Fruit trees are a wonderful addition to the landscape at home or even a great niche for the small farmer.
Most people love the thought of picking fresh fruit off of the tree or vine and knowing exactly where it comes from. There are a lot of considerations that must be taken into account for a homeowner looking to spice up the landscape or the small farmer looking to diversify their operation.
Deciduous trees have a chilling requirement in order to flower and produce fruit. Species and cultivars will have their own number of chill hours that must be met. Chill units are the estimated accumulative number of hours at 45°F or under during the dormant season. The Panhandle of Florida receives the most chill units in the state, therefore allowing more of a selection of fruit trees.
Pecan, Peach/Nectarine, Plum, Bunch Grape, Apple, and Pear all have high disease pressures in the climate of the Florida Panhandle. Peach and Nectarine, for example, have a high number of necessary fungicide sprays required for high quality fruit. Mushroom root rot, peach scab, bacterial leaf spot, and brown rot are a few diseases of Peach and Nectarine. The other fruits mentioned have a similar list of disease problems that demand frequent and timely applications of fungicides.
Along with disease pressures and chilling requirements, there are other factors that have to be taken into account before installing fruit trees in Northwest Florida. The sustainability of fruit trees in North Florida can be read about further in this UF/IFAS publication. In the publication, proper varieties and cultivars are listed for the fruit crops discussed. To learn more about fruit culture in Florida, please take a look at the following linked publications.
If questions arise about whether a certain fruit crop can be grown in the Florida Panhandle, contact your local extension agent.