Even if you live in a cold climate, you CAN grown an huge amount of different kind of fruits.
Many people who live in the northern half of the US believe that they cannot grow great tasting, organic fruit. When we first moved to mid-coast Maine, we thought similarly, believing that apples were our only real option.
We have found, however, that there is a great range of cold-hardy fruit that can be grown in zones 4-6 and there are even good options for those who live in zones 2 and 3! Apples are not the sole option for the cold-weather homestead - we have found cherries, peaches, plums and pears that all do well in those climates.
To help you start your own fruit orchard, even cold, northern climates, we've created a list of five of the hardiest and most reliable fruit trees.
The Top 5 super hardy varieties
Cold-Hardy Apple Trees
For apples, we believe that the Sweet Sixteen variety is the best option. With hardiness to Zone 3, this unique and flavorful apple is good for pie, sauce and fresh eating. It stores well for up to five months in cool storage conditions.
This tree is also precocious, or starts producing apples when young, and produces them every year after, so you won’t have to wait to get your first harvest. Blooms arrive in late spring, allowing the tree to avoid the unpredictable late frosts that kill fruit before it even starts.
In addition to these traits, the tough Sweet Sixteen apple tree variety is also resistant to scab, which is a huge apple problem, as well as fire blight.
Get these trees in the ground so you can harvest your own apples this year - shop our Sweet Sixteen apple trees here.
Cold-Hardy Cherry Trees
The Carmine Jewel Cherry tree is a tart or sour cherry with deep, dark, reddish-purple skin and flesh. This naturally dwarfing tree looks wonderful in the landscape too, and we often get comments on it - it doesn't look like our other fruit trees at all.
Self-fertile and very productive, it is great for pies, drying, freezing as well as eating fresh off the tree. It has a very interesting flavor of sweet and sour with a Brix rating of around 20 when they are fully ripened to dark red. Carmine Jewels are perfect for pies and drying, with hardiness extending all the way to Zone 2.
Ready to start growing some cherries? Shop our Carmine Jewel cherry trees here.
Cold-Hardy Peach Trees
When we tell people that they can grow peaches in Zone 4, they look at us in disbelief, but you can! The Encore Peach is a very hardy peach that was developed at Rutgers University in New Jersey. This firm-fleshed peach that is covered more than 50% in red is freestone (meaning the pit is loose on the inside), making it easy to process for canning and freezing.
Encore peach trees are vigorous growers and very productive, starting to bear fruit in their third year and. These peach trees are a late-season variety, with flavor to rival any of the peak season varieties.
A peach, fresh off the tree, is something most Northerners haven't had the joy of experiencing. It is nothing like a store-bought peach and is something you can enjoy if you chose a hardy variety like Encore.
Shop our Encore peach trees here.
If you have more questions about growing peaches in a northern zone, you can learn more on how to care for them with our 4 Secrets to Growing Peaches in Cold Climates post.
Cold-Hardy Pear Trees
Kieffer pears are large, golden yellow fruit with a crimson blush to them. The are crisp, juicy, white flesh pears that are excellent for canning and baking. This fruit requires picking while still hard and storing in a cool place and leaving until the fruit gives slightly to the touch.
This pear tree will supply you with fresh fruit all winter long if kept in a root cellar or other cool storage area. This pear is hardy to Zone 4 and bears young with dependable, yearly crops.
Unlike most pears, this pear is self-fruitful and does not need another pear variety for pollination. Kieffer pears are practically immune to blight and with their extra hardiness, make an excellent choice for your northern orchard.
Start growing your own pears! Shop our Kieffer pear trees here.
Cold-Hardy Plum Trees
Our Waneta plums have beautiful yellow skin with a wash of dark red. These are the largest of all of our hybrid plums and are hardy to Zone 3!
This highly fertile plum variety bears at an early age, with some of ours starting in only the second year after grafting. The trees produce good quality fruit that is fine for fresh eating, as well as processing into jams and preserves. The heavy annual production of the Waneta plum tree makes it a great addition to any home orchard.
Shop our beautiful Waneta plum trees here.
The Toka plum is the preferred variety for pollinating this plum, and is a great secondary choice with its cold hardiness and great taste.
Shop our Toka plum trees here.
These five fruit types can fill an orchard with reliable and hardy trees for a northern homestead. Our Cold Hardy Fruit Collection was put together for homesteaders living in zones 4-6 specifically. You CAN grow hundreds of pounds of many types of fruit by choosing the right varieties, ensuring the trees come through your zones extreme weather and still produce fabulously for you.
Find Fruit That Tastes Great AND Can Handle the Cold
One of the things that we have found when talking about fruit growing with people in cold weather areas, is that most do not know the types of fruit trees or the varieties that are available.
When I tell them you can grow cherries in USDA Zone 2, they say, "No Way!" - they've never heard that; but you can, and these cherries taste amazing. We have also found that cold alone is not the determining factor for zone hardiness. I've written an article, 4 Secrets to Growing Peaches in Cold Climates, that discusses all these factors in depth.