Fruits and Nuts for Your New Mexico Orchard

Fruit and nut trees can bring beauty and abundance to your backyard in New Mexico. They provide shade, food for wildlife, and, of course, delicious and healthy fruits and nuts. However, it’s important to choose the right species and varieties that are well adapted to the unique climate and soil conditions of New Mexico. In this article, we will guide you through the selection process, helping you create a thriving and productive orchard right in your own backyard.

Apricots: A Taste of Sunshine

Apricot trees are well adapted to New Mexico’s alkaline soils and are relatively long-lived. However, they are susceptible to late spring frosts, which can damage the flowers and young fruits. To increase the chances of a successful crop, consider planting early-blooming varieties such as ‘Perfection’ or ‘Sunglo’ in protected areas. These trees not only provide shade but also produce occasional fruit, especially in the southern parts of the state.

Plums: Sweet and Juicy Delights

Japanese plums, like apricots, are also vulnerable to late spring frosts, making it challenging to grow them in northern New Mexico. However, they are more cold-tolerant than apricots, and varieties such as ‘Methley’ and ‘Santa Rosa’ are self-fruiting and have a better chance of producing a crop. European plums, on the other hand, bloom later and are less likely to be affected by frost. Varieties like ‘Early Blue’ and ‘Stantley’ are recommended for northern New Mexico and high elevations.

Peaches: A Taste of Summer

Peach trees are a popular choice for New Mexico orchards, but they have a shorter lifespan compared to other fruit trees. To protect the trees from sunscald and prolong their lives, paint the trunks with exterior white latex paint or kaolin clay. Pruning the trees annually and addressing any iron deficiencies in sandy soils are also important for their health. Varieties such as ‘Sureprince’, ‘China Pearl’, and ‘Blushingstar’ are recommended for central and northern New Mexico, where full crops are expected every three to five years.

Cherries: Sweet and Tart Treats

Sweet and sour cherry trees thrive in cooler areas of New Mexico. Sweet cherries, such as ‘Whitegold’ and ‘Blackgold’, require cross-pollination, while sour cherries, like ‘Montmorency’, are self-fruiting and less vulnerable to late frosts. These trees can be a beautiful addition to your backyard, but it’s important to note that they have a shorter lifespan and may require treatment to protect them from pests and diseases.

Apples: The All-American Favorite

Apples are a classic choice for orchards, but they require regular sprayings to control pests and diseases. Some varieties, such as ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Arkansas Black’, are more frost-tolerant and suitable for southern New Mexico, while others, like ‘Gala’ and ‘Honeycrisp’, perform well in northern New Mexico. It’s worth considering semidwarf or dwarf trees, as they start to produce fruit at a younger age and are easier to manage. Planting a mix of early and late blooming varieties will increase the chances of a successful crop.

Pears: A Delicate and Sweet Delight

Pears are a great choice for all areas of New Mexico, but they require pollinizers and a spray program to manage pests. Varieties like ‘Bartlett’ and ‘D’Anjou’ are recommended for their consistent fruit production, and planting Asian pear varieties such as ’20th Century’ and ‘Hosui’ can add variety to your orchard. Dwarfing rootstocks are also recommended, as they make the trees easier to manage.

Pecans: The Pride of the South

Pecan trees are a popular choice in the southern half of New Mexico, thanks to their tolerance to alkaline soils and hot, dry summers. Varieties like ‘Western’ and ‘Burkett’ are well adapted to New Mexico’s climate, but it’s important to protect them from aphid infestations and certain nutrient deficiencies. Pecan trees are large and can live for a long time, providing you with a bountiful harvest of nuts that can be enjoyed in a variety of recipes.

Pistachios: A Taste of the Mediterranean

Pistachio trees are native to desert climates, making them well suited for New Mexico’s hot, dry summers and alkaline soils. However, they require regular watering to produce a good crop. Pistachio trees are susceptible to certain diseases, so it’s important to monitor them and treat any issues promptly. Planting both a male and female tree or grafting male branches onto a female tree is necessary to ensure a successful harvest.

Berries: A Burst of Flavor

Growing berries in New Mexico can be challenging, especially in warmer areas. Bramble fruits like blackberries and raspberries may not produce well in the hotter regions of the state, but everbearing strawberries can be grown on raised beds in partial shade. Boysenberries are a good choice for southern New Mexico, while black currants can be grown successfully with protection from the afternoon sun. Northern New Mexico or high-elevation areas are more suitable for growing berries.

Blueberries: A Sweet and Tangy Delight

Blueberries require acidic soil, which is hard to achieve in New Mexico’s alkaline soils. It is possible to grow blueberries in containers with the right soil mix and care, but it can be challenging. If you’re determined to grow blueberries, consider using containers and special soil blends to provide the plants with the acidity they need.

Jujubes: Unique and Hardy

Jujubes, also known as Chinese dates, are a lesser-known fruit tree that is well adapted to New Mexico’s semiarid climate. These trees leaf out later in the spring, allowing them to avoid late frosts. Varieties like ‘Li’ and ‘Lang’ perform well in southern New Mexico, while ‘Great Wall’, ‘Sheng’, and ‘Saijo’ are more cold-hardy and can be grown in cooler parts of the state. Jujubes have few pest or disease issues and can be a great addition to your home orchard.

Figs: A Tropical Oasis

Fig trees add a touch of tropical beauty to southern and central New Mexico. Their large leaves create a lush atmosphere, and their sweet fruit can be enjoyed fresh or used in a variety of recipes. Fig trees are hardy, but they can be damaged by low winter or spring temperatures. To protect them, plant them in protected areas and mulch or cover them during freezing temperatures. Varieties like ‘Celeste’, ‘Brown Turkey’, and ‘Hardy Chicago’ are recommended for New Mexico.

Now that you have a better understanding of which fruit and nut trees are well suited to New Mexico, you can start planning your own backyard orchard. Remember to choose varieties that are best adapted to your specific location and to provide proper care and maintenance to ensure a bountiful harvest. For more tips and information on tree planting and care, check out Tips Tree Planting.

Happy planting, and may your orchard be abundant and fruitful!