What would be the lowest maintainance fruit or nut tree for our region that is also handsome enough for the front yard?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, DJ: There is always a certain amount of maintenance involved with fruit and nut trees. Maintenance to one gardener is not the same to another, so it will all depend on how much energy you want to put into your new addition. Certainly some fruit trees have more ornamental characteristics than others, and some are higher maintenance than others in terms of pruning, but there are a few good options to choose from. Selecting a disease-resistant variety is essential. A fig would be a good option although it is more of a shrub, but is very low maintenance with interesting foliage and delicious fruit. The fig will die back to the ground if we have a really cold winter, but will come back in the spring and put on plenty of new growth and produce quite a bit of fruit. Some are more cold-hardy than others but Brown Turkey and Chicago are both good choices. Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) trees are certainly an option. They are columnar in growth habit, reaching 40-50 feet tall. These trees have beautiful fall color and require little pruning. Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) would be another good option. These native trees are pyramidal in growth habit and will reach 30 feet at maturity. Apples and Asian pear trees are ornamental in my opinion, although they do require a pruning schedule and picking up fruit that has fallen would be maintenance on your part. As for nut trees, it really is best to plant several together or your crop may not be as plentiful. They are much larger trees and they can be considered messy. That being said, you may be better off planting a fruit tree, although if you have the space, Northern pecan (Carya illinoensis) trees would be a nice addition. The Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery is a reliable mail order source for all the trees mentioned. You can visit their Web site at www.nolinnursery.com.