Many types of fruit trees grow well in the desert

October is the time of year when transition occurs. Deciduous trees and shrubs, fruit trees and lawns begin their transition to the winter months. Bermuda grass lawns begin their transition to dormancy and sleep, turning brown. Late September and October is when we overseed Bermuda grass lawns with perennial ryegrass to keep the lawn green.

If we choose not to overseed Bermuda grass and allow it to turn to its winter brown color, we can extend the time it stays green in the fall by putting the last fertilizer application on now. In the same respect, our tall fescue lawns have a better chance of staying green through a harsh winter by putting on that last fertilizer application at Thanksgiving.

Generally speaking, we don’t apply fertilizers to trees and shrubs heading into their winter dormancy . But an alternative for the advanced gardener is to apply a fertilizer application to trees and shrubs now, just before they enter into dormancy. I say advanced gardener because you must know something about your plants if you decide to apply this late-fall fertilizer application. You could run into trouble doing this if you do not know which of your plants are winter-tender and which ones are not.

Winter-tender plants are those most likely to freeze during harsh weather. Examples would include citrus. These winter-tender plants might be more susceptible to freezing temperatures if we apply a late-fall fertilizer application to them. You must avoid applications of fertilizer to winter-tender plants any time after about August.

Winter-tender plants will vary throughout the valley. Some parts of the valley can be downright cold during the winter months .

Winter-hardy plants can handle those freezing temperatures and can benefit from a late-fall application of fertilizer. On these plants, such as many of our landscape and fruit trees, a late-fall application of fertilizer will be taken up by the plant and its residues stored, ready to push new growth in the spring when temperatures warm up.

Landscape trees like ash and fruit trees such as apples, pears, apricots, peaches and plums can handle a fertilizer application now. If that fertilizer is applied now, you can skip an application in the spring. Just make sure there is adequate time for plants to take up this fertilizer and store it before leaf drop.

This is the time of year for pomegranates, pears, apples and persimmons. Most people think pomegranates are ready to pick at Halloween. That’s true of some of our more commonly planted pomegranates like Wonderful, Sweet and Eversweet.

But some pomegranates will ripen fairly early in September, such as Ambrosia and Sharp Velvet. They seem to taste a little bit better, however, if they go through a period of cold weather before harvest. You can simulate this cold weather by harvesting them and putting them in the refrigerator for several days .

Evidence of maturity or readiness for picking include skin color, the spreading of that Kings “crown” at the calyx end, the ease at which they separate from the tree, the hollow thudding noise that the fruit makes when it’s thumped like a watermelon, splitting fruit, bird ravaging and how it tastes. The best one is how it tastes.

Two of our more common persimmons for this climate are Fuyu and Haichiya. My favorite of the two is Haichiya, but it is also the harder of the two to get to set abundant fruit. Haichiya is astringent, which means it will make your mouth pucker if you eat it before it is fully ripe. When fully ripe, the fruit is a brilliant red .

A persimmon tree that looks very promising for our climate is Giant Fuyu. Just as its name implies, the fruit is shaped like a giant Fuyu persimmon and it is every bit as good as the smaller version, but there is more of it. If you like Fuyu persimmon, then you will probably also like the varieties called Chocolate and Coffee Cake.

If you have followed me at all, you know that I have pushed a variety of apple in our climate called Pink Lady. It matures around mid-November and has a wonderful blend of sweetness and tartness. Most apple trees are self-pollinating in our climate so you will not need two varieties of apples to set fruit.

Bartlett pear is a wonderful fall producer in our climate and Red Bartlett is particularly attractive and wonderful to eat. If harvested when they are still firm, the flesh will get a wonderful buttery texture free of grit. In our climate, European pears look a little bit like cellulite. They don’t develop that smooth exterior like they do in the Pacific Northwest. I rather think that is part of the charm of a European pear grown in the desert.

One of my particular favorite European pears is Keifer. If you look up or Google Keifer pear, it will denigrate this poor fruit. That’s because the people who denigrate it have never tasted it coming from the desert.

This fabulous desert pear should have a different name, maybe something like Cannonball Pear or Nevada Jicama pear. These would be much more descriptive. Kiefer pear is not a Bartlett and should never be compared to a Bartlett . It is for desserts. This pear is much more subtle in its flavors and more versatile than any dessert pear.

Asian pears also do particularly well here. Try varieties such as Shinko, Shinseki, Hosui and Chojuro . For larger fruit you must thin these pears, or remove competing fruit, when they are small. Asian pears develop excellent size when you do this and great flavor as well.

If you have read my article this far, you may be wondering why I am enticing you about fruit trees this time of year when they are not available. Well, that is not true. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Orchard in North Las Vegas is taking orders now for bareroot fruit tree delivery next January .

All of these varieties I mentioned are available, along with many others. You can call the orchard manager at 702-466-4267 and place your order.

But you only have until the end of October to do it.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas; he is on special assignment in the Balkh Province, Afghanistan, for the University of California, Davis. Visit his blog at

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