Many people today are concerned about where their food comes from and whether or not it has been sprayed with chemicals. One of the best ways to do this is to grow your own food. A long term investment in your food supply is to plant dwarf fruit trees.
With Spring having arrived here in Durham, NC, dwarf fruit trees are also blooming right now. The added bonus of spring flowers is a hint of juicy goodness later in the year. The following is the fruit trees I have in my garden.
I have two dwarf apple trees. I planted two because I have heard that apples must cross-pollinate. My trees are young therefore I have not had any fruit on them yet. Apple trees would prefer a little cooler weather than we have in this area. However, since I only planted them for my consumption and any friends I might share with, that does not concern me. If I was trying to sell enough to make a living on them then that might be an issue.
I have a dwarf peach tree called Belle of Georgia. Peach tree buds can often get nipped by late freezes in this area but last year I had a great little crop of peaches. I had so many peaches that a large limb in the tree was broken by the weight. I learned my lesson there and will go into pruning fruit trees a little later in this post.
In the native garden, I have a native plum. these are naturally small trees and the plums are also small. However, they are great to snack on while enjoying the garden. I cooked some of them down into a plum sauce which was very good on baked pork chops and even some baked chicken. New trees easily pop up around the parent plant allowing you to dig them up to share. They also seem to have a tendency to send up new shoots from the roots. These must be removed if you don’t want a thicket of plum.
I also have a native cherry. It has bloomed great this year. Last year I don’t remember how much it flowered but I do know I had very few cherries on it. We will see how they do this yer. I have been told that cherries also would do better in a little cooler climate as well. My view is the same as it is with the apples.
One tree that I also have but will not be dwarf is a pear tree. This tree has already produced quite a few pears. However, I still haven’t eaten one because it seems the squirrels know exactly when to pick every last one off the tree before I can get them. It’s tempting to sit out there with a BB gun and reduce the squirrel population so I can enjoy some pears.
Another native fruit tree that I have but you don’t see a lot of is the PawPaw tree. This is also known as the Hoosier Banana because the fruit is said to taste somewhat like a banana. These trees look a little tropical with their large leaves. Pawpaws can grow into large colonies. However for fruiting, you need to have trees from different colonies.
The way to prune fruit trees except for the last two on this list is to prune any limbs which are growing straight up and let the tree grow wide. This helps to make it easier to pick the fruit. You also want to prune branches back so they are stubby. This allows the structure of the tree to be strong enough to support the weight of the fruit. It also helps the fruit that does develop to be fewer yet larger. Generally prune the tree to be open and sturdy. It does no good to let the tree go big if it can’t support the fruit and you end up losing some due
to broken limbs.
One of the joys of a garden is to have some area set aside for growing food or incorporating edible plants in the garden design. No grocery store food tastes as good as what you picked fresh off the plant that day. Part of the reason for this is that most produce in the store is picked while still green so that it is firm enough to ship. It then ripens while in transit or while in the store. As a result, it does not ripen the way nature intended and never achieves the flavor it was meant to have.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about growing veggies as every one’s site and tastes are different. I will just pass on a couple of pointers that I have learned.
A good place to start is a website I found called Sprout Robot. At this website, you can enter your zip code and check the boxes of the vegetables you are interested in growing. It will then send you an email letting you know when it is time to plant each particular vegetable. Pretty cool. This week it is time to plant peas in Durham NC. I have planted peas. I found out that it takes a lot of pea plants to get very many peas. I have a small garden so I probably won’t use my limited space for peas.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, cantelope, broccoli, and squash do very well for me. I may try a few others along the way. So far have had difficulty with potatoes and sweet potatoes but have not given up on those.
My advice is to plant what you like to eat and have the space for. Gardening is supposed to be fun. It is a lot of work if you choose for it to be so. If you find it is too much work, then you will end up frustrated and quit. Start small, and get your confidence up. Learn what works for you and enjoy yourself. Buy what you can’t grow from your local Farmer’s Market. The fuel that is spent shipping food all over this country makes little sense with viewed with thoughts for the environment and the local economy.
Many people when they hear the word “garden” they think of vegetable gardens. That is one connotation of the word. Of course as a garden designer, I think of plants and flowers. One trend in gardening today is “edible gardening”. I haven’t done a lot of edibles with my customers yet as I am still learning. However, I have added edibles for my own garden.
I have a typical vegetable garden in one area. So far I have tried growing potatoes, tomatoes, black beans, lima beans, broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, peas, and onions. I have not yet had much luck with potatoes. Broccoli, tomatoes, onions, and the lettuce have been easy. I have also had good success with cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon, cantalope, and yellow squash. I am finding it takes a lot of beans and pea plants to get much in return. The asparagus is a perennial and I’m waiting until it has been in for 3 years to begin harvesting the spears. This is just my experience so far. Not much but learning.
I also have planted a dwarf peach tree, a dwarf apple tree, and a pear tree. The dwarf peach did great last year. The apple tree is still too small. The pear has produced many pears but before they ripen, the squirrels steal them all in a day. Keeping my eyes on them this year. None of these trees have been in the garden more than 4 years.
Actually, none of my garden is more than 4 years old. Keep that in mind as you look at the pictures. As time goes on, the garden will develop into my vision. In my opinion, most gardens really aren’t photogenic until the third year.
Back to the subject though. In my native garden, I have even more edibles. The first crop each year is a small patch of strawberries. I have used them as a ground-cover as they are evergreen in our area. I also have the native blueberries, raspberry, and a thorn-less blackberry. I have a muscadine grape on the arbor and have native cherry and plum trees, one of each. All of these are native edibles and they are scattered throughout the garden. I also have the native prickly pear cactus which I hear is edible but I need to learn how to remove the spines while cooking. The thought of having tiny little needles in my tongue causes me to lose my appetite for the plant. It’s bad enough pulling them out of my leg when I accidentally brush up against them. I also have a serviceberry, and an aronia which so far I haven’t eaten. I have the native passionflower which has edible fruit and a small grove of pawpaws, also known as the Hoosier Banana. I’m waiting to taste them. I have also planted the native persimmon but I may have to wait a few years for any crop there as they are just saplings.
I am sure there are many more options for planting edibles. Since my main garden is all native, I am a little restricted as to what I grow there. I even had cattails in my garden pond which are also edible, but I decided to remove them before they took over. The main idea I’m trying to make is that you can plant edibles among your landscape plants with some planning. Many of them are very suitable for landscape plants on their own merits. But it is kinda cool to work in the garden and grab a freshly ripened berry or two or a juicy plum.