Texas covers seven different hardiness zones with average minimum winter temperatures from 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the southern tip to minus 10 F in the northwest. Average rainfall also varies considerably across the state, with much drier conditions to the west. Successful fruit growing depends very much on matching varieties to local conditions. Peaches grow well in the Texas hill country, citrus and other tropical fruits along the Gulf Coast, and in the northeast bramble fruits have become an important crop.
Texas Fruit Growing
Take soil samples from the planting site and test the pH level. Soil testing kits give accurate results, but consult your county extension service for more detailed tests and specialized advice. Amending could include adjusting pH with sulfur or lime and adding specific nutrients on a one-time basis. Most commercial fertilizers include only three basic elements--the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium combination known as N-P-K.
Dig a test pit to check drainage. With a post-hole digger bore a hole 3 feet deep. Fill the hole with water. If the hole drains in a day or less, fruit trees should do well--if it takes more than two days, drainage is poor. Deep-rooted trees need deep and well-drained soil. Plants with shallow roots could fare better in wet areas if planted on soil mounds or in raised beds. Drainage ditches 2 feet deep could shift the problem to a different area.
Till the site 6 inches deep. Root systems often extend beyond the canopy, so prepare a site larger than the mature width of the fruit tree. The top 6 inches of soil provide most of the nutrients. Work in organic matter to improve soil's ability to support plant life (tilth)--if possible plant a cover crop to till under. Deep tilling near established trees damages roots.
Dig planting holes twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball of the tree if working in dense clay or caliche. Work finished compost or peat into the soil before refilling the hole half way. Water the soil to settle it in and add more mix to raise the height of the tree to its original planting level. Fill in around the tree with dirt and peat and water again.
Install drip irrigation. Though a few trees could do well with careful hand watering, dry spells in Texas often last months. Drip irrigation provides the most efficient and constant water supply without creating drainage problems. Water every three weeks in the dormant season and every week during the growing season, unless it rains. Mulch the area beneath the canopy 6 inches deep to conserve soil moisture, but pull the mulch back six inches away from the trunk.
Things You Will Need
- Soil test kit
- Post-hole digger
- Transplanting shovel
- Garden spade
- Finished compost or peat
- Drip irrigation
- Fruit trees
- Sawdust or straw mulch
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