Planning a Fruit Garden – Fall is a great time to start!

The crisp fall weather is an ideal time to start planning the additiongrapes of a fruit garden.  You do not need a large plot of land – a sunny area 100×100 feet is more than room enough.
Fruit trees can provide both flower power and fresh fruit.  Berry plants and brambles produce sweet, juicy and delicious fruit from spring to early fall.

The hardest part can be to understand where to start.

Location

  • Pick out an area that gets six hours or more of full summer-time sun.
  • Check your property boundaries.
  • Call 811 and be sure you will not be digging right into your utility lines.
  • Do not plant your berries near foundations – harmful pesticides that have been applied to control bugs getting into your home, may contaminant the fruit.  This is a good location for inedible flowers and shrubs.


Choosing Your Fruit

Now comes the fun part – picking out what kinds of berries and fruit trees you want to grow.
Apple Tree flowers

  • A good place to start is to learn what varieties grow best in your climate.  This information is usually free from your local extension service.
  • How patient are you?  Many full size fruit trees take 5+ years to mature and produce fruit. True dwarf trees produce earlier and can be a good choice for the home gardener.
  • Learn which trees will need cross-pollination to produce fruit.  Some trees can pollinate in likewise families; such as, the apple tree and the crab apple tree.  Some trees do not need another like tree to bear fruit: such as, peaches and figs.

Don’t forget about grapes, strawberries and brambles:

  • Grapes – there many wonderful varieties of table grapes.  They are ideal for eating, using to make jams and jelly.  You also can try your hand at homemade wine. All types of grapes are best grown on trellis systems that are off the ground, but not so high, as to make picking and pruning difficult. Grapes are ready for harvest late summer to early fall.
  • Strawberries – I personally like these grown in containers or small raised beds.  This method of planting makes weed control a lot simpler. Strawberries are earliest fruit to produce of the season and by mixing the varieties you plant you can extend your fresh strawberry season to cover two to three weeks at least.
  • Brambles – This covers Raspberries and Blackberries.  These wonderful plants are very hardy and do well at producing new shoots for future berry harvest – But they have to be carefully controlled or they can quickly get unmanageable.  I prefer to grow them against a trellis system, this allows them to get full sun and stay with in manage.  Like the strawberries you can combine different varieties to extend your bramble berry harvest to cover from early summer well into fall.

Upkeep

The upkeep of a fruit garden is very similar to a vegetable garden.  Planning ahead is your best defense against future problems.

  • Water – plan how are going to water you fruit plants and trees.  Nearly planted trees are going to require deep slow watering every two weeks.  Using mulch can help your trees get all the watering benefit.
  • Fertilizer – unless your soil is in poor shape, nutritionally, you will not need much additional product.Crabapple in bloom
  • Prune and thin – The main reason for pruning is to provide a strong branch structure.  This will help the tree support fruit and avoid storm damage.  Strawberries plants need replacing every two to three years. Your grapes and bramble berries will need yearly trimming and thinning.  You will need to check your plants and vines; to be sure they are secure to their trellis system, tying them up if needed.

Talk to your local nurseries, garden centers and fellow gardeners.  Learn all you can. Enjoy planning your fruit garden – then enjoy the fruits of your labors.

About Dori Fritzinger

I live and work with my multi-generational family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. We have a farm of cows and calves, wool sheep, dairy goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, honey bees, a horse and a donkey. We have a goat's milk soap and bath products line available on our farm web site. I enjoy reading, quilting and doing embroidery.