Blueberries are one of the easier home-garden fruits... and they look nice in fall, too.
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Just because a fruit is common at the grocery store doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for growing at home. Most of our best-known fruits – apples, peaches, grapes, and even strawberries – are difficult to grow because of issues with disease, bugs, rotting fruits, and birds. Some of them take up a lot of space, too.
On the other hand, plenty of lesser-known fruiting plants grow throughout most of the United States and often produce fruits with no spraying needed and no more care than any other landscape plant. So, which fruits should you add to your garden?
Think bushes first
Some of the best choices for home gardens are fruiting bushes. Not only do tree fruits require more space, they usually need pruning, spraying, and ladders to do the picking. Fruit bushes are more compact, can be harvested from the ground, and if you do need to spray or protect from birds, are easier to manage.
Two of the most familiar but relatively care-free bush fruits are blueberries and brambles, such as blackberries and red, black, or golden raspberries. Blueberries have a few important needs – acidy soil, netting to protect from birds, and water in dry weather. But if given those, they can produce sweet berries for years with no spraying and very little pruning. Brambles need thinning, pruning, and sometimes staking, but they seldom run into bug or disease issues.
If you’re willing to try something a little different, consider these five:
Red currants, left, and gooseberries, right, are two other good choices for fruit bushes in home gardens.
- Figs. Hardy in Zones 6 and up, just one bush produces fresh, sweet figs over weeks in late summer with no spraying.
- Nanking cherries. This no-spray shrubby member of the cherry family produces pink spring flowers followed by small, red, sweet-tart fruits in June.
- Red or white currants. Currants are multi-stemmed shrubs that produce clusters of pea-sized red or white tart fruits that make excellent jelly.
- Gooseberry. Another multi-stemmed shrub, gooseberries produce grape-sized tart to semi-sweet fruits that look a bit like white grapes.
- Hardy kiwi. This woody vine produces marble-sized fruits that taste like the egg-sized fuzzy kiwis that come from warm-weather climates and are sold in grocery stores. Hardy kiwi is are hardy down to Zone 3.
Many cold-hardy tree fruits are easier to grow at home than familiar but more problem-prone supermarket species.
Five worth considering:
Pawpaws, left, and American persimmons, right, are two native trees that produce tasty fruits without spraying.
- Cornelian cherry dogwood. This little-known dogwood species is a small tree that blooms yellow in early spring and produces small, tart red fruits in late summer.
- American persimmon. This mid-sized native tree produces acorn-sized sweet and spicy fruits that have a flavor all to their own. They have to be picked at full ripeness.
- Pawpaw. Another U.S. native, pawpaws produce kidney-shaped fruits with pulp that tastes tropical – something like a blend of strawberries, bananas, and custard.
- Serviceberry. Usually sold more as an ornamental small tree for its white spring flowers and brilliant fall foliage, native serviceberries also produce June fruits that look and taste like blueberries.
- Citrus. If you’re in a frost-free climate, most citrus fruits are good home-garden choices, especially compact ones, such as key lime, Meyer lemon, kumquat, Calamondin orange, and tangerine.
If you’re looking to keep weeds away from your fruiting plants, use Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer. It is the natural way to keep weeds from sprouting. Use Preen's 100% natural weed control in your fruit, vegetable, herb, and landscape beds once a month, anytime during the growing season, to prevent the label listed weeds. It can safely be used, right up until harvest