Area nurseries and farm supply stores should be receiving their fruit trees now. Growing and harvesting your own tree-ripened fruit can be a very rewarding or a very disappointing experience. To get the best quality apples or peaches you should follow a yearly schedule of pruning, spraying, fertilizing and thinning of fruit. You also should select your fruit trees based on where you live in Mississippi. Check with local nurserymen to see what they recommend and also check with your County Extension office for publication P0966, Fruit and Nut Recommendations for Mississippi, that has information on recommended fruit tree varieties for Mississippi.

For whatever reasons you want to grow your own fruit, there are some things you need to consider. Choose a site for your trees that is well drained. Planting on a slope would help take care of that problem and planting on a northern slope would be even better. Since northern slopes take longer to warm up in spring, this would help to delay spring bloom; thereby lessening the chance of losing your blooms to an early spring freeze-an all too frequent occurrence.

You can purchase fruit trees, bareroot, in plastic sacks or in pots. Research has shown potted fruit trees have a much higher survival rate than the others, but, of course, the cost is usually higher. This holds true for potted pecan trees also.

When you plant your tree, dig the hole only as deep as the pot, but make the hole at least twice as wide as the pot. Digging the hole only as deep as the pot keeps the root ball from sinking too deeply in the hole as time passes.

Widening the hole makes it easier for the new feeder roots to grow out of the sides of the root ball into the loosened backfill soil.

Pruning, fertilizing and spray schedules are chores that can get complicated if you donít have some guidance. The Extension office has free publications and information sheets that take the mystery out of all these procedures. Especially helpful are the insect and disease control publications for fruit trees. For the apple and pear schedule ask for publication 736.

Spring liming

Some producers in Neshoba County have recently received soil test reports calling for applications of lime to correct soil pH. They have asked if they could apply lime this close to planting. In many cases, the answer is "yes."

Once applied, lime requires several months to react with the soil. Some of the finely-ground lime particles will quickly neutralize soil acidity when lime is applied. The treatment will immediately help; the full benefits won't be apparent until the next growing season.

Lime is more effective in neutralizing soil pH when applied in the fall, but it can and should be applied as soon as possible if pH needs correcting.