Advice on fruit trees and berry bushes

As soon as the snow melts, ready to dig up a nice area to plant peaches, pears, apples, cherries, figs and other fruit trees, plus blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, huckleberry and strawberry bushes. I understand they all need different soil pH, fertilizer, etc. Anyone in the area have success growing these things? Thanks.

How much land do you have? That many plantings will require some serious space.

As someone who has tried to tend, and defend, young pear trees lovingly planted 15 years ago, I will only say: good luck. Your issue won't be the Ph balance of the soil: it will be keeping the deer and bear away. Our pear trees were individually fenced when they were under 5" tall. Sometimes the deer crashed the fences and got to the trees anyway. When the trees got nice and big enough to start producing a good amount of fruit, the bear were all over them. Bear do not gently pick fruit off a tree, BTW. They grab huge branches and pull them down. We woke up more than one morning to find basically half a tree down on the ground. Our pear trees, or what is left of them, will all be cut down come spring. The bear won.

If you want to plant that many fruit trees and berry bushes come spring, here's my best advice: go get a couple Anatolian Shepherds right now.

ps sorry to be a sourpuss, I do hope some people will give you soil advice. The frustration of battling the animals for years for our fruit trees, and ultimately losing, obviously colored the tone of my reply.

Rebecka - That was going to be my first question too, "how many acres?" Just one of each of those fruit trees is going to add up to some serious space. And a back hoe doing the holes. They're also a long term project, 5 years min to get them all started to being productive. Peaches and apples grow very well in everyday soil, just ask Best's.

Figs are totally different, very difficult but not impossible. You'd absolutely need to talk to Well Sweep. They've been having some success, but they're also experts. Figs expect a different heat/moisture than they're likely to get here.

Blue berries and strawberries are different from the others mentioned. The bramble berries are very east, native, grow without much effort. They alternate between a new cane growing getting leaves and then flowering, fruit, and dying off the second year. I didn't know that the first time I tried to transplant a bush from PA. It was probably a second year cane which means it just died off normally. But otherwise raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and other hybrids are all easy and don't need a huge amount of care. You just need to get it started and then cut the canes that had berries because they're done.

So then blue berries can be OK, but you'd need a completely separate space for them. They tend to want to be quite wet but not in clay, standing water. They're great in sandy soil because of that, wet but drains. Clay won't work. I've never tried but heard they're a bit of work and need a bit of luck.

Strawberries then are a different subject. Most people will grow those in raised containers/platforms. Because of the space need, better to go up than spread out. You can buy platforms at the hardware places, of different sizes. Then fill with composted soil and buy the plants. Not too hard so long as they get enough water. Weed relentlessly and let them get completely and totally ripe. Resist the urge to pick early.

Rebecka - Sorry to hear that your pear trees were damaged by bear. No way to revive or regrow even part of them? We had a bear or other predator problem as well, having lost three goats and two rabbits, but solved it with a six foot high electrified fence.

There are two areas for planting: The first is about four acres of cleared, nearly level land, all grass now, surrounding a man-made pond. The second is about eight acres on the top of a small hill, currently populated with junk trees (swamp maples I think) that collapse every winter and must be lugged off in big pieces every spring. Back hoe experience from this task.

My thought is to transform one or both of these areas into mini orchards and/or fruit farms. I may need a pro to determine feasibility and help plan this out.

About those fig trees, I would need to double check, but our growing zone is just a bit too far north for them. Many years ago, I was at a picnic at a shore house where the owner had just about 1 or 2 of everything you mentioned, all within a fenced yard. I asked him about his fig trees and what they required over the winter (we've always wanted one too and knew our winters were colder up here) and he said the fig trees would need some pretty serious protection - even at the shore. They are obviously typical to Mediterranean climates, so you can take a chance and really protect them over the winter, and hope we have mild ones.

Really could not offer any advice on your planting of fruit trees, for i planted 2 peach trees an 2 plum trees. No fruit on the peach trees in the last 8 years, but the plum trees produce fruit after flowering, But as the season turns to summer the plums quarter size just fall off the tree, never producing mature plums. also in the last 4 years there has been what seems to be a dark fungus on some branches. Now most of the branches are covered in this fungus. Wondering what i can do to eliminate this fungus, i've cut back the branches but this did not help!

Danny- a 6' high electrified fence - wow. How does that work? Is it barbed wire? I need something like that for my garden, although I suspect it would be cost-prohibitive for me. Does your fence surround just where you keep your animals, or would your fruit trees and berry bushes be protected by it as well? Sounds like you've got some nice space for planting. I would speak with Mr. Best. He has given us lots of good advice on our young pear and old apple trees.

@KWD - you can take an affected branch in to the County Extension office and they can help you determine what is going on with your trees.

Rebecka - We already had a solid post and wire fence to contain the animals. Electrifying involved running two wires on top (for climbers) and bottom (for diggers). Used Zareba parts from Tractor Supply in Washington. But the cost of fencing the entire garden may be prohibitive, though not as solid as the animal fencing. Looking into whether light weight fencing and the same high voltage electric will work.

Thanks for your input on how bears take down fruit trees. Good luck reviving them. Don't let the bear win!

KWD - the only way is to cut branches at least 5" below the brown growth to prevent spreading but you can't stop the process of dying completely. I had 3 very nice plum trees (one had absolutely amazing large yellow plums, other was double-grafted with heirloom varieties), all got infected a few years ago, slowly we were cutting branches, last year we just cut 2 of them down and will remove the last one when snow melts. If your peach trees didn't fruit for 8 years, there is no need to wait any longer, even grafted on standard rootstock they would produce already.

There is a very good forum about growing fruit trees on gardenweb. I found it extremely helpful. People are willing to answer all questions you have and give the best advice.

KWD - I'd also suggest the County Extension, they want to know what's going on as much as you do. Most likely you've got to not only cut, but burn the branches. I only have an Eastern redbud that got a fungus going around. No cure, and advised by lawn care to burn the cuttings.

3wbdwnj - Exactly the point. Normally I would just say no, but then I have been to Well Sweep that sells a couple of kinds. Someone specifically asked about it when I was there, and they said they were working on getting a variety hardy enough. But they also had a couple that seemed like you kept them in a pot and took them inside. So if anyone really wants to try, they should very much talk to Well Sweep for advice first.

GC - it affects only plum trees, even decorative plum trees in my development all got this fungus. I actually blame my neighbors for bringing it in - my trees (and "association's") didn't have it until my neighbor planted their plum tree and next summer my trees got first growth despite spraying. I am upset about my yellow plum, it was a very rare heirloom variety. Apples and peaches are not affected.

I grew up in Brooklyn NY and we had fig trees grown in many backyards by Italian homeowners. Our landlady would bring me figs when they ripened, so fresh and delicious. The trees that I saw were left in the yards during the winter but prior to frost, they were wrapped completely, tied with rope every 12 or so inches and then at the top, they would put a bucket on top and tie that on also. At night, they looked creepy, but it kept them warm and protected from ice or snow damage.

justwondering justwondering
February 17th

Wonder what the bucket on top was for?

Rebecka - My grandfather did exactly the same as justwondering noted in Wood-Ridge, NJ for four fig trees, which yielded a fine crop of fruit every year. The top did not necessarily need to be a bucket, just double wrapping. But grandpa did use horse manure every spring for these trees, so it smelled like the circus was in town. Stinky!

On our new orchard/garden, here is what my grandson proposed: Build a light fence around about two acres on the top of the hill, and use one of the good old tall trees up there to build a tree house, with electric for heat, lights, etc. Then arm the kids with sling shots and bb guns to dispell any predators from above. The roof of the treehouse could also be a good launch/landing pad for chopper drones. Hmmm......

thought you lived in a studio in PV, Danny..................when did you move to this

4catmom - I moved six months ago to Great Meadows, but why do you care where I live? Gardening in this area is the subject, right?

Going to develop the top of the hill, and no matter what, will need electric and water. With the warmer weather over the next week, digging trenches to bury electric conduit and water line. Great sun, once cleared of the junk trees. But still looking for expert advice on soil management, pH, fertilizer, etc. for various fruit trees and berry bushes. Thanks.

Spraying and fertilizing and pruning trees is a must. Do your research. Many types of fruit trees will require planting 2 per variety 1 male and 1 female (may be true for berry bushes too) so if you have a tree that's not producing fruit this could be why. Alstede farms in Chester, NJ has a substantial fruit tree and berry bush nursery. They are extremely knowledgeable and will answer your questions (bring your list of questions and take notes) to give you the best chance to success. They also sell products necessary to nurture your new fruit trees fungicides/pesticides etc. Hope you find this helpful. Best of luck

Thanks JoyV - On my way to Alstede farms on Tuesday, pen and pad in hand,. and also aerial pictures taken by a drone. Funny how even fruit trees and berry bushes like to get "married". So excited about this project, just have to make sure it works. Also considering zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, carrots, horse radishes, red radishes and lettuce, plus the herbs that I grew at my previous place. I'll do whatever work is required for success. If there is any kind of harvest this fall, you are invited for first pickings. Thanks again.

Good luck DannyC, it's nice to have something to get excited about. Hope your plans work out.

justwondering justwondering
February 19th

justwondering - Let's not forget those great Jersey tomatoes. If I am doing this job, it might as well include everything good to eat. With 2 to 8 acres in great sun, plus electric and water, (there will be an automatic sprinkler system) , all that is needed is knowledge about soil chemistry and plant maintenance.. Might plant fig trees, as you mentioned, probably using my grandpa's methods, and since they will be pretty far from the house, the stink should not matter much. You are invited to the autumn harvest as well, with tomatoes, peppers, radishes and herbs probably being harvested earlier.

Thanks DannyC, enjoy the process and the "fruits of your labor."

justwondering justwondering
February 19th

just -a-sitting on my hands.............

Rutgers has an excellent agricultural extension service online. I did my research there before planting blueberries. My biggest challenge has been wildlife getting to the berries before I do! Good luck! It's very rewarding.

LVMomOfBoys LVMomOfBoys
February 19th

LVMomOfBoys - I attended Rutgers in New Brunswick from 1966 to 1970, eating at the Commons for the first year. Never got sick, but was turned off that they served veggies from experimental farms at Ag school in North Brunswick...for example, peas were colors including red and purple. Maybe it has changed in the past fifty years. Will check it out.

"experimental farms at Ag school"

But that's exactly what you want. You're ignoring others advice wanting to be that experimental farm. They're exactly the expert you now want. How can you forget one for the other?

4catmom - I just dug two trenches for electric conduit and water line, even though the ground is still hard, but had some mechanical help. Not sitting on my hands, with lots of headwork and physical work to make this project happen.

LVMomOfBoys - Blueberries are possibly the most healthy food to treat and/or prevent diabetes, and certainly on my list for planting. I understand from several south Jersey farms that they like sandy soil with a slightly acidic pH, something other plants don't like, so they may have to be separated from the rest of the plants.

GC - No experimentation here, just want to make everything work here for certain.


When I first bought my blueberry bushes (3) I left them on the deck while they ripened since I didn't yet have a chance to transplant them. When they again developed fruit the next year and had been in the ground I rigged a light pvc frame and bought a roll of netting from Home Depot which I draped over it and secured on the bottom by lying 2x2's on it. To access the bushes, I just lifted the 2x2 away, lifted the screening and picked the ones that were ripe. The netting will only protect against birds and not much else. I have a 6' stockade fence around the yard itself to keep out most other wildlife.

Danny just go with the GMO's...modified not natural is best. I'm sure you can relate.....

positive - Do you mean Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's)? No thanks. I'll put up with the stink of horse manure before going to that.

DannyC- Sounds like you're doing exactly what I wish I were doing! Last year we did the birds (chickens) and this year it's either the first section of the garden or goats, not sure which direction we're going. I'm most curious about your water/electric setup! Any chance of checking out your completed setup once you get off the ground? I'd volunteer to help in exchange for experience/learning!

Brendan - Goats are a bit of daily work, feeding and cleaning, and also need a very secure fence, since they have horns and they but! As for the electric and water, it is pretty simple, just use a rented Ditch Witch to dig a trench for each, trying to keep it straight, which may have some obstacles such as rocks and roots. Patience counts, and sometimes you have to revert to the old spade/shovel. I pulled out two 100+ pound rocks to clear the path .

Would love to see pics of your set-up for the goats, Danny. Have thought about goats. And of course a goat pic! They're so cute. Do you make goat cheese or goats milk soap?

You might want to check out this website:

It's called the "Survival Podcast"....but don't let the name frighten you - it may be one of the best resources out there for what you are interested in. He also has an expert panel that may, or maybe has already, answered some of your questions. There should be a keyword search on his site.

Despite the fact that he calls himself a "redneck duck farmer," I have found him to be quite intelligent. There is a ton of diverse content here.

Rebecka - Please PM me so that you might see first hand the goats' set up, much better than pics. We now have four females and one male, very aggressive and protective of his harem, so we have not attempted to milk them yet. Besides, they are goat teenager's age, relatively new replacements for the three we lost to wildlife before electrifying the fence. You seem to be a nice person, but there are several other people on this forum who I do not like or trust, so PM is the way to go.

DannyC: yeah, I was going to go for that PV angle too. Sounds like you really recovered. Congrats.

Here's my life with this stuff based on what's easy, not what's soil factors. We'll skip the veges, plenty treads for that. And its all IMO, I know nothing. Apples are easiest: seem to last forever, relatively ez to maintain -- fruit tree wise. Not sure the prune method de jour, but I had some open cup and some central leader. Usually stone fruit is open cup, but in my day..... So this can change.

Second for me was peaches. relatively ez to maintain but trees don't last forever. Mine were about 10 years before time to go. Delicious though.

Pears kind of like apples but have special diseases which forced me to prune when frozen. Otherwise the blades could transfer disease. Best tree to leave unattended as pears didn't get that much smaller if I missed a prune year.

Cherries I wanted to do but would need different pickers. Also, think they are slow but once established, live a long time. Brings to mind to determine are you going to prun high for more fruit, less damage, but need pickers. Or low for ez to pick? Not sure of the rest in that I have not done them. And would not do blackberry or huckleberry cuz I think they are not tasty.

That's it for trees. For the rest, raspberries really ez but can't crap out on you for unknown reasons. I just mow em and start over. Have yet to pay for a raspberry plant. Blueberry next. Strawberries nice but take a lot of bed work. I pass for others to do.

Others you didn't mention: asparagus is great (if you like it) ONCE you get it to take, it's really ez. Mine has moved a few acres away at this point and I am starting over. Year 1 and 2 were not stellar, but I am hanging in there. Rhubarb fun too in that once established, it keeps going and going.

If you are really doing it in the numbers you are talking about, you will need a fence. Without it, it stinks to fight the deer. My bears don't care that much and never had tree damage from it. Only Sandy. But I have lost crops in a matter of days. Go to Long Valley and see the pros ----- 8ft 4-inch square. That's why the apples cost so much in NJ......

You will also need a motorized sprayer. Lots of maintenance there, but mostly plumbing stuff. At your numbers, skip the backpack stuff. Although I do have a trombone that you put in a bucket :>) Works great for one tree and never breaks.

strangerdanger strangerdanger
February 22nd

strangerdanger - Thanks for your input. What drives me nuts is the variety of soil conditions and chemistry to make many different plants happy. Trying to do this job scientifically. Mechanicals and hard work I can handle, even fencing and sprinkler systems, but what is a trombone in a bucket?

Re: Advice on fruit trees and berry bushes

Really 4cat? That could have been worded better. I am so glad he is able to do this and already credited God for the miracle rather than cast dispersion on character.

DC: Think mine is over 50 years old --- it's a good one, this one. They still make it today from H.D. Hudson. Sure, you may say you're never gonna need it, but when the mechanical ones go down after you've sprayed 90% of your trees, and you're on your last spray till harvest --- priceless!

Also good for some sprays where you only need to spray trunks or off-season, non-leafed trees (you do this with an oil spray or apples).

Reason I mentioned apples as easiest is that in 4 states, various conditions, I never worried once about this for apples. My other tree experience is more limited so can't say I should have or should not have.

You also can care about what's in the area. Hemlocks give apples those skin scabs. Nothing bad about them except looks, but looks are king after all the work. With pears and their tendency for blights and whatever's, would investigate them for sure.

strangerdanger strangerdanger
February 23rd

I agree strangerdanger - DannyC can go to the county extension office if he really has to get soil testing and try to make custom soil for every plant. But other than the figs and the blueberries, the growing conditions are adaptable enough not to worry about it so much. Just ask Best's - they're quite successful at fruit trees and they aren't doing anything special to the soil. It's more about the insects and blights.

It reminds me of someone on HL that told me once she was overwhelmed with all the zones, and the pH, and the soil types, and the shade type. I just said most times that's all just overthinking it too much. Other than a few acid loving plants that need some special plant food, everything else either just plain grows or doesn't. Only worry about the plants that have some really special need, which isn't many. For all the different plants that pop up on the garden thread, I've never done anything other than water, mix in some compost, and use some acid plant food. Absolutely nothing special.

SD, used car salesmen must love you...

Don't have a clue what you mean??

Strangerdanger Strangerdanger
February 23rd

I have much faith in your intelligence that you will figure it out.

moi aussi, positive

I have a fig tree that is planted in the bottom of a plastic 55 gal drum. Every year it produces like crazy. I have it in the drum because during the winter I put it in my garage. Many people wrap them in burlap, but I have found simply getting it out of the wind during the winter is good enough, but that is how you get around the climate issue.

I am going to have to plant it eventually though, as when I got it, it was only about 5 foot tall, now it is over 8 foot tall.

I always take it in the garage when it is going to storm too, but like I said, it produces like crazy.

Darrin - Great idea! Is your garage heated, or just a shelter from the wind?

That's so cool, never even have though fig.

Can't you hold the height at 8ft through pruning? That's no issue with some trees like apples which actually deliver bigger fruit through "downsizing."

Kinda the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" thought process.

strangerdanger strangerdanger
February 24th

Darrin - Thinking about building a shed on the top of the hill to house trees and plants that need winter and storm protection. The garage is 1/4 mile from the hill top, so the chore of moving them would be more manageable. If necessary, it could be heated to above freezing with an efficient electric heater, like the one we use for the goats and rabbits. Again, what a great rock (so to speak)!

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