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What are “Low Chill” fruit trees?

 

Granny Smith has been spreading rumors for years that you can only grow apples in the north. Many people have been convinced their favorite fruits can only be grown in cooler climates. I am here to dispute Granny and boldly say: Just because her apples don't like the heat, doesn’t mean you can’t grow 'em in the hot and humid south.


So, before I start, I want to clear Granny Smiths name. Although granny smith apples are not an apple that we carry, they only require 400 chill hours to fruit which by all accounts is still considered a “hot weather” or southern variety apple tree.


Now, what in the plum are Chill hours? To put it simply, An hour of air temperature between 32ºF and 45ºF, minus all hours above 60ºF.” according to The Garden Academy. If you want to fall down the rabbit hole of information, you can read more on their website Here.


For most of us, just understanding Chill Hours exist is enough. The more important question is, “How many chill hours do I get where I live?” Fortunately, that's an easy question to answer and it's the first step in finding out what fruit trees you can grow where you live. Simply follow the link, type in your zip code, and you can see not only last years chill hours but an historical average. Find my Chill Hours by Zip Code Here.


Most of the fruits you see in every grocery store across the US require Chill Hours (bannas and other tropical fruits being the exception). We’ve established that Chill Hours are a thing, and yes, you probably have them. Here at our homestead in North Central Florida (Zone 9a for those who want a reference point) we average 350 hours every year plus or minus 50hrs. What can we grow in Florida with 350hrs? Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Figs, Grapes, Jujubes, Kiwi, Mulberries, Nectarines, Olives, Peaches, Pears, Pecans, Persimmons, Plums, Pomegranates, Raspberries, Quince, and a slew of subtropical plants that don’t require any chill hours to fruit. Whew, now that's quite the variety!


Maybe you have more chill hours, maybe you have less. One of the keys to success when buying fruit trees is matching your tree variety and its specific chill hour requirements to the area that you live. Countless people have been discouraged from buying fruit trees because they have done so in the past and the tree never fruited. This is all to common as many garden centers carry trees that simply aren’t suited for that specific area. Typically they also don’t have the information easily available for you to make an educated purchase or don’t take the time to help find a good match for you.


Here at Sugar Hill Nursery we carry trees that produce fruit with 400 chill hours or less. We do recommend that you select varieties that are close to the chill hours where you live. If you live in an area that gets 300 chill hours and you plant a tree that only needs 100 the tree will fruit. However, there is a risk is that the tree will break dormancy too early and you lose part of your harvest in a late frost/freeze. If you plant a tree that Requires 500 hours instead of breaking dormancy too early the risk is that it may have either a very low harvest or possibly no harvest at all. At our homestead we have planted a variety of trees some a little above our average some below and most right on target. This has given us the best results as the chill hours fluctuate a little from year to year and some years one set of trees is the better producer where other years it’s the opposite.


Regardless of where you live and the number of chill hours that you get I hope that you now know You can grow your favorite fruits. If you are located in an area that gets less than 400 chill hours we would love to have the opportunity in helping you find the perfect varieties to fill your table each harvest. Thank you for taking the time to read this post if you have questions or suggestions please reach out we would love to hear from you.


Chris

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