Although many of us are still buried under several feet of snow or taking refuge from single digit temperatures, it is officially spring. I’m itching for the planting and growing season to begin and I bet you are too! Whether you are waiting out the extended winter or lucky enough to have spring weather, it is a good time to develop a fruit garden design if you haven’t already done so.
A plan will get you thinking so you can translate your dreams and wish list into an easy-to-maintain, successful fruit garden. A plan and design are helpful for many reasons. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- What fruit do I like and want to grow?
- How do I plan to use my harvest — fresh eating only or preserving by canning, freezing or drying?
- How much space do I have to work with? — don’t forget possible container plants, even if you have plenty of ground.
- Do I have the appropriate conditions for my wish list of fruit?
- Are there areas of my yard that I need or want to beautify with my plantings?
Once you have answered these questions, the next step is to put together a design sketch. Don’t worry, no artistic or engineering skills required. If you like, you can use a computer design package, but it’s really not necessary. A simple paper and pencil drawing will suffice.
- Start by drawing out the shape of your garden. Make it roughly proportional, if you can. You can refine the details later. (Once any snow is gone and you can pace the area out, figure about 3 feet for each pace. This will be sufficient for a working sketch.)
- Next, put in the plants that will take up the most space, have specific requirements, or are at the top of your must-have list. Plan for the space requirements of these plants at their fully mature size so you don’t have to rearrange things later (and possibly loose older transplants.)
- Remember to include other garden elements such as benches, bird bathes, pergolas, or other structures that will enhance your design or support your plants.
- Think in layers. Strawberries or rhubarb could be understory for taller trees. Grapes on a pergola could have small bushes at their base.
Let’s see what you come up with. Next time, I’ll have a model sketch for you of a fruit garden that I saw during a workshop last summer at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. In the mean time, you can learn all you need to grow that dream garden when you buy The Backyard Orchardist: A complete guide to growing fruit trees in the home garden or buy The Backyard Berry Book: A hands-on guide to growing berries, brambles and vine fruit in the home garden.