While certified organic vegetable and herb starts have been common in retail nurseries for quite some time, organic fruit trees can be quite difficult to find. Simply put, there are few fruit tree nurseries large enough to break into the retail garden center chains where most people shop. However, there are numerous family-owned, small scale nurseries that will ship their certified organic fruit trees anywhere in the country.
Organic Fruit Tree Nurseries
Trees of Antiquity
Located in the rolling hills of Sonoma County, California, this is one of the largest suppliers of certified organic fruit trees in the country. Trees of Antiquity specializes in old-fashioned apple varieties, but offers a tremendous selection of fruits, ranging from apricots to quinces.
Their growing practices involve crop rotations that allow the soil to rest between plantings. They focus on creating habitat for beneficial insects, birds and amphibians that help keep orchard pests under control without the use of pesticides.
Dave's Garden, one of the top gardening websites online, rates Trees of Antiquity as one of the top five nurseries in the hardy fruit tree category and lists 49 positive reviews out of a total of 50 responses concerning their organically-grown trees.
Located in the harsh climate of Vermont, this is a great source for cold-hardy fruit varieties. They offer certified organic apples, pears, cherries and plums, along with grape vines and berry bushes.
The owners are active researchers of the best organic practices for growing fruit and have turned their website into a cornucopia of information to educate their customers. If you happen to live in the area, they also offer classes and workshops on topics such as grafting, planting and pruning.
Walden Heights is a small operation, but they have been well-endorsed in the organic movement. Farm To You, a service linking organic growers to consumers gives them 5 out of 5 carrots.
The Tasteful Garden
As one of the only organic fruit nurseries in the southeast, The Tasteful Garden is a great place to start if you're looking for plants that thrive in the heat and humidity of this part of the country. Apples and figs are the only fruit trees they offer, though strawberries, grape vines and berry bushes are also available.
Though all their offerings are produced with natural methods, only a portion of their plants are certified organic. Dave's Garden counted 117 positive reviews out of a total of 125 for The Tasteful Garden.
Four Winds Growers
This is a large scale producer of citrus trees and is one of the only growers that provides organic fruit trees to retail nurseries. If your local garden center doesn't stock them, they should be able to put in a special order for you. If not, you can also purchase their trees online and will receive them in the mail. However, of the many varieties of citrus grown by Four Winds, only lemons, limes and blood oranges are available as certified organic.
Four Winds is one of the oldest, most respected citrus nurseries in the nation and has garnered 65 positive reviews out of a total of 72 responses from Dave's Garden users.
Bare Root Trees
It is important to note that buying mail order fruit trees is generally restricted to the winter and early spring. Growers like to ship trees when they are dormant because there is less stress to the tree and it is not necessary to have the roots in soil, saving tremendously on shipping costs and logistics.
When the 'bare root' trees arrive, it's best to plant them as soon as possible so the roots don't dry out, though they can be planted temporarily in a bucket of moist sand or mulch if the ground is still frozen.
Choosing a Fruit Tree Source
The only way to be sure that the trees are grown without the use of synthetic chemicals is to buy from a certified organic nursery, which bears the seal of a USDA-authorized certification agency. When you receive your organic trees, the identification tag on each of them should include the seal of a USDA-authorized certification agency, including the words 'certified organic'. If they do not have this seal, it is worth a call to the nursery to make sure they did not send trees that were grown with conventional (chemical) methods.
Buying trees from a nursery located in the same climatic region where you will be planting the trees is one way to help ensure success. Unfortunately, this is not always possible; when ordering from nurseries outside your area, ask them to recommend varieties that are adapted to your particular growing region.