From turning off the furnace to turning on the air conditioner, man oh man, that’s how fickle the weather is in early June in Wyoming. As you can imagine, garden centers have been a bee-hive of activity as gardeners are biting at the bit to do what they love to do—get dirty in the garden!
Sure there’s the annual rush to get vegetable starts, but what’s surprising to me is the extreme interest by Wyoming gardeners in making a long-term commitment to fruit-bearing plants. Gardeners don’t want to buy fruits at the store, they want to grow them for their family and share some with the birds and bees. So let’s visit about some easy to grow fruits for Wyoming.
Probably the easiest fruit to grow would be the raspberry, as it’s native to our mountains. There’s a huge selection of raspberries on the market but be sure to get the kind of raspberry that blooms and produces fruit on this year’s growth. There are raspberries that produce only on older canes. This is a poor choice for Wyoming as the canes usually die back to the ground each winter; hence the gardener never gets fruit. Some of the varieties proven to produce in Wyoming include ‘Heritage’, ‘Autumn Britton’, and ‘Souris’.
Raspberries are self-fertile, meaning one plant is all that is needed to produce fruit.
Strawberries are also native to our mountains, but the fruit they produce are itsy-bitsy. Gardeners don’t want itsy-bitsy, they want strawberries that are huge, sweet and delicious. Although strawberries are self-fertile, you’ll want to get several plants to get enough production for strawberry shortcake. A couple of varieties known to do well in Wyoming are the ‘Ft. Laramie’ and ‘Ozark Beauty’. The Ft. Laramie strawberry was developed in Wyoming and remains the gold standard for cold-hardiness.
Apples have been a staple in Wyoming even before Wyoming was a state. All across Wyoming there are apple orchards on farmsteads that have been growing fruit for several human generations. There are so many varieties on the market today that it’ll make your head go dizzy. Plus there are dwarf apples, semi-dwarf, and standard varieties. And then there are grafted apple trees that have several varieties on one trunk. Apples need another apple tree to pollinate. Proven varieties for Wyoming include ‘Honeycrisp’,’ Haralson’, and ‘McIntosh’.
Lately, there’s been a lot of interest in berry producing plants that are considered ‘super foods’. These are plants that produce fruits up to four times the antioxidants of blueberries. A couple of varieties come to mind that can grow in Wyoming and both are considered shrubs. The first is the elderberry. There are multiple varieties to choose from including ‘Black Lace’ and ‘Sutherland’. Elderberry is self-fertile.
The other shrub getting a lot of attention these days is chokeberry. Again it is self-fertile; one variety includes ‘Iroquois Beauty’.
There are even more fruit producing trees available to the Wyoming gardener. Consider the sour cherry trees like the ‘Montmorency’ and the ‘Mesabi’. Cherries are self-fertile. Don’t bother with the sweet cherries of the Pacific Northwest, they just can’t grow here.
Then there are plums, chokecherries, apricots, grapes, currants and serviceberries, even peaches that can survive and produce fruit here.
So if you want edibles in your landscape, there’s really no reason not to have them!
Originally published in the Casper Star-Tribune, June 7, 2015