And a whole bunch of other cool stuff.
But are you growing any FRUIT?
Okay, okay, we can have the fuss about whether a tomato is a fruit or not (technically it is, but darn it, I still think of it as a vegetable).
I’m talkin’ about apples, pears, peaches, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, etc. You know—fruit fruit, not vegetable fruit.
Even if you have limited space there are some wonderful varieties you can grow that will produce bushels of deliciousness.
OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip # 16: Grow some fruit (and nut) trees and bushes in your garden.
Now, you may be an old hand at growing fruit and don’t need the encouragement, but growing some fruits organically can be a bit of a challenge and I would like to nudge you toward that decision if you haven’t already “been there, done that.”
There is nothing quite like picking a fresh peach off the tree in your own back yard and sinking your teeth into a little taste of heaven, while the juice runs down your arm and drips off your elbow.
Or…picking blueberries from your own bushes and actually making it back to the kitchen with some of them still in the bucket.
You get the idea.
Research, research, research.
But you just can’t go off half-cocked and dig a few holes in the ground and plop in an apple tree and some raspberry bushes.
Well, you can, but…you won’t get as much fruit for your efforts.
Trust me. I’ve made that mistake. You’re going to have to do a little research.
The first time I planted blueberry bushes, I did not test the soil. I did not know that blueberries had some pretty persnickety preferences for the type of soil they resided in. They croaked the first year. Bummer.
So do your research. There are some excellent books on growing organic fruits and nuts. Go to the library. Go online.
It’s always better to have a game plan and know what you’re going to do ahead of time.
After many years of trial and error, mistakes (I mean learning opportunities) and victories in my garden, I have come up with some questions that help me sort through what I want to do in the garden and what will actually work in my garden.
They’re the kind of practical things your gardening granny would grill you on. Here they are:
14 Time-tested, “Listen to Your Grandmother” Questions You Must Answer BEFORE You Decide What Fruit to Grow in Your Organic Garden
1. What is your favorite fruit and what do you want to grow? That’s the best place to start.
2. What varieties do best in your area? Talk to experienced, local gardeners and nurseries—or your nearest extension service—to find out.
3. Are you buying top quality plants from a reputable company? Always choose high quality, healthy plants that have been grown organically. Know if there is a guarantee offered. Keep receipts and warranty info in your Gardener’s Journal.
4. What are the specific horticultural requirements for the fruits you will grow? Do some basic research to understand the growing and maintenance requirements of what you decide to plant: preferred soil type, nutrients, water, sunlight, pruning, etc. Record this in your Gardener’s Journal so you won’t forget.
5. Have you had a soil test? Have your soil tested and know the ph requirements of your plants. If you are planting different varieties in different spots in your yard/garden, you might need several soil tests with separate soil samples. Check with the firm that does the soil test.
6. What hardiness zone do you live in? This may seem obvious, but you need to be aware of your USDA hardiness zone and choose plants that will survive and thrive in your climate. Sometimes those glossy pictures in catalogues entice us to buy things that will not survive in our area.
Usually you think of pecans as growing in the deep South, but there are varieties that do well up North. This is true for lots of fruit and nut trees and shrubs. Pay attention to the details.
7. When does the fruit ripen that you want to plant? Pay attention to the ripening dates and plant different varieties so everything is not ripe all at once.
8. How much space do you actually have? If you don’t have much space, consider planting miniature fruit trees in containers. If you have room for a dozen trees, is that best use of your gardening real estate?
9. How big do the mature plants get? Plan carefully where you will plant things and know what their mature size will be. Don’t plant them too close together. Or you will not get as much fruit.
10. Is your fruit tree or bush self-pollinating? Be aware if a variety is self-pollinating or needs a cross-pollinator. Read the fine print: most catalogues will recommend appropriate cross-pollination varieties. If in doubt, ask an expert.
11. Do you really know how to dig a proper hole to plant your fruit trees and shrubs in? Prepare the site properly. Don’t just did a hole and stick the plant in the ground. Follow the instructions that come with your plants.
12. Do you have a good pruning manual? Better get one. Learn when and how to prune. Different types of fruit and nut trees have different pruning needs. If you do it right, you will get a lot more fruit. If you do it wrong, you will get less. It’s your choice.
13. How will you deal with the pest and disease problems your plants may have? Be prepared. Know ahead of time what types of pests (don’t forget about those hungry squirrels, deer, etc.) and diseases you may have to deal with and be prepared.
There are some old wives tales that work and some that don’t. There are some products on the market that work and some that don’t. Keep track of what works for you in your Gardener’s Journal.
I suggest you find a good reference book on growing fruit organically.
14. What will you do with your harvest? Remember, it’s important to have a plan ahead of time for your harvest. What will you do with 2 bushels of peaches or 5 gallons of strawberries? Will you can or freeze what you can’t eat fresh? Share with others? Sell? You have to factor in the time it will take to harvest your crop and what you do with it.
I hope you will take the plunge into growing fruit and nuts. It adds a wonderful extra dimension to the pleasures and rewards of gardening.
I’ll never forget the time we had some friends over for Sunday brunch and invited them to go pick some fresh strawberries from the garden to put on the table. Our friends were duly impressed. But it gave me a deep sense of satisfaction that words just can’t describe.
So, grow some fruit.
And if your garden is already in fruit production mode, I encourage you to try something a little different. Try something new that’s out of your comfort zone. Be daring. Be exotic.
What is your favorite fruit to grow? What has been hard for you to grow? I’d love to hear about your fruit growing experiences or any good tips you may have. Please share your ideas in the comment section below.
Here’s to your fruitful garden,James Early Organic Gardening 365 Helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long! P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
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