Is there anything better than walking out the door and picking fruit from your own orchard?blueberry bush

OK, so most of us don’t have an orchard, but we can have a fruit tree or vegetable garden. There are so many options available today and home gardens are wonderful family activities. In addition to the freshness factor that comes with home-grown produce, there’s a very strong likelihood that children are more apt to eat fruits and veggies they’ve had a hand in growing.

If your space is limited, don’t despair. Most edible fruit trees sold in local nurseries are either semi-dwarf or dwarf varieties. Typically the semi-dwarf trees will have a mature size of 12’-15’ and the dwarf trees will have a mature size of 8’-10’. These sizes of fruit trees are much easier to find an appropriate location for in an urban landscape as opposed to the standard fruit tree size of 20’-30’. There are many different varieties of trees, so check to make sure that the variety you are buying is hardy to zone 5 or lower. Edible plants do need good airflow so overcrowding should be avoided.

Fresh herbs are also a great addition to any garden. They are easy to grow and preserve and taste so much better than store-bought. Thyme, mint, and sage are hardy plants. If you don’t have a great sunny spot for them in the landscape, consider planting them in a container that gets plenty of sun. These herbs are usually tough enough to survive the winter left in the container. This is especially a good idea for mint because it has potential to become an aggressive groundcover when planted in the landscape.

Most fruit and vegetable plants prefer to be planted in soil that is high in organic matter. Using natural materials such as cotton burr compost and pine needles to acidify the soil is preferred over synthetic products and fertilizers. The natural materials will last longer and, some say, make the fruit taste better.

If you run into trouble with bugs feeding on your fruit or veggies before chokeberry hedgeyou get a chance to enjoy them, consider using traps as an alternative to pesticides as a means of control. After you determine what kind of bug is going after your fruit, you can choose from many different traps available for purchase or you can make your own. Most traps for purchase use chemicals, pheromones, or food to attract the pests. There are many different recipes available for homemade traps using common household products and food items. Using traps instead of spraying pesticides to get rid of the pests is a good option because it eliminates the worry of ingesting harmful chemicals and you won’t be killing beneficial insects such as honey bees.

If you do use chemicals, be sure that any insecticides and fungicides you apply are listed as safe for edible plants. Always read and follow the label carefully, even when using organic products. Just because a product is organic does not mean that it is safe to eat the fruit or vegetable without washing it first

Here are some suggestions for plants you might try. Most fruits and veggies like as much sun as possible. The plants listed in bold can thrive with partial shade.

Trees: Cherry, pear, plum, apple, pawpaw, serviceberry

Shrubs: chokecherry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, gooseberry, currant

Happy planting!

Rachael and Tobias