The brutal winters in Alaska make it seem that no fruit plants could ever survive, but every summer brings a miracle of abundance relied on by orchards, subsistence harvesters, bears and birds alike. To find the best fruit plants for outdoor growing in Alaska, the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at the University of Alaska Fairbanks conducts tests and collects information from its extension agents and the state’s master gardeners. Some varieties of cultivated fruits may only survive in favorable sites facing south and protected by the wind.
The Carroll, Norland, Parkland, Prairie Magic and Silken varieties of apples will grow outside in Alaska. The Alaska Pioneer’s Fruit Growers Association ranks the Simonet variety as the top apple for yield and survival in the Last Frontier. The University of Alaska Fairbanks ranks the Parkland, Westland, Nor-Series and Golden Uralian as having good yields, all of which are grown at the Clair’s Cultivars orchard outside Fairbanks.
Other Large Fruit
Plums (Clair’s Cultivars grows the Assinboine, Manchurian, Dandy and Salicina No. 2 varieties), cherries, apricots, juneberries and pears are hardy in interior Alaska’s climate, which covers USDA Zones 2, 3 and Zone 4. Evans cherry trees will grow, as well as Red Jade currants and Jahns Prairie gooseberries.
Pickyourown.org notes that currants, strawberries and raspberries grow at ranches at Talkeetna, well north of Anchorage. The University of Alaska Fairbanks reports that the state’s growers succeed with the Alaska Pioneer and Toklat strawberry varieties. Some nurseries raise grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and Kiwi vines.
Bears, moose and birds, as well as Alaska residents who cherish the state’s late-summer tradition of berry picking, harvest the state’s late summer crops of blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries and crowberries. Agricultural researchers seek ways to commercially produce wild berries or to manage existing wild stands, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Peach trees occasionally survive the winter, according to the Alaska Pioneer’s Fruit Growers Association.
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