Few things are more rewarding than picking fruit and nuts from your backyard trees. But dropping your crop to a spring freeze that destroys flower buds can be extremely disappointing. Planning carefully by selecting freeze-resistant nut and fruit types may help make sure frost never prevents fruit formation from your yard.
Apples and Pears
Apple trees (Malus spp.) and pear trees (Pyrus spp.) Are usually quite resistant to cold and frost, making them good choices for cooler regions. Most apple trees grow well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 or 4 through 8. Among the hundreds of apple varieties, good options include “Anna,” that has large crops of crispy, sweet apples, “Dorsett Golden,” a producer of large, firm fruits that store well, and “Gala,” a New Zealand import with sweet, dessert-type apples. “Moonglow” (Pyrus communis “Moonglow”) is also a good, frost-resistant pear alternative that has greenish-yellow, smooth-skinned fruits with superior flavor, as is “Anjou,” a late-bearing pear with especially large, sweet fruits.
Stone fruits, like peaches (Prunus persica) and plums (Prunus domestica), are luscious fruits that normally have exceptionally sweet flavor and typically grow well in USDA zones 5 through 8 or 9, depending on the variety. Both kinds bloom in spring, making them potentially susceptible to damage from spring frost. For peaches, selecting varieties that need less winter chill and bloom in late spring is greatest. These include three self-fruitful cultivars: “Harken,” that has medium-sized, sweet, freestone fruits, “Early Elberta,” with large, golden yellow fruits, and “Glohaven,” whose fruit is all but fuzz-free. Among plums, the European type is more frost-resistant than the more tender Japanese band. European plums that are good options include “Stanley,” an especially productive cultivar, and “BlueByrd,” with business, sweet fruitsand vegetables. Both varieties include dark blue plums with yellow flesh.
Some kinds of nut trees do well in places subject to spring frosts. These include black walnut trees (Juglans nigra), typically suitable for growing in USDA zones 4 through 8 or 9, depending on the cultivar. The black walnut is a large, 75- to 100-foot-tall tree that begins blooming in May and yields a crop of nuts in autumn. Even though pecans (Carya illinoinensis) are usually considered warm-weather trees, the variety known as “Native Hardy Pecan” is a naturally occurring tree that does well in USDA zones 5 through 10. A large, spreading tree, it attains a height of 50 to 70 feet and produces a crop of pecans with typically thin, easy-to-remove shells.
Unusual Nut Trees
Several other nut trees also resist frost well and are good producers. These include the Japanese heartnut tree (Juglans ailantifolia), also called the Japanese walnut, which grows well in USDA zones 4 through 9. It blooms in mid-spring, when most frost risk has passed, and produces a oval nut than can be heart-shaped, depending on the variety. When cracked, it shows a flavorful, edible nut that may likewise be heart-shaped. Chinese chestnut trees (Castanea mollissima) produce edible nuts and are also quite frost-resistant, making them good choices for a house garden. Rather different from many other nut trees, Chinese chestnuts bloom in late spring and create nuts encased in spiny coverings that ripen in late summer or early autumn. They also make excellent shade trees and perform well in USDA zones 4 through 8.