As promised last post, here is a sketch of a model fruit garden that I saw during a workshop last summer at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. This compact garden could be used or modified slightly to fit even the smallest suburban lot. I’ve embellished the original design with a few additional ideas of my own. Even some “not normally native” fruit, such as figs or dwarf citrus, could be grown in pots with the intent of moving them to protected indoor areas for winter. The photos that follow are lettered to indicate from where on the plan they were taken.
Here is the garden plan from various vantage points. These photos were taken in mid-June, so most fruit was still developing. Some, such as strawberries, had already been harvested.
View from the East-West axis
As you approach the garden from the east, you’ll notice rhubarb flanks the entrance arch. The two large plants will provide abundantly for even the most ardent rhubarb lover. The native poles used to create the fences, arches, and support structures in this garden give it a serene, natural feel that integrates easily into the landscape. Just the place you can enjoy relaxing!
Even with its relaxed feel, the garden is actually designed on a more formal grid. The perimeter fence defines the rectangular garden’s shape. Two perpendicular walkways, direct the flow of traffic both through the garden and to focal points that will appear later in other photos. Visible from this eastern vantage point are grape vines that soften a greenhouse wall. This makes-up the southern boundary of the garden. Several dwarf fruit trees each occupy their own square within the garden’s grid. Potted blueberries define one of the two paths that bisect the garden.
This photo is just a closer view from the same spot. Note the use of varied natural wood textures and colors; wood-chip mulch on the paths, pine needles in the growing squares, and a weathered-wood shed door as a distant focal point.
Growing in the grid — some possibilities
This square is but one of 4 that make up this compact fruit garden. In its center we see a columnar apple tree. Different dwarf fruit trees could be planted in each of the other squares. This will allow you the possibility of both an extended harvest season and a broad selection of varieties or types of fruit based on your personal preference. Just keep cross-pollination needs in mind as you develop your plan. Note the use of more natural materials, the bamboo piece border, that create a competition free area under the tree. (The few over-zealous strawberries can be hand-pulled easily enough before they get out of hand.)
Strawberries serve as an attractive and productive ground cover. Day neutral varieties will produce a moderate, continuous crop. They will also reduce the amount of renovation needed after each crop season (not such an easy job in a confined space.) This garden creatively introduced an annual fruit — melons — as another groundcover. Keeping holistic growing practices in mind, you could also consider herbs, some of which serve as host plants for beneficial insects that prey on pests.
A Focal Point Bekons
Viewing the garden now from the north, one is enticed to seek relaxation under the vine-covered pergola or further on; where a shaded bench and gurgling font await. Although this entrance is flanked by large, showy foliage plants; you could as easily plant fig or dwarf citrus trees in these pots. Continuing down the path, you find potted blueberries. The use of potted plants offers you the option of expanding your garden with plants that are either not suitably hardy in your climate or, as in the case with the blueberries, have vastly different soil or pH requirements from the rest of the plants in the garden.
This garden combined fruiting and non-fruiting plants. If you would like to concentrate on just fruit, the pergola would make a fine support for kiwifruit — hardy or fuzzy, depending on your climate. The variegated leaves of actinidia kolomikta would add an additional splash of white and red color. In this case the grape vines soften the large, plain wall of the greenhouse and provide a shady refuge. Although most of us might only dream of having this greenhouse, the technique is equally applicable to disguising any other building as well.
The photos for this post were taken at a Garden Writers Association workshop at the Berkshire Botanical Garden (BBG) in Stockbridge, Massachusetts last June. They were my first foray into garden photography, but thanks to my very supportive colleagues and wonderful teachers, surely not my last. Hopefully, the lovely garden shown here will entice you into a fruit gardening foray if you are not already enjoying pomological pleasures. If you get a chance, visit the the BBG in person. There is much to delight in there. I’ll close with these 2 final shots; the pear espalier and the vine covered pergola. Enjoy and fruitful gardening!
For all you need to know to put your fruit garden plan into action and grow that dream garden 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.