Here in Red Deer Alberta we generally live in a Plant Hardiness Zone of 3b (total range of zones is 0a-9a moving from coldest to hottest). Plant Hardiness Zone charts show the lowest temperatures you may encounter in each zone, not the average lows of those areas. Here we are in a humid subarctic continental climate (Red Deer Regional Airport Records) which means we have a wide range of temperatures throughout the year. When I was a boy and we were still reporting the weather in imperial standards I remember some mornings registering at -50F or -46C. I remember because at -46C my dad drove me to school. You would walk out in the morning and get hit with a brittle crackly bite of cold. The snow crunched extra loud under your feet. If you didn't wear a scarf or hood over your face, your nose would freeze numb within a minute or two. And you could hear the pitiful and futile attempts of cars trying to start. There were quite a few that never made it out of their parking places. Those that had neglected to plug in their cars to keep the block warm had no chance but to plug in and wait for an hour or two. In those days, blocks could crack from the cold.
In the Summer, temps would sometimes squeeze up into the 90'sF or 34'sC. Between Winter and Summer we experienced a 78C temperature fluctuation. The highest recorded temperature in Red Deer I was able to find was -50.6C or -59F not including wind chill factor. The warmest was 37.2C or 99F. A total of an 87C (158F) temperature variance. For those of you who live in areas with less temperature fluctuation, this may give you a better sense of what a humid continental climate means for us in Red Deer.
You can imagine then when we think of growing fruit on our city lots, we normally do NOT think of sweet apples, cherries or plumbs, apricots or pears. In the stores we are exposed to a tiny variety of these fruits. People are often surprised when I tell them we grow pears in our front yard. There is quite a selection of pear varieties that thrive in our city and taste juicy and sweet. Our pears are not as large as those found in local stores. But because they are fresh off the tree, taste fabulous.
Just make sure that when you purchase a fruit tree, you check to make sure that the label shows it to be within your hardiness zone. I also try to choose varieties that are good to eat fresh off the tree. If the label says "good for preserves" only, that variety tends to be tart. Also ask whether the tree needs a complimentary variety of that fruit for better pollination and fruit production and which varieties best go together. Check out the following link to Joybilee Farm's website to see just a few varieties of fruit that may be grown in zone 3 areas.
ENJOY THE UNUSUAL
Anyway, imagine annually picking sweet apples and plums and pears from trees in your yard. And the great thing about it is you know exactly what was used to feed that tree and what was NOT sprayed on the leaves and fruit. Safe, healthy, optimally nutritious fruit for your kids. I've added a few photos below of some of the fruit we harvested from just our small front yard in Red Deer, Alberta this Summer and Autumn. In total for fruit we harvested: apples, plums, pears, cherries (3 varieties), strawberries, blueberries, saskatoon berries, Honey or Haskap berries...all varieties suited for zone 3.