Grow Your Own Peaches, Cherries and Plums

Thanks to balmy summer heat and refreshing rains, Ozarks summers provide near-perfect conditions for stone fruits. With a few expert tips, you can soon grow your own crop of fruit trees.

By Ettie Berneking | Photo by Vivian Wheeler

Jun 2017

Fresh peaches pair with yellow cake and freshly whipped cream for the perfect summer dessert.

You might dread summer in the Ozarks, but stone fruit trees, including plums, pears, peaches, cherries and apricots, love it. The warm summer temperatures and regular rain showers are just what these fruit trees need. So next time you start weeping over the drenching humidity, embrace our balmy climate and grow your own fruit trees. Interested? Thomas Pluth of Purple Gate Farm in Highlandville, Missouri, grows plums, apples and peaches for a living and has advice for those looking to grow fruit trees in their backyard. 

Before you start planting, consider your space. “A lot of people don’t realize how tall fruit trees can get,” Pluth says. “We have some plum trees that are 20 feet tall.” To avoid dangerous heights, look for dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties. These usually grow to be 6 to 8 feet tall. Be sure to check out local nurseries before heading to a big box store. Trees at local nurseries will be acclimated to our area, according to Pluth. Another tip Pluth has: Check out state nurseries at the Department of Conservation. They often have tree sales at the end of each year, and because they sell native Missouri tree species, you can help repopulate native trees.

If you’re looking for an early bloomer, plant plum trees. These usually blossom first, plus they’re great pollinators and attract butterflies and bees. The trees need well-drained soil, which is a given in the Ozarks’ clay-rich soil, and Pluth says it’s important to prune your plum trees. “Fruit tends to grow on new growth of the tree,” he says. “In order to keep fruit from growing on the top where it’s hard to reach, you’ll need to prune your trees.”

When it comes to peaches, Pluth says the hardest part is keeping pests away. Organic gardening can be tough, but luckily, Purple Gate Farm has figured out a few successful organic methods. Pluth recommends spraying your peach trees with kaolin clay to form a barrier that most pests don’t like. Another trick is to plant decoy trees, like mulberry or elderberry, that attract the bugs and help keep them away from your prized peaches.

Once you do the work, plan to wait a little bit. Dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties can take three to four years to start producing. But once your trees have matured and you’ve harvested your first crop, it’s time to relish the results of all that TLC and head to the kitchen. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite stone fruit recipes with the help of Robert Stricklin from The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks and the talented cooks and chefs at the Springfield-based Food Channel.