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Get your fruit trees from a quality nurseryman!

February 9, 2012

It’s time to plant, right now in the Deep South. If you wait until Spring, it’s actually too late. The plants need to get established before the heat of summer comes – and late planted nursery stock is much more apt to die.

One problem many homeowners don’t recognize is that, by the time fruit trees show up in the Big Box stores, it’s already too late. These stores are geared toward the North rather than the South.

There are many other reasons to avoid the Big Box stores and purchase from a reliable nurseryman. Our favorite local nurseryman is Stanley McKenzie of Lake City.

If you are in this area, I highly recommend him. If you are in another area, I encourage you to search for local businesses of equal competence.

Here are some reasons why I prefer my trees from Stan, rather than from Lowes, or Home Depot, or the grocery and farm store chains:

1. Stan knows what does well in the South, and the varieties he supplies are those that are tested for productivity here. The Big Box stores sell the same varieties nationwide, so you often see apples like Red Delicious, McIntosh, and others which do very poorly here. They require much more winter chilling than we get, except in an extreme winter.

2. Your questions are answered, if you go to Stan. At the Big Box stores, the staff usually doesn’t have a clue about how to best grow them.

3. Stan’s plants are stocky and strong. You won’t find any sickly, half dead ones there. I have lost trees purchased elsewhere, but have never lost one from Stan.

4. Stan’s prices are very competitive. Nuff said!

5. Stan offers varieties and kinds of fruit that you won’t find in the Big Box stores. Yesterday we purchased two plum trees, two rabbiteye blueberries, a pomegranite, and some spring bearing strawberries. I have looked everywhere for spring bearing strawberries, and have only found everbearing – until I asked Stan about them.

Last year we purchased a cold hardy Satsuma orange tree from him, and in earlier years got a Lisbon lemon (potted to go inside in the winter), muscadine grapes, figs, and pineapple guavas.

Stan is famous for his hardy citrus. He is expanding his line, as he finds varities that work here in the Southeast. I find it pretty neat to be able to grow apples (low chill) right alongside citrus trees. I’d be growing a lot more of both of them if I had the space.

Another favorite nurseryman, interestingly, is in the North, but they have southern experience and can supply some unique low-chill apples, as well as other fruit. This is Cummins Nursery in Ithaca, NY,so, of course, their items must be shipped to the South. What I’ve said about McKenzie Farm Nursery is equally applicable to Cummins Nursery.

Steve Cummins is exremely knowledgeble; he has always answered my questions well, and the best surprise is always in opening the box, and finding trees that are twice the size and in better condition than any other bare-root plants I’ve ever gotten. I certainly can’t recommend this family business more highly.

The mass merchanizers have ways to entice us to make impulse purchases. But planting a tree is a long term committment. Perhaps the wise words of Mark Twain would also apply here – “Marry in haste; repent at leisure!”

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