Set in hardiness zones 4 and 5, Iowa experience cold winters that can damage cold-sensitive fruit trees. Iowa gardeners can grow a range of temperate fruit crops for use in baking, preserves or eating fresh. Select a fruit tree in the spring from a local nursery, and plant the tree just after purchasing it. A poor quality or deformed fruit tree will not bear well, so buying a healthy tree that grows in your community is the key to a successful backyard orchard.
Determine what types of fruit trees you'd like to grow by reviewing Iowa State University's list of suggested fruit trees, keeping in mind that only temperate fruits grow in Iowa (see Resources). Choose from tart cherries, persimmons, plums, pears or apples since these fruits grow reliably in the Iowa landscape.
Contact local orchards to determine whether they sell fruit tree saplings. You may find more unusual or heirloom cultivars at local orchards than at a nursery.
Visit garden centers, nurseries or local orchards to view available fruit trees. If you can't find a specific cultivar that interests you, ask the salesperson to order the tree for you or provide an appropriate substitute.
Set aside trees that have a straight trunk and no low branches, with branches evenly spaced around the tree. These trees look healthy and are acceptable for purchase. If you're selecting a bare root tree, look for one with lots of healthy looking roots as opposed to one with few or scrawny roots.
Avoid trees that have a cluster of branches or only one branch, as well as those with a curved or bent trunk.
Purchase a healthy looking tree when you've finished your visual inspection.
Order trees online only as a last resort since you can't inspect them for health or quality before purchase.