Gardening 101: How to Start a Fruit Garden

In search of a delicious hobby? A fruit garden will bring all your favorite sweet and juicy produce right to you. Starting your own fruit garden isn’t all apples and oranges.

There are a few simple things to know before getting started, like the best climate for specific fruits, how to keep your garden fresh and a few tools you’ll need along the way. By reading this article, you can take a bite out of gardening and start your own like a pro. The fruits of your labor will pay off soon.

What is a fruit garden?

You don’t need a lot of space to grow a bountiful fruit garden. In fact, you can grow one on your back porch or steps from your home. Fruit gardens are made up of edible plants like trees, bushes and vines that can be grown in the ground, in pots and planters and with the help of a trellis.

The type of fruit you can grow will depend on where you live. By definition, a fruit garden may also be referred to as a fruit farm or orchard.

Fruit plants are sold in three different styles: bare root, balled and burlapped or inside of a container. Take a trip to the nursery in the late winter or early spring and you’ll find bare-root plants.

Because they are dormant during this time of the year, they will appear sluggish and dead. For this reason, they are usually not costly but can still be planted and will regrow come mid to late spring and summer.

When you purchase in the winter, they are usually not costly. Fruit plants that are sold from spring to fall are usually some of the largest and are known as balled and burlapped plants. This is when the root of the plant is wrapped in burlap material.

Finally, fruit plants can also be also sold in containers. You’ve probably noticed these types of fruit plants for sale at the farmers’ markets, nurseries and home and garden stores. They are the most common fruit plant and are sold all year long.

Cherry trees, peach trees and plum trees are among some of the easiest (and tastiest) fruit trees you can grow, along with blueberry bushes and strawberry plants. While there is a vast array of fruit plants to choose from, what you can grow will depend on where you live — and there’s something for everyone.

According to the National Gardening Association, fruit gardening was the third most popular type of gardening as of 2013, with 14 million households in the U.S. getting in on the backyard fun.

Environment Needed for a Fruit Garden

Fruit plants will flourish in almost all climates, but you won’t be able to grow everything. The weather and climate in your region will dictate the types of fruit plants you can harvest. Perennial plants like strawberries, which need heat to grow, die off in the winter and begin to sprout again as spring ushers in warm weather temperatures.

In the southeast, states like Florida can begin to grow strawberries as early as February, whereas cooler northern climates won’t be able to start growing strawberries until June. Once the soil warms up, it takes about one month for strawberry plants to flower and produce the sweet red berries. There is an abundance of other fruits that grow well in hot weather, such as watermelon, pineapple, raspberries and mangos.

Apples are more particular about their climate and therefore cannot be grown just anywhere. Apple trees are best suited for the central and northern areas of the United States.

These fruit trees need mildly cool temperatures and wet weather of fall and winter to grow big and juicy. Peach trees, blueberry bushes, cherry trees and red and green grapes are also great additions to grow in cooler weather climates.

No matter what the weather is like, all fruit plants need a hearty and nutrient-rich garden soil base to grow. Peach, sweet cherry, Japanese plum and apricot trees are great fruit plant options for sandy soils. Apple, pear and European plum trees are better suited for regular garden soil. Banana trees, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and raspberries plants all need acidic soil to grow.

Fruit trees need ample sunlight — at least 8 hours — and need to be fertilized right before or just as they begin to show buds. This is right when your fruit tree or plant is beginning to consume the most amount of nutrients.

It won’t be long before you will see ripe yellow lemons or tiny sweet blueberries ready to be plucked right from the stem. Make sure you give your fruit tree the right amount of fertilizer.

Too much fertilizer can leave you with little to no fruit, and too little can cause your fruit plants to grow slower than normal. Fruit trees need plenty of water, especially in hot and dry climates like the southwest, so make sure they are planted flat on the ground and not on a slope where the water will drain off too quickly.

Tools and Materials Needed to Start a Fruit Garden

While it can be as easy as going to your local nursery and picking up a few fruit plants, you are still going to need the right types of tools and materials to help your fruit plants thrive. The first materials you’ll need are the plants themselves.

If you’re in a hurry to shop for fruit in your own backyard, it’s best to buy starter plants and not seeds. Some fruit trees can take a year or two before they begin to produce. The same can be said about bushes and other fruit plants.

As an example, it doesn’t take much to propagate blueberries. The best time to do this is in January or February. It should take roughly one month for the seeds to germinate, but take at least two years before you will see any blooms and berries from the plants.

Related Article: Gardening 101: How to Start a Vegetable Garden

Follow the instructions on the care tag that comes with each plant to determine your soil, fertilizer and watering needs. If you plan to grow a large and elaborate garden, you may need to invest in a proper irrigation system.

Otherwise, a standard garden hose or watering can will suffice. Make sure you purchase traditional garden soil or sandy soil depending on the needs of your plants, as well as a bag of fertilizer.

Blackberries, raspberries, kiwis and dragon fruit all grow on vines and may need a trellis for support. You may find it helpful to have zip ties and twine handy to help support heavy fruit.

If you are growing lemon trees, strawberry plants, guava trees and fig trees, pick up several large containers. These fruit plants grow best in pots but may need to be supported by stakes at first. Don’t forget a shovel, rake or garden hoe to smooth out and turn the soil. Keep a pair of hand pruners nearby to clip back pesky vines.

Since you’ll be out in the garden each day, buy yourself a large-brimmed hat and gardening gloves to protect yourself from the elements while outside. Keep a full water bottle handy.

Pros and Cons of Starting a Fruit Garden

Growing up, you probably heard your parents tell you that, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Eating the recommended serving of fruit each day is a great way to stay healthy, and what could be better than growing the sweet and juicy produce in your own backyard?

From health to convenience, there are many reasons to start your own fruit garden. Some of these pros include:

  • When you purchase fruits from the grocery store, they’ve traveled a long way. To cut back on gas emissions, travel times, wasteful packaging and more, grow your own fruit.
  • Fruit gardens are convenient. When you’re feeling hungry, take a walk to your garden and grab a snack!
  • If you prefer to eat organic fruits, growing your own fruit garden puts you in charge of what pesticides you do and don’t use.
  • Consider the cost. If you buy produce on a frequent basis — especially organic fruit which typically costs more than traditional fruits — you will reap the savings over time. Gardens come with an upfront cost that can be quickly made up.
  • If you have easy access to fresh fruits, you may be more likely to enjoy them as a healthy snack as opposed something that’s not as nutritious. After all, fruit is sometimes referred to as “nature’s candy.”
  • Fruits have many health benefits. They offer plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help your body stay healthy and remove toxins.

On the other hand, there are also obstacles. These include:

  • All it takes is one unexpected hard freeze to kill off your fruit crops.
  • If preventative measures are not taken, pests and other wildlife can eat ripe fruits and be detrimental to the long-term success of your fruit garden.
  • Fruit gardens require daily upkeep and a significant amount of your time. The exact amount of time will depend on the size and complexity of your fruit garden, but be prepared to water, harvest, weed and prune on a frequent (if not daily) basis.

How to Start and Maintain Your Fruit Garden

There are a few things to know before you grow. First, develop a plan for your fruit garden. Fruit trees, bushes and plants need to be spaced properly throughout your garden. Map out the specific areas in which you will place your fruit plants so that they can grow a hearty harvest for you to enjoy.

To start your fruit garden, begin with the soil. It is important to note that plants are prone to weeds. As part of the soil preparation process, make sure to remove all of the weeds from the soil. Add organic matter to the soil to help the water drain properly.

Fruit trees need to be watered on a daily basis and need soil that does not hold onto water. Cover the soil with compost, straw or grass clippings to ensure the soil is free of weeds while you are planting.

Since you do not need to add fertilizer until the fruit plants begin to flower, organic matter is a great way to provide necessary nutrients for your fruits to grow. Turn the soil twice before placing the fruit plants in the garden.

For fruit, ample sunlight is key. Avocado trees need full sun and must be harvested in the winter, spring and summer. Grapefruit trees, which thrive in acidic soil, also need full sun and produce fruit in the winter and spring months. Peach trees and elderberry trees need full sun with a mixture of some shade, but both fruit plants should be harvested in the summertime.

Bananas, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and cactus pear grow year-round and are perfect for small patios and large backyards. Like most fruits, these plants need full sun or partial shade with daily watering to thrive. The requirements for your fruit will differ between plants so be sure to follow the instructions on the care tags.

Fruit plants like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries should be planted in rows roughly two to three feet apart. For grafted fruit trees, or those with bare roots, plant them in the ground or a container immediately.

To do so, dig a hole twice the size as the root. This will give the fruit tree plenty of space to grow and connect with the ground. Give at least 18 inches of space between fruit trees.

Be sure to prune your fruit plants before they grow too big. This can be done on an as-needed basis. For example, blueberry bushes only need to be trimmed back once a season.

Moreover, be careful not to cut too much off from your plants. The best way to tell if your fruit plan needs to be prune is if the leaves are falling off or if the fruit is slow to ripen. As a general rule, the younger the plant, the more often it should be pruned.

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