Need a gift? Plants give all year

Published 6:00 am Sunday, November 26, 2006

Late fall through early-to-mid winter is the optimum time for planting trees, shrubs, brambles and vines that bear fruit. You should be able to find these at local nurseries that sell woody plants. Peaches, pears, plums and other types of fruit trees will be available as balled-and-burlapped, container grown or bare-root selections. Now is also the time to plant pecan, walnut as well as other nut producing species.

Dormant blackberries, blueberries and muscadine grapes also become established best when planted during the cool weather. When planting blueberries, be sure to plant at least two cultivars so that cross-pollination can take place for fruit set.

With muscadines, if you’re only planting one vine, make sure that you plant a cultivar that will set fruit without an additional pollinator plant — known as self-pollinating. ‘Carlos,’ ‘Doreen,’ ‘Magnolia,’ ‘Regale,’ and ‘Roanoke’ are a few of the self-pollinating varieties that you may want to try. Some cultivars only have female flowers, so you also have to plant a male pollinator for fruit set to occur. Varieties that require a pollinator include ‘Fry,’ ‘Jumbo,’ Scuppernong,’ and ‘Summit.’

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If you want to add persimmon to your edible plantings, now is also an excellent time to get them started. Oriental persimmon trees are available in either astringent or non-astringent types, depending on the cultivar. Those that produce non-astringent fruit can be eaten before they are completely ripe, although the skin should not be green. Cultivars with astringent fruit should not be eaten until they become rather soft and are fully colored — if you eat an astringent fruit before it’s time to, you won’t soon forget the experience.

Plant persimmon and other fruit and nut producing species in well-drained soil and in a location that receives full sun. Blueberries are an exception. They will produce fruit in partial sun situations.

Running your lawn mower over the fallen leaves around any existing fruit producing plants now will chop them up into smaller pieces that will decompose quicker. This may even help to prevent some disease problems next year.

If you are unsure of which cultivars are recommended for the Miss-Lou, contact someone at your local cooperative extension service office for advice. He or she should have a free publication available that will provide pertinent information regarding any time of fruit or nut producing plant that’s fit for growing in our area. Tips concerning the specifics of pruning, fertilization practices, pest control and other helpful information will also be available. Area Master Gardeners are also a great source of the most up-to-date cultivation practices.

Remember to irrigate your new plants after you set them out and during dry, windy periods. Believe it or not, the worst pests for many fruit and nut species are those with two legs carrying a string-trimmer or pushing a lawn mower. Take care not to damage the bark on your plants when working around them.

Who knows? Perhaps someone on you Christmas list would like a plant that produces food.

Traci Maier writes a weekly column about gardening in the Miss-Lou. She can be reached by e-mail at