Climate Controls Fruit Production

by Elmer Krehbiel, Master Gardener
December 14, 2001

The climate is determined by rainfall, temperature, humidity, sunlight and wind. The Brazos Valley area is roughly in the center of the USDA Plant Zone 8, which is within the Lower South Region. The winter chill (between 45 and 32 degrees F.) averages about 675 hours. It is about equal to the Zone 9, during some hot-dry summers.

The chilling hours control the hormones that develop the growth buds and fruit buds. If Northern varieties are planted in a warmer climate, they do not develop fruit buds. If Southern varieties are planted in a colder climate, the fruit buds usually freeze and the growth buds may also.

Local gardeners should select species and varieties that have a chilling requirement within 475 to 875 hours.

Some apple, blackberry, grape, peach, pear, pecan, plum and strawberry varieties are adapted to the climate in the Brazos Valley.

Blackberry and pear are the most dependable fruits to grow in this area.

Apricot fruit buds develop too early and freeze during most years.

Cherry fruit buds usually do not develop in this Lower South Region.

The number of years until fruit production starts are:

  • apples - 2 to 5
  • apricot and plum - 3 to 5
  • blackberry - 2
  • blueberry, fig, grape, nectarine, peach, and persimmon - 2 to 4
  • pear - 3 to 9
  • raspberry - 2
  • strawberry - to 1.

If gardeners do not have or cannot create suitable conditions and do not have sufficient time to care for the planting, they are advised not to grow fruit at home.

Dr. Elmer Krehbiel is the former President of Keep Brazos Beautiful. See his column in The Eagle.