Growing Fruits and Nuts
Pomology, the science of raising fruit crops, is one of the most complex aspects of Horticulture. Since these are perennial crops that will be with you a while, choices made at the onset of planting a home orchard will follow you for years.
The University of California website on home fruit and nut production, The California Backyard Orchard, has information on raising these crops in California.
We recommend you start with The Big Picture for guidelines on site considerations, tree selection, propagation, preparation & planting, irrigation, pruning, pest management, harvest, and more if you're just starting out.
Those looking into raising their own fruit trees will encounter information about chilling requirements for various varieties. Except for the low desert areas, as a rule we get plenty of chilling in our climate. If you would like to learn more about local chill hours, consult this page.
Small Fruits in Owens Valley
While there is a long history of raising tree fruit in Owens Valley, small fruits seem to do especially well here. These are bushes or vines that bear fruit like blackberries and blueberries.
Our local Master Gardener volunteer Alison Collin has been experimenting with small fruits for several years and has compiled useful information worth sharing.
Most deciduous tree fruits and nuts will grow in the high desert in Inyo and Mono counties. But that doesn't mean it's a good choice to raise them.
We don't recommend raising nut species in our area. Most of us have small yards and most nut trees take a lot of space. It is unlikely that here you can grow a better nut than you can buy and most take 2 trees for pollination. You will be happier raising fresh fruit.
Almonds will almost always freeze before having a crop. Good yields are very rare.
Pistachios will grow in southern Inyo County, but we don't know how well they will do. We don't recommend them.
Black walnuts seem to do very well here as a shade tree, but for the reasons stated above, we don't recommend nut trees for most gardeners.
Obviously, subtropical trees like avocados and citrus are not recommended. It is too cold in winter for them to survive. Growing inside seldom works as well as you hope.
Almost all other deciduous fruits are fine with these caveats:
Avoid low-chill varieties above 2,000 feet.
Late-flowering and bearing stone fruits are more reliable.
Bing cherries are prone to canker diseases. All sweet cherries tend to get overgrown and are hard to manage in the long run. Be prepared!
Apples and pears do fine, but they do have occasional issues with fire blight. Try to select resistant cultivars. Codling moth is always a problem here.
On the valley floors north of Poverty Hills, pomegranates will grow fine, but may not reliably ripen. This is not a problem in Wilkerson. They do better in southern Owens Valley.