By Charlie Nardozzi

One of the best ways to add edible crops to even a small yard is to grow a fruit tree.

More gardeners are turning to edible landscaping to grow their own food. One of the best ways to add edible crops to even a small yard is to grow a fruit tree. Modern varieties of fruit trees are adapted to most areas of the country; many varieties only require one tree to produce fruit, and the production can last for many years. Here are some tips on selecting a fruit tree.

Dwarf Varieties: First determine which fruits and varieties are hardy in your area. Check out the new USDA hardiness zone map for guidance. Once you know which fruits and varieties to grow, look for dwarf versions of these fruits. Dwarfing rootstocks and genetic dwarfs can reduce the size of fruit trees dramatically, often down to less than 10 feet tall.

Disease-Resistant Varieties: Look for fruit tree varieties that are disease resistant. For example, some apple varieties are resistant to common diseases such as scab and rust, and some pears are resistant to fire blight. Find out which diseases are a concern in your area and look for varieties that will reduce your need for spraying.

Site Selection: Knowing the ultimate size and shape of your tree helps determine where you should plant it. Tall, narrow-growing trees, such as pears, are good choices for a small side yard. Short plum or cherry trees make great substitutions for ornamental versions of these trees in the front lawn. A large apple is a good shade tree in a larger backyard. You can even grow dwarf versions of fruits in containers if you have a very small yard, although these may need to be protected in winter in colder areas. Always check for overhead power lines and underground utility lines before planting. The last thing you want is to have to remove or severely prune your fruit tree because it is growing into power or utility lines.