Apple-Nectarine Combo Tree?

Q. Earlier this summer, I planted a Fuji Apple and a nectarine tree together in the same hole as my front and back yards are too small. What’s going to happen when they both start to fruit?nectarapple

A. I’m not sure that anything negative is going to happen when they start to fruit. That said, there are other more pressing concerns that need to be addressed before they get to that point. Small yards are a dilemma for gardeners looking to grow a variety of different types of fruits. The typical, semi-dwarf fruit tree, fifteen to eighteen feet high, with a twelve-foot spread, is much too big. The idea of planting multiple trees in a single hole is a great solution: however, the trees have to be compatible with the same watering requirements and have a similar growth pattern. Unfortunately, that is not the case with your choices, as they’re very dissimilar.

Nectarines have an umbrella shape canopy while an apple growth pattern is stiff and upright. Nectarines are pruned annually, removing fifty to sixty percent of the growth while with apples, you remove about ten or fifteen percent. As these trees mature, this combination will look very odd and awkward in the landscape. The key issue is the watering requirements. Apples tolerate frequent summer watering while nectarines do not; hence, planting under their canopies is not recommended and that’s a problem with small yards. Personally, I think there is little chance that you’ll be successful with this grouping. You’re going to have to remove one of the trees and replace it with a variety that better fits the location.

Apples, Pears and Asian Pears are best planted together. This is your best choice as you can maximize the planting space under the canopy. Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Plums, Plumcots and Pluots are the other groupings. Planting two, three, or even four fruit trees in the same hole will work. They’re spaced no closer than two feet apart. The grouping is viewed as a single canopy with multiple trunks and each variety is pruned accordingly.

It’s important to layer the different branches of each variety so they aren’t growing into one another along with minimizing the rubbing and crossing branches and eliminating the congestion in the center of the trees. It’s critical that these trees be pruned annually as one variety may be more aggressive than another. You prevent this by limiting each variety to a certain percentage of the space, fifty, or twenty-five percent etc, depending on the number in the grouping.

Also, it’s important that you have access around the entire diameter of the canopy to prune efficiently. It’s not as difficult as it might seem when planned correctly. In addition, whatever combination you choose, select varieties with different ripening times. This allows you to space the crops out so they don’t ripen in the same week and a half. And finally, the selection at your favorite garden center is very limited now so I suggest you wait until January for the new selection of trees to arrive

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is www.dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at dirtgarden@aol.com or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Buzz.Bertolero