Even a small garden has room for fruit — not only bushes, canes, and vines, but also fruit trees. These may be dwarf forms on a restricted rootstock, or full-sized trees grown in place of shade trees. Here’s everything you need to know about growing organic fruit at home.
Two different categories you should know
Most fruits fall into two main categories — small fruits and tree fruits.
- Among the small fruits are the bush fruits, such as blueberries, currants, and gooseberries; cane fruits like raspberries, loganberries, and blackberries; vine fruits like grapes; and ground fruits such as strawberries.
- Tree fruits comprise the larger growing species, including apples, pears, cherries, and peaches.
- All of these respond very well to organic growing methods and give the grower the satisfaction of producing a crop free from chemical residues.
Dealing with pests and diseases
With many fruits, simply using good gardening practices, being alert to invading pests and diseases, and dealing with them before they become major problems is all that is required.
- The major tree fruits, apples, pears, cherries, etc., do have a number of potentially serious problems, but by gardening organically, encouraging natural predators, and using the most ecologically friendly control methods, these are rarely serious enough to cause concern.
- Apart from winter or early-spring spraying with dormant oil and lime sulphur to kill off overwintering egg masses and disease spores, a regular spray program is rarely needed.
- Unlike commercially produced fruit, which is sprayed on a regular basis from before the flower buds open until close to picking time, the actual fruit on an organic tree may not have to be sprayed at all.
- By using lures, pheromone traps, and possibly releasing some of the known parasitic insects, fruit trees can be kept almost free of the major pests.
- Occasional sprays of a copper- or sulphur-based fungicide may be needed to keep diseases in check, depending on the weather.
- All gardeners come to accept a certain level of damage in their homegrown fruits. Similarly, an organically produced crop will not have the cosmetic perfection found in fruit purchased from a supermarket, but is chemical-free.
Where to plant fruit in the garden
- Fruit bushes and trees do not have to be kept isolated in a special part of the garden, although on a large property, this can be a good idea since it enables you to plant a ground cover, such as white clover, between the trees and bushes to attract the many small predatory insects that help keep pests under control.
- In a smaller garden the fruits can be integrated into the general planting plan.
- Bush fruits can be planted in a mixed border — remember that you will need to work all around the bush at picking time so do not plant too close to other flowers or shrubs.
- Low bushes, like some varieties of blueberries, can make a dwarf or informal hedge if the soil is acidic.
- Strawberries can be grown as an edging along the front of a border where they are easy to pick.
- Cane fruits are normally grown in a row, and thus they can be used to make a divider partway across a narrow garden, screening the rest of the garden from view and making it appear shorter. They can also be trained against a fence and can make even a chain-link fence appear attractive.
- Tree fruits can be planted in place of ornamental or shade trees. There is such a range of eventual heights in fruit trees that one can be found to suit almost every location.
Growing organic fruit has never been easier! Keep these helpful tips in mind and save money by planting and harvesting your own fruit.