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.

Pluck, Savor & Enjoy: Backyard Berries Make an Easy Edible Landscape

Yel­low rasp­ber­ries, lin­gonber­ries, and goose­ber­ries are deli­cious del­i­ca­cies that are often dif­fi­cult to find in stores. The rea­son some of these lesser known jew­els of the fruit gar­den are not read­ily avail­able is that they are frag­ile when they are at their fla­vor peak, not because they are dif­fi­cult to grow. As inter­est in unusual fruit spreads, afi­ciona­dos are dis­cov­er­ing that grow­ing these and other fruit in their back­yard gar­den is a very reward­ing and enjoy­able under­tak­ing. Cul­ti­vat­ing small fruit is ideal for the busy gar­dener. Berries and vine fruit grown in the home gar­den are:

  •   delicious
  •   low maintenance
  •   easy to fit into min­i­mal space
  •   attrac­tive addi­tions to the landscape

Imag­ine return­ing home from a long day and want­ing noth­ing more than to unwind with a cool drink and a light snack..What could be more deli­cious than dis­cov­er­ing per­fectly ripe bunches of sweet grapes or sun-kissed straw­ber­ries await­ing you? Pluck, savor, enjoy! Such are the rewards from your home fruit garden.

Most small fruit plants and vines will grow suc­cess­fully with a mod­est dose of annual atten­tion — an appli­ca­tion of fer­til­izer or com­post, mulch for weed con­trol, and reg­u­lar prun­ing to aid in dis­ease pre­ven­tion and encour­age large fruit size. Prop­erly match­ing the type of fruit to be grown with the soil and cli­mate con­di­tions of the gar­den is one of the keys to a boun­ti­ful future. Insects are gen­er­ally not a severe prob­lem on back­yard berries and sel­dom require the time and effort that is needed for pest con­trol in the veg­etable garden.

Most berries lend them­selves to con­tainer grow­ing. Win­dow or deck rail­ing boxes of day neu­tral straw­ber­ries and herbs offer con­ve­nient treats to quickly liven up a meal. Blue­ber­ries, cur­rants, and goose­ber­ries in a whiskey bar­rel planter eas­ily dress up a patio. While rasp­berry canes can dou­ble as a liv­ing fence.

Alpine straw­ber­ries make attrac­tive bor­ders or short edg­ing in more for­mal set­tings. Lin­gonber­ries can be grown as ground cov­ers under rhodo­den­drons and aza­leas. Grape or kiwifruit vines will grace­fully drape an arbor; pro­vid­ing respite from a hot sum­mer sun. Shrubs such as cur­rants, goose­ber­ries, or blue­ber­ries present won­der­ful shows of yel­low or red foliage in the fall. So, dig in! It’s time to expe­ri­ence and enjoy the plea­sures of a fruit­ful garden!

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