for the thorny
selections like Rosborough and Brazos. Thornless selections
like Navaho and Arapaho are not as productive as the thorny
varieties but are easy to prune.
Oriental persimmon is another
productive fruit that is well suited for a xeriscape landscape.
The trees are disciplined growers with well-shaped crowns that
reach 15 to 20 feet tall. When loaded with the red or orange
fruit they are very showy.
Insects and diseases are not
a problem for Oriental persimmon. Mockingbirds will sometimes
peck at the fruit, but production is so large you will not mind
sharing a few with the birds.
Persimmon is an astringent
fruit; it tastes best when harvested when it is soft ripe. One
variety, Fuyu, is less astringent than the rest. Tamopan and
Hachiya are other good selections.
The late Dr. John Lipe, a fruit
specialist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at Fredericksburg,
described Oriental persimmon as his favorite fruit. He froze
the fruit to eat one like a popsicle with his breakfast every
If you select the right varieties,
pears can also fit in a xeriscape landscape. Bartlett pears
and other dessert-quality selections do not survive because
of fireblight but two varieties, Kieffer and Orient, grow very
well with minimal care. They make wonderful cooking pears and
are heavy producers. A blooming pear tree in early spring is
a showy addition to any landscape.
Loquats are blooming in South
Texas now. If the temperatures stay mild the fruit will mature
in February. Birds, raccoons and opossums will seek a share
of the fruit. They are tasty and sweet when eaten fresh and
can be used in preserves.
Even if cold weather eliminates
the fruit as it does most winters, the loquat tree is a valuable
addition to the landscape. It reaches 20 feet tall on good soil.
Loquat is evergreen and has an exotic appearance with heavy,
long leaves. They lend themselves to being used as specimen
trees or in formal lines. Loquat even has shade tolerance, which
is very unusual for a fruit-producing tree.