Organic fruit trees grow in many parts of Tennessee. In 2007, the USDA reported that apples, peaches, pears and plums were Tennessee's top agricultural fruit trees. Organic fruit trees provide shade, nutritious fruit and attract wildlife. Check with a county extension office and nearby organic fruit growers to determine the varieties best suited for your area. Consider placement when planting fruit trees. Most require all day sun for maximum fruit production, and morning sun is especially desirable because it reduces the potential for disease.
Organic apple trees grow well in all parts of Tennessee but are susceptible to moths, aphids, mites, cedar-apple rust and scale. Disease resistant apple varieties suited for Tennessee include McIntosh, Arkansas Black, Spartan, and Priscilla. Avoid Prima, Jonathan, Rome, Golden Delicious and Jonafree, which are highly susceptible to rust and other diseases. Planting two or more organic varieties helps with cross pollination. Apples demand well-drained soil and tolerate average soil fertility, but they do not perform well in alkaline soils.
With the exception of the Cumberland Plateau and the eastern mountain region, peaches grow in all parts of Tennessee. Organic peach trees are susceptible to aphids, trunk borers, oriental fruit moths and other moths, and scale and fungal problems such as brown rot and leaf curl. Disease resistant peach varieties suited for Tennessee include Sure-crop, Winblo, Legend, Biscoe and Redskin. Avoid Sun-high, Nectar, Halehaven and Rio-Oso-Gem, which are susceptible to infection. Organic peaches are self-pollinating, which means planting multiple varieties is not required. Peaches enjoy well-drained soil rich in organic matter and minerals.
Organic pear trees grow well in most parts of Tennessee but are susceptible to moths, aphids, mites and scale. Fire blight poses a major problem to Tennessee pear trees, and organic gardeners must plant resistant varieties such as Ayers, Moonglow, Orient, Seckel and Keiffer to avoid spraying. Planting two or more organic pear tree varieties helps with cross pollination. Pears prefer well-drained soil but are more tolerant of saturated soil than other fruits. Pears typically require compost application annually, but too much fertilization can increase instances of fire-blight because new growth is most susceptible.
Plums bloom early and are not cold hardy, so they only grow in Tennessee's most frost-free areas. Plum trees grow well using organic techniques because they have few disease problems. Organic plum trees are susceptible to trunk borers, moths, scale, bacterial spot and black knot. Plum varieties suited for organic growing in Tennessee have fast-ripening fruit and are disease resistant. Look for cultivars such as Bruce, Methley, Ozark Premier and Stanley. Planting two or more organic plum tree varieties helps with cross pollination, except with Stanley plums, which are self-pollinating. As with peaches, plums enjoy well-drained soil rich in organic matter and minerals.
Although figs do not rank among Tennessee's top agricultural fruit trees, they are popular among organic farmers and home gardeners because they grow quickly and can produce two crops of delicious fruit per season. Common fig tree problems include root nematodes, mosaic virus, fig canker and Aspergillus rot. Figs best suited for organic growing are hardy, able to withstand cold and have short ripening seasons. Fig cultivars popular among organic growers in Tennessee include Beall, Brown Turkey, Celeste, LSU Purple, Magnolia and Osborn Prolific. Avoid Royal Vineyard and Ischia, as they are not hardy in Tennessee. Figs demand well-drained soil and tolerate average to poor soil fertility.
- USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service: 2007 Census of Agriculture Quick Stats Tennessee
- University of Tennessee Extension Publications: Home Garden, Lawn & Landscaping
- University of Tennessee: Tree Fruit, Tree Nut & Small Fruit Cultivar Recommendations for Tennessee
- University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture: Disease and Insect Control in Home Fruit Plantings
- North American Fruit Explorers: The NAFEX Fig Page