We live in Toronto and our soil is moist, but not wet. Our soil has sand silt and a little bit of clay.
Is our climate and soil suited for fruit trees? I want to grow a peach tree from a pit. How do I do that?
We also have a problem. Trees grow in our yard and their roots are not too deep underground.
In Canada, climatic growing conditions are classified by hardiness zones. Toronto is generally in Zone 6, and there are many varieties of peaches and other fruit trees such as cherry, apple, pear and plum that do well in our zone. Peach trees can be an excellent addition to the urban garden and are quite tolerant of a variety of soil conditions. However, like most fruit trees, they do require well drained soil. You mention your soil is moist, but not wet and that you have a mix of sand, silt and clay. Before planting any fruit tree, you may want to test your drainage. You can do this by digging a hole 30 cm deep and 30 cm wide. Fill the hole with water and let drain overnight to saturate the soil. The next day fill the hole again with water and then measure the rate of drainage. Well drained soil should drain at about 5 cm an hour. If the drainage is less than 5 cm an hour, the soil may be too wet for most fruit trees. It is possible to improve soil drainage by amending your soil with compost and organic material.
Another important consideration when choosing fruit trees for your yard is to understand whether the tree is “self-fruitful” or requires another nearby tree for fertilization. Tart cherry, apricot and peach will self-pollinate and are fine to plant on their own. Apple, pear, plum and sweet cherry require pollen from another cultivar for fruit set. The government of Ontario has some excellent guidelines for planting and maintaining fruit trees in the home garden found here.
While it is possible to germinate some varieties of peach pit, there is a good chance that the resulting plant won’t bear fruit, or that any fruit it does bear won’t be anything like the fruit of its parent. That is because fruit tree grown from seed rarely grow “true” to their parent’s characteristics. Almost all varietal fruit trees are grown by grafting a branch (the scion) from the desired fruit tree onto the roots of another type of tree (rootstock). The rootstock will determine the size and vigor of the tree, while the scion will determine the variety of fruit. Fruit trees are best transplanted as one or two-year-old stock.
In terms of your question regarding surface roots. Many species of tree naturally have shallow root systems. Roots need oxygen. In dense or very wet soil conditions shallow roots may further come to the surface to get the oxygen they need. If there are exposed roots in your lawn, you can cover them with a 5 cm layer of topsoil and overseed with grass in the early spring or late summer. You can repeat the process again the next season, but don’t add more than 10 cm of soil or you will risk cutting off the oxygen supply your roots need.