Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Planning & Forethought Bring Success in the Fruit Garden

Grow­ing a fruit gar­den is, in many ways, an invest­ment. An invest­ment in:

  1. Money — dol­lars spent on peren­nial plants and pos­si­bly some gar­den tools or equipment,
  2. Time — the time to get the gar­den pre­pared and planted,
  3. Effort — the reg­u­lar upkeep of main­tain­ing the plants and har­vest­ing the “goodies.”

To max­i­mize the return on that invest­ment, it helps to do a bit of gar­den plan­ning and ask your­self some ques­tions before plant­ing a fruit gar­den. Among the first to ask are:

  1. What fruit do you and your fam­ily like to eat?
  2. How much time do you have to tend the garden?
  3. Do you expect to har­vest and pre­serve a major amount of your food from this gar­den or just enjoy an occa­sional sweet treat for fresh eating?

This will help you focus on some plants to con­sider as you get started. From there, you can look into whether the fruit you enjoy eat­ing will grow where you live. You’ll have to consider:

Cli­mate — how cold your win­ter is or how hot and dry is the sum­mer; what is the typ­i­cal length of frost free sea­son in your area; or even does your win­ter offers enough chill­ing? These will all effect what you grow.

Soil — some soils are sandy and well drained, oth­ers are heavy and water hold­ing; some are nutri­ent rich, oth­ers need adjust­ment to prop­erly release their nutri­ents. What you have may influ­ence what will grow best in your gar­den. You may also be able to improve your soil con­di­tions to bet­ter suit what you want to grow. Dig into the details on dirt here.

Sun­light — almost all fruit bear­ing plants need an aver­age of 6 or more hours of sun­light daily to pro­duce to their fullest. Choos­ing an appro­pri­ate spot for your future fruit gar­den can have a big influ­ence on whether it thrives or strug­gles to pro­duce in years to come.

Space — what you have avail­able may dic­tate whether you can plan on acres of full size trees or whether a few con­tain­ers planted with dwarf trees or bushes would be more realistic.

Time — how much do you have devote to your gar­den? Some early gar­den plan­ning will help you make the best your time. Other arti­cles in this series will help you choose plants wisely and allow you to effi­ciently use your time for grow­ing a suc­cess­ful har­vest to enjoy!

More arti­cles:

Per­fect Place for a Fruit Gar­den
Select­ing the Healthy Fruit Tree or Berry Bush
Pol­li­na­tion — A Sexy Time in the Fruit Gar­den
Fruit Gar­den­ing with Min­i­mal Pest Con­trol — resis­tant vari­eties — com­ing soon
How Much Fruit will a Berry Bush or Fruit Tree Yield — com­ing soon

©2013. Adapted from the Back­yard Berry Book: A hands-on guide to grow­ing berries, bram­bles, and vine fruit in the home gar­den and the Back­yard Orchardist: A com­plete guide to grow­ing fruit trees in the home gar­den by Stella Otto.