by Joe Volk

Ratings based on freedom from disease, insects, wildlife, etc. and on fruit quality representing mostly my personal experience plus input from others, particularly organic growers. We are in Berks County, PA, which is in zone 6. Philadelphia area and South Jersey are in Zone 7, a milder area where late-ripening varieties of Jujube and Asian persimmons will do better. If you want conventional fruit and are on the fence about spraying, consider this, many home gardeners give fungicidal and insecticidal spray to apples and peaches when the tiny fruit is first exposed (after appleblossom petal fall and peach shuck split). If you do this and one spray ten days later, it is unlikely that there will be any residue many months later when you pick the fruit and for backyard growers, it is possible you may get relatively undamaged fruit.

Rating Good Cultivars Comments
Excellent (Delicious, no-spray, easy pick fruits)
Red Raspberry Heritage, Summit, and my antique variety which I am willing to share with you. Best fruit for your backyard. Easy picking(no climbing or stooping), freezes without effort, daily production of fresh fruit for a longer period (not a one shot deal as with other fruit).
Pawpaw Sunflower is self-fertile. Sweet Alice, Overleese Most beautiful tree for your front lawn and most delicious fruit size of a potato. No work at all once established, but first year plants need a little shading and attention. Resistant to deer and insects.
Hardy Kiwi Annanasnaja("Anna") plus male. Jumbo is a new favorite. Vigoruous vine, fruit much sweeter and more flavor than southern types you buy in the store and it is fuzzless! Buy larger plants as smaller ones need extra protection first winter.
Jujube Li - best fruit. So - most ornamental tree Another lovely tree for front lawn with tiny glossy leaves. Two trees for pollination may help. Li and So are early-ripening, frost may catch late-ripening varieties in our area. Also called Chinese Date and when fruit starts to shrivel, tastes just like a date.
American Persimmons John Rick, Yates, Meader Like Pawpaw, a native tree, will pucker until fully ripe.
Black Raspberry Jewel Seedier and shorter harvest season than red, but my Pennsylvania Dutch friends grow blacks because they tell me it holds flavor better than reds do when used in preserves.
Blueberry Duke, Bluecrop, Chandler (biggest berries and delicious) Attractive, ornamental, native shrub, but when fruit ripening, must be covered as birds go wild for fruit. Introduced to the world from NJ Pinebarrens. Lowbush blueberry for space-challenged.
Nanking Cherry   A bush, but with some plants fruit is sweet and delicious but smaller than sweet(tree) cherry. As with blueberries and shadberries you must cover tree with netting at harvest time or birds will devour.
Very Good  
Currants, Gooseberry & Hybrids   These are best fruits if your yard is shady. Pawpaw also tolerates part shade.
Blackberry Navaho, Doyle, Chester, Arapaho Navaho and Arapaho are more upright and thornless.
Asian Pear Korean Giant plus many other cultivars To me, these trees are more beautiful than purely ornamental pear trees and the fruit crisp and delicious. Less pest problems than regular pears, some get good results without spraying. Korean Giant will keep all winter in fridge.
Heartnut Rhodes is self-fertile The two most attractive nut trees for your property are Heartnut and Filbert, both producing easy-to-crack deliciuous nuts, both usually no-spray, no-pamper trees although squirrels can be a problem unless you have a good dog. Heartnuts have lovely flowers and when cracking, shells fall apart into two perfect halves releasing unbroken nuts. These very ornamental shells can be used in crafts. Both trees are precocious, producing nuts in about three years. As with fruit trees, it is important to get grafted cultivars instead of seedlings. Heartnut is in the walnut family and roots may be toxic to some plants.
Hazelnut, Filbert, and Hybrids Readleaf, Ennis, Hall's Giant and blight-resistant cultivars now being introduced See comments under 'Heartnut'
Mulberry Illinois Everbearing is self-fertile Kids and birds like the fruit and so do I, but don't plant over sidewalks. Some say Mulberry & Shadberry will draw birds away from some other fruits.
European Pear (the common pear) Warren, Seckel, Honey Sweet Unlike Asian Pear, fruit of most varieties should be picked before fully ripe. Seckel small and sweet and can be allowed to ripen on tree.
Strawberry   Keeps your back in shape (or strains it).
Cornelian Cherry Redstone Dogwood family. Nice bush or cut off bottom branches and becomes lovely little tree. It is completely covered with yellow blossoms in early March. Fruit has been described as a cranberry with a stone.
Shadberry Various species of Amelanchier Grows wild in N.J. Pines encirling the cranberry bogs. Fuit looks like a blueberry and birds love it. Also called Juneberry, Shadblow, Serviceberry, Saskatoon.
Pie Cherry Montmorency Smaller tree and more compact than Sweet Cherry and less problems. Lot of work picking and pitting, but I love the pie.
Shagbark Hickory/Shellbark Hicory Yoder #1, Seas, Grainger. Keystone, Henry Like Black Walnuts, Hickories are well adapted to this area. No spraying, no pampering required. Grainger considered the standout. Yoder #1 reported to be self-fertile, but less precocious.
Chinese Chestnut Orrin, Henry VIII Great tree for kids to climb on. Tough for squirrels to get nuts until husks open and tough for you too without sturdy gloves. Much lower in calories than other nuts - a low cal nut! Put husks under Hostas to deter slugs.
American Chestnut To be announced American Chestnut wiped out by blight, but disease resistant cultivars will be available in 5 years. Takes six generations of back-crossing to develop resistance and there are two generations to go. Nuts similar to Chinese but tree form different.
Grapes For eating: Alden, Canadice For wine: Edelweiss, Marchel Foch, Joannes-Seyve 23-416 Subject to fruit rot and many pests. Alden big and solid, most like California grapes, Canadice sweet and seedless. Friends say non-spray growers may do well with the listed wine grapes
Apple Choose disease-resistant varieties. Liberty resistant to all four major apple diseases. Enterprise and William's Pride are resistant. Subject to insect damage but no-spray growers can make cider (containing possibly more protein). Semi-dwarfs (like M-7) usually do not have to be staked & more tolerant of drought & other adverse conditions than full dwarfs, but full dwarfs easier to reach and handle. My favorites are Gala and Yataka but neither is disease resistant. Amos Fisher says old russet varieties like Rusty Coat & Golden Russet are somewhat resistant.
Black Walnut Thomas, Emma K. Beautiful, no-spray, trouble-free tree but not for most backyards as gets big and roots toxic to some plants. Lot of work husking and cracking, but these two excellent cultivars much easier to crack. Most beautiful tree is cut-leaf walnut, people think it is a Japanese maple and never guess that it is a walnut.
Beach Plum To be announced Nice bush, grows wild in Pinelands, tastes good but only tiny amount of meat between stone & skin. However, Rutgers Fruit R&D in Cream Ridge, NJ may develop improved cultivars.
WORST FRUITS (Spraying required unless in lucky location)
Plums Stanley, Methley, S. Dakota, Purple Heart Plums get black knot growths on branches, Asian plums rot easily in wet weather. Only plum not beset with problems is perhaps Damson, but this is only good for preserves.
Peaches Erli-Redfre, Redhaven Borers and other problems, but early-ripening peaches have less problems. Little genetic-dwarfs grow to perhaps five feet and quite ornamental, "Bonfire" is my favorite.
Sweet Cherry   Bird predation and diseases galore. My Stark Gold cherry is of poor quality, but birds do not hit on it as fast as reds. Others recommmend Emperor Napoleon for this reason which is a better quality cherry.
Nectarines   This is a sport of peach. After ripening, the fruit rots much faster than peach which is why I prefer peach.
Apricots   No fruit produced most years in most locations because early Spring frosts kill blossoms.
HYBRIDS Plum-Cherry Plum-Apricot Pear-Mountain Ash Plum-Peach Fall Cherries   None of these hybrids have done well for me.
Alpine Strawberries, Butternut, Cranberry, Cudrania on Osage Orange rootstock, Chokeberry, Elderberry, Eleagnus, English Walnut, Fig, Highbush cranberry, Japanese Raisin tree, Kiwi:Kolomikta, Kiwi: Deliciosa. Mayhaw, Maypop, Medlar, Peanuts, Pine Nuts, Quince, Rugosa Rose, Sugar Maple, Yellowhorn    
Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden is an excellent book by Lee Reich. Others highly recommend "Backyard Orchardist" by Stella Otto. I cannot recommend fruit books by Lewis Hill.
Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention: A Gardener's Guide is an earlier edition of 'Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden'. It is out-of-print.
North American Fruit Explorers is a group you can join. Its quarterly magazine 'Pomona' is full of interesting articles written by members, many of them organic growers, giving practical solutions
Backyard Fruit Growers offers apple-tasting events, plus various workshops on grafting, pruning, etc. in Lancaster County, PA.
Midwest Fruit Explorers is similar to Backyard Fruit Growers and is located in the Chicago area.
California Rare Fruit Growers is a California based group interested in growing rare fruits.
The Northern Nut Growers Association, Inc. (NNGA) brings together people interested in growing nut trees.
New England Nutgrowers is a New England regional group similar to the NNGA.
Other Regional Nut Grower Assocations are listed here.
The American Chestnut Foundation is planning to restore the American Chestnut by crossing the American Chestnut to the Chinese Chestnut. Then by repeated backcrossing to the American Chestnut, they hope to create a tree with characteristics of the American Chestnut, with the Chestnut blight resistance of the Chinese. The first trials of final trees will probably begin in 2006.
American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation is attempting to restore the American Chestnut by finding naturally occurring blight resistance genes within the American Chestnut genetic pool and breed the trees for those genes.
Lennilea Nursery in Huffs Church, PA. is a local nursery that handles selection of unusual fruit and nut trees. Bob and Cindy Seip, owners, advise that they do not ship, but you can call (610) 845-2077 for directions. They are off Route 100 halfway between Pottstown and Allentown.
Northumberland BerryWorks has information on Gooseberries and Currants.
The PawPaw Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and development of Asimina triloba as a new fruit crop for American farmers and consumers.
Jujube Orchards - this page has some informaion on Jujube.
Kiwifruit - this page has some information on kiwifruit.
Fruit&Nut Research and Information Center from UC Davis has some excellent information on various kinds of fruits.
Pennsylvania Tree Fruit Production Guide is a production guide mainly for commercial growers.
Small Scale Fruit Production is Pennsylvania's guide for fruit growing oriented toward the small-scale grower/homeowner.

Fruitfully yours,

Joseph M. Volk
3853 New Holland Road
Mohnton, PA 19540
Phone: 610-777-2131