From the crisp crunch of apples to the soft sweetness of raspberries, homegrown fruit is bursting with flavors and textures that store-bought alternatives simply cannot rival. Add to this the fact that growing your own fruit is surprisingly easy, not to mention adaptable to any sized space, and it’s no surprise that more and more people are now growing their own fruit trees and berry bushes at home.
How to Choose Which Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes to Grow
You probably already have a few fruits in mind when it comes to what you want to grow. The saying “grow what you like to eat” applies well to fruit – you’ll appreciate your pickings so much more.
However, in addition to personal taste, there are a few other things to keep in mind when deciding which fruit trees and bushes you should grow…
How Much Space Do You Have?
From sprawling orchards to sunny windowsills, fruit can be grown in just about any space. However, the size of your space will have an impact on the types, varieties, and number of fruit trees and bushes you can grow.
If you have a small patio and plan on growing in containers, then dwarf varieties are what you need, while those who are planting out large gardens will have more options.
Self-Pollinating vs Cross-Pollinating
It’s important to understand the difference between self-pollinating and cross-pollinating fruit trees and bushes:
- Cross-pollinating – these plants need pollen from either another tree of the same species but a different variety, or another species altogether, in order to produce fruit
- Self-pollinating – these plants will pollinate on their own
If your growing space is small, then self-pollinating plants are the better option. However, if you have the room for multiple trees or bushes, keeping in mind that the two cross-pollinating trees or bushes must be planted near each other, then being able to add in cross-pollinating plants gives you access to more varieties.
What’s Your Climate Like?
If you live in a colder, temperate climate, then you’re going to struggle trying to grow tropical fruit trees, which is why it’s always important to keep your climate in mind before you start growing anything.
While your climate will provide some boundaries, don’t let this completely restrict you. If there’s a fruit you’re particularly keen on growing that doesn’t usually thrive in your area, look for cold-resistant or heat-resistant varieties, as these are constantly being developed.
Those in cold regions also have the option of using greenhouses and polytunnels, whether heated or unheated, to expand the list of fruits that they could potentially grow.
Don’t forget to also consider the micro-climate of your specific growing area. For example, if you plan on planting your fruit trees and bushes around other trees, you will need to look for shade-tolerant varieties. On the other hand, if your site is exposed, you may need compact varieties that can withstand strong winds.
Extending Your Growing Season
This won’t apply to everyone, but for those looking to grow a specific fruit for as long as possible, look into varieties that can extend your growing season.
Whether it may be apples, peaches, or strawberries, combining early-fruiting, mid-fruiting, and late-fruiting varieties will have you enjoying your favorite fruits for many more months.
Low-Maintenance Fruit Tree Varieties
There are 7000 varieties of apples alone, so it would be impossible to list every single fruit tree variety in one guide.
However, there are some fruit trees that are especially suited to new gardeners due to how low-maintenance they are, making the following varieties worth exploring:
The Granny Smith is loved for its distinct flavor, and is best suited to warmer climates, as is the Fuji, which is a popular juice and cider apple. The Lodi does well in colder climates and fruits earlier than many other varieties, while Honeycrisp is a vigorous, tasty, and self-pollinating variety.
Most cherry trees are cross-pollinating, with popular varieties including Rainier, with its super-sweet flavor and large fruits, and Bing, with its reddish black color and amazing flavor. However, self-pollinating varieties are becoming more readily available, such as the Stella, which also happens to have good disease-resistance.
Rochester is commonly-grown in colder climates, fruiting in August, while the Duke of York is one of the earliest-ripening varieties for warmer climates, with fruits ready to be picked in mid-June. Redwing is uniquely resistant to the peach leaf curl disease, while Santa Rosa is known for its especially-high sugar content.
Beurre Bosc has a soft, buttery texture, and while it prefers warmer conditions, cooler climates give it a unique crispness. Concorde and Conference are classic, self-pollinating varieties, although both do better when planted with another pear tree.
European plum trees are better for colder regions and have high sugar contents, with varieties including Stanley and Green Gage, both self-pollinating. Japanese plums are soft, sweet, and juicy, with Burbank and Ozark Premiere both being good varieties to try. There are also hybrid trees with elements of both European and Japanese plums, such as Early Dapple and Flavor Gold.
Low-Maintenance Berry Bush Varieties
Just like with fruit trees, there are countless berry varieties out there. However, here are some of the best for beginners to grow:
Raspberry bushes are usually either summer-bearing or fall-bearing. Some of the best fall varieties include the sweet yellow fruits of All Gold and the short-growing, disease-resistant Autumn Bliss. Tulameen is a prolific, summer-fruiting variety, just like Malling Admiral, which has tall canes with big and juicy dark red fruits.
May Duke is an early cropper with juicy red fruits, and Whinhams Industry is another red classic that dates back to 1850. Captivator is a favorite among many for its lack of thorns, while Leveller is popular with those who prefer to cook their gooseberry harvest.
Bluecrop is a classic and reliable variety, while Legacy is known for its exceptional sweetness. Brightwell is a self-pollinating variety that can grow up to ten feet tall, but Pink Icing is the opposite, with a dwarf-like growing habit.
For red currants, try the extremely productive Wilder, or Cascade for its high sugar content. White Dutch is an early-ripening white currant, while Rosasport is a pink currant that’s delicious eaten fresh. Noir de Bourgogne and Boskoop Giant are some of the tastiest blackcurrant varieties.
Although not technically a berry, blackberries are often classed as one, and many varieties, such as the Navajo and the cold-resistant Illini Hardy, grow in bush-form. Alternatively, to give trailing blackberries a try, have a look at Obsidian and Wild Treasure, the latter of which is thornless.
Where to Buy Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes
Once you’ve decided on which trees and bushes you want to grow, you’ll need to buy them.
Local garden stores are the obvious starting point for many, but you’ll find that you’re very restricted in terms of varieties, and will also likely pay quite a high price. However, plants produced locally will have a better chance of thriving in your climate.
Many now buy fruit trees and bushes online, but this can have its drawbacks too, especially in terms of quality. Ideally, make sure that any online seller you’re purchasing from has a solid reputation for healthy plants.
Another option would be to take cuttings from friends who have fruit trees or bushes you like, and then grow your own plants from those cuttings. This is an effective way to propagate many plants, but can be quite time-consuming and isn’t as successful as simply purchasing the plant itself.
There are exceptions, of course, such as with raspberry canes. These prolifically produce runners – simply take some from a friend, plant them in your garden, and you’ll soon be eating your own fresh raspberries.
Potted vs. Bare Root Trees
Fruit trees and berry bushes are available either in pots or bare root, meaning without any soil. The latter happens during the winter season, when the trees are dormant, although the roots do still need to be protected.
The main advantage to pot-grown plants is that they can be planted year-round, and don’t need to be planted straight away.
However, although bare root plants can only be planted in the winter, this is the best time of year to plant fruit trees anyway. You’ll also find many more varieties if you go for bare root, along with lower costs, both in terms of the actual plants as well as shipping.
When to Plant Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes
As mentioned, winter is a great time to plant both fruit trees and berry bushes, ideally late winter to early spring.
Once the ground has thawed up enough for you to dig a large enough hole, you can get planting.
Preparing Your Planting Site
Most fruit trees and berry bushes will adapt to all soil types, so long as you give them some compost or well-rotted manure when planting. They also do best in well-draining soil – mix some sand into your planting hole to improve drainage.
As always, there are some exceptions. Blueberries, for example, need to grow in acidic soil, so avoid planting these near bushes or trees that prefer an alkaline soil. The same applies to plants that require high levels of water, compared to those that favor drier conditions. You may need to further amend the soil in specific areas if you want to grow plants with drastically different needs together.
In addition to amending the soil, you will also need to pull out any weeds. You don’t want your newly-planted trees and bushes competing with weeds for the light, water, and nutrients they need to establish themselves.
How to Plant Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes
If you’ve gone for bare-root trees or bushes, you will need to give these a soak in some water for about 30 minutes before planting. This will rehydrate the roots, which will help them to establish faster once in the ground.
Dig a hole slightly larger than the size of your plant’s root ball. Don’t be tempted to go too deep – you’ll still need to keep the soil mark on the trunk or stem of your plant level with the surface of your ground, which will only leave you with too much empty space below.
Then, gently tease open your plant’s roots, before placing it into the hole. At this stage, you could also add in some plant rooting hormone too, which will encourage your new plant to form stronger and healthier roots.
You can then backfill the hole, adding in fresh compost and some perlite or sand, and tamp it down. You may need to do this with your feet if planting a larger tree, as the soil really does need to be firmly packed around the tree’s roots.
Water well after planting. Ideally, do this two or three times, waiting for the water to fully saturate the soil before going another round.
You may be tempted to crowd those trees and bushes in together when planting them, especially if they’re still young and quite small.
However, you will need to keep their mature size in mind and give them adequate space to grow. Ideal spacing varies hugely depending on the exact plant you’re growing, as well as its variety, so be sure to check this before planting.
Growing Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes Indoors
Some fruit trees, such as lemons and oranges, are popular houseplants in areas that are too cold for the tree to grow outdoors. However, many berries, from raspberries to blueberries, can be grown indoors too.
There are a few extra things to keep in mind when growing fruit indoors:
Some fruits, such as strawberries, have shallow root systems that do well in smaller pots. Other fruit bushes, such as raspberries, along with just about every fruit tree, will need quite a large and deep container. This will need to keep increasing as the plant grows, so make sure that you’re ready to accommodate this in your home.
Whichever fruit you’ve decided to grow indoors, choose a quality potting mix. A combination of peat and perlite works well, especially if you mix some well-rotted manure in too, as this will give your tree an extra slow-releasing source of nutrients.
This is where fruit trees and bushes struggle the most indoors – it’s difficult to give them enough light. They will need to be placed on your sunniest windowsill, although you could also take a look into shade-tolerant varieties.
Chances are that you don’t have many pollinating insects swarming around your home, which means that you’ll need to do the job yourself instead. Fruit flowers need to be pollinated in order for fruit to be produced, but you can do this by simply dabbing a small paintbrush into the center of each flower, therefore picking up some pollen, before moving over to the next flower and doing the same.
Caring for Newly-Planted Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes
Newly-planted fruit trees and bushes will need your attention to begin with. However, once they’ve established and are a few years old, most will be relatively maintenance-free, but will still keep providing for many years to come.
A newly-planted tree needs about an inch of water a week, and a fruit bush would need a little less. In some regions, the rain will be enough to provide this, but, for everyone else, you will need to manually water your plants to supplement this.
This usually equates to around ten minutes of watering every other day, although you can skip this on, as well as the day after, rainy days.
Don’t be tempted to fertilize your newly-planted fruit trees and bushes, as this will only do more harm than good. Your plants will be spending their first couple of years establishing themselves in the ground, and you need to give them time to do this.
After that, go ahead and fertilize your fruit trees and bushes annually each spring.
If you live in an area that experiences extremely harsh winters, then you may need to protect your newly-planted trees or bushes from the cold.
Simply wrap them in a couple of layers of fleece to keep them warm and safe from the frost.
You’re not going to be the only one anticipating those perfectly-ripe fruits – all of the wild birds around you will be keeping an eye on this too. Birds can completely strip a fruit tree or bush in a matter of hours, leaving you with nothing left to harvest.
The best way to prevent this from happening is by throwing some netting over your fruit trees and bushes once the fruit begins to ripen. You can then harvest what you need or want before removing the netting and allowing the local wildlife to feast on the rest.
Some fruit trees are better suited to pots than others. Good options include dwarf apple varieties, blackcurrants, blueberries, gooseberries, and figs.
Blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries tend to be among the easiest fruits for beginners to grow.
There are some plants out there that not only thrive when grown underneath a fruit tree, but can also help to prevent pests from infesting your trees. Nasturtiums, comfrey, fennel, chamomile, and anything from the onion family are good examples.
Fruit trees or bushes planted too close together will shade each other out, meaning that you won’t get many fruits. However, don’t plant them too far apart either, as this can prevent cross-pollinating plants from pollinating with each other.
Fruit trees and berry bushes are some of the most rewarding crops to grow. Although they do require a bit of extra attention until their roots have established, they will continue to reward you with an abundance of fruit for so many years after this – care for your fruit plants properly, and you can expect bigger, better, and tastier yields each year.
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