How to Grow Fruit Trees and Berries at Home
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Learning to grow fruit in your own home garden can be a very rewarding experience. Fresh homegrown fruit that is picked at the peak of ripeness has a flavor that is unforgettable. Check out the best fruit to grow in Oklahoma here.
How to grow fruit trees at home
The first thing to consider when choosing what kind of fruit you should grow is what do you like? How many people do you want to feed? Do you want only fresh fruit or do you want to preserve some fruit for later? How much growing space do you have? How much work do you want to put into growing?
Make a list of what you think you’d want to grow. Find out what your growing zone is. Make sure the things on your list would grow in your zone. I live in zone 7 and I know that I cannot grow cherries but peaches, apples, pears, plums, strawberries and melons are great contenders for my garden.
Do you want to grow a lot of fruit or just a little to have fresh at your table? If you want an abundance of fruit, think about things like fruit trees and berry canes. If you want to grow a little, consider a small blueberry bush or a melon vine.
If you have unlimited fruit growing space, choose anything you’re interested in. Or if you have a small area, consider how you’d like to use it. If you grow melons, you’ll need a large space of ground for the vines to grow on. You can trellis melons and they will take up less space, but still the vines will be long, so you’ll need a long space.
Berries are superfoods. If you want to tuck some fruit into your landscape to maximize what you can grow, consider dwarf blueberry bushes which can be used as a hedge or shrub. They are small and compact. In summer they have beautiful green leaves and in fall, they turn a vibrant red. They are beautiful in the landscape.
You can also grow strawberries in a flower garden. We have them growing in our front flowerbed with an edge of monkey grass, azaleas behind them against the house and bushes on the side. Its gorgeous.
One more thing to consider when choosing what kind of fruit to grow is what kind of fruit doesn’t travel well. Tender fruits like strawberries can be damaged in shipping so they have to be picked before they are ripe and ripened chemically on the way to you. This way they stay more firm and hold up in travel. You can get the biggest taste difference when growing fruit like that.
Easy to grow fruit
Some easy to grow fruits include strawberries which are probably the easiest, raspberries, figs, blackberries, watermelon and cantaloupe.
What should be considered when deciding to grow fruit? First, you need full sun to grow fruit. Second, you need easy access to water. Plants also need good airflow around them. Lastly, when growing fruit, you need to consider the soil you have to grow in. Most fruit needs fluffy, nutritious soil for growing success. Heavy clay soils won’t be ideal.
One way you can have access to better soil than you have in your yard for growing fruit is to grow it in containers.
The fruits that grow best in pots include blueberries, figs, strawberries and dwarf apple trees. Other fruits can be grown in pots as well, but you’ll have to make special considerations to find success.
First, to grow fruit in a pot, you have to make sure your pot is large. I would recommend for anything but strawberries, not to start with a pot under 24 inches across. Half whiskey barrels are a great size to grow a dwarf fruit tree or bush in. Strawberries have fairly shallow roots and can even be grown in gutters.
Next, make sure your container has great drainage. If it doesn’t, drill some holes in the bottom to allow for more. Now it’s time to make sure your pot is filled with great, loose soil and tons of organic matter for nutrition.
I like to use a mix of peat, vermiculite or perlite and compost, equal amounts of each. If you’re on a tight budget, you can substitute pine bark mulch for the perlite or vermiculite, but you won’t get as good of results that way.
Some fruit plants are planted once and produce for years. Others must be planted every year. Annuals must be planted yearly and include melons such as watermelon and cantaloupe. Perennials or plants that are planted once but grow year after year include fruit trees, bushes, canes, and strawberries which actually produce runners for continued yearly growth.
Melons are planted in the garden as seeds. Other fruits can be planted from seeds, but have to be grown and tended well as seedlings until they are ready to be planted outside as a small plant.
Usually not. The reason is because much grocery store fruit is treated so it won’t spoil. In addition, most fruit at the store is hybrid meaning the plants are crossed with other plants for more desirable growth habits or qualities. A hybrid seed won’t produce the same plant as the fruit it comes out of. It’s best not to use grocery store produce that’s conventionally grown to start your garden, but if you decide to, you never know what you’ll get.
Regular, Semi-Dwarf or Dwarf fruit trees?
When choosing a size of fruit tree to buy, what does it really mean? Fruit trees are fairly big, up to 30 feet tall causing difficulty for the grower to harvest the fruit from the top of the tree.
Fruit tree producers graft fruit stock onto smaller roots so the trees won’t grow as tall. A semi-dwarf tree may grow 10-15 feet tall where a dwarf’s fruit is easily reachable from the ground without a ladder or special equipment. Choose whatever size of fruit tree that suits your needs best.
Blueberry bushes come in dwarf and traditional as well. A dwarf blueberry bush will grow 1-2 feet tall where regular bushes grow up to 6 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter.
When choosing blueberry bushes, remember that they require acidic soil to produce fruit. Also, remember that you need to plant at least 3 varieties together for good production. Most fruit trees and bushes require more than one plant for proper pollination.
Check with the description of the tree or bush you are buying to see if it needs another plant for pollination. If it doesn’t, it will be labeled as self-pollinating.
Let’s start with annual fruit. To grow it, make sure you have a large enough growing area for the needs of the vine. Plant 2-3 seeds per mound about 1 knuckle deep in the soil. Cover it with soil and pat it down about as hard as you would rub your eye.
Plant another mound of melon seeds 18-24 inches away from the first one. We like to grow our melons next to our chain link fence and train the vines up the fence to save space in the garden.
Water it well and keep it watered until the seedling sprouts. Continue to keep it watered well until the seedling is well established. Once it’s growing strong, water it well once a week. Feed the plant some fish emulsion that’s been diluted about once a month.
Growing melons in the vegetable garden
Watermelons are ready to pick when the tendril or curly q that is closest to the stem turns completely brown. Then you can cut the stem from the vine.
Cantaloupe and honeydew melons are ready to eat when the melons slip from the vine on their own.
Growing strawberries is a little different than other fruits in the garden. Usually, people buy strawberry plants. They come in small crowns. Plant the crowns, root side down in loose well-draining soil. Plant them so the crown is above the soil.
How to grow strawberries
Strawberries will flower the first year, but if you cut those flowers off and discard them, the plant will put more energy into growing roots and strong stalk and will produce far better the following season. There are some varieties of strawberries that produce once a year, others that produce twice and still more, called everbearing that produce fruit all season long.
Once the plants are planted, keep them well watered while they get established and then water well once a week. Strawberries are ready to pick when they are bright red, or red red as I tell the kids, all around every side.
How to grow raspberry and blackberry canes
Raspberries and blackberries grow on canes. These canes grow wild and mangle together. Plant the canes in loose soil. Prune them to one stalk and tie them to a trellis well. Once they bear fruit, you can prune them back again for the next year removing any canes that grow against the others so the plant will get good airflow and the fruit will be accessible for picking.
Keep the canes watered well once a week. Raspberries and blackberries are ready to harvest when they are consistent in color, black or red depending.
How to plant blueberries
Blueberries and figs grow on bushes. These can be planted in a large container or in the ground. Plant the at the same level they were in the original pot they were purchased in. Mix some good compost into the soil you plant them in.
Water them well and keep them watered well throughout the first year. After that, they are established and are fairly drought tolerant.
How to grow elderberries
It’s easy to grow elderberries. They basically grow in the wild as do many of these other plants. To grow them, follow the directions for blueberries and figs, they grow on a similar bush type plant. It will spread fairly wide though, so make sure your elderberry plant has a ton of room to grow.
To plant fruit trees such as apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, nectarine and so forth, dig a hole two times the size of the roots in the pot. Work the soil in the hole well and add some good compost. Place the rootstock in the hole at the same level is was in the original pot. Don’t plant the top of the root ball below the soil line or you may not get the graphed plant but rather the rootstock which could be any kind of tree.
Water your fruit trees well every 7 days until they are well established, at least one year.
To keep pests from getting in the fruit in your trees, you can use sticky traps or sticky bands. These will deter many pests by sticking them in the traps without chemicals and preventing them from getting in the fruit and laying their eggs. Those eggs would hatch and the larvae would eat the fruit and spoil it for you.
Remember that fruit bushes, canes and trees can take several years to produce, so be patient when growing perennial fruit options. It’s worth the wait though, you’ll get fruit for years to come.
Growing fruit can be a super rewarding and totally delicious adventure. It takes a little care, but there is a big harvest for your small amount of work and you’ll enjoy it for years to come.
There are some crops that are easier to grow and are more nutrient and calorie dense that will save you the most money on your food budget as money gets tighter and tighter. Check out the essential crops to grow for a survival garden here.