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Edible Plants & Fruit Trees

The Complete Guide to Growing Fruit

Sweet, juicy raspberries, Crisp, tart apples. Healthy, beautiful blueberries. Fragrant, succulent peaches. While farmers' markets are packed with sweet, fruity goodness, wouldn't it be lovely to pluck a plump plum or snack on luscious, ripe strawberries—while you enjoy your garden?

Edible landscapes can add fantastic beauty to a garden, while also providing delicious produce, reducing grocery bills, and increasing healthy eating. As many restaurants promote the "farm to table" movement, we believe in "Garden to Table": the ability of home gardeners to grow and harvest fabulous ingredients to prepare healthy meals.

Adding edible fruit trees, shrubs, and perennials to your garden offers many benefits. Not only can you enjoy the self-sufficiency of raising your own, organic food, fruit trees and shrubs also serve as beautiful ornamental plantings in your landscape. Beauty and practicality—the perfect combination for your garden.

The Top Fruit Varieties

Whether you wish to harvest apples or peaches, grow your own citrus, or snack on sweet strawberries straight from the garden, we offer dozens of plants to turn your garden into a miniature orchard or a self-sufficient homestead. From space saving trees that can be easily espaliered to shrubs that can become a highly productive, delicious hedge, we offer the most comprehensive selection of plants to help you create a beautiful, edible landscape.

Fresh citrus fruit isn't just for California and Florida residents. Even northern gardeners can grow citrus with the aid of a sunroom, greenhouse, or good, sunny location indoors. While citrus thrives in all summer gardens, you will need to protect it from frost, which makes it a perfect candidate for container growing. The amazing fragrance of both the blooms and leaves outweighs any inconvenience of moving it inside. Citrus fruit takes 6-8 months to ripen, but it's worth the wait.

We offer a wide variety of citrus for your home, garden, and greenhouse. From ‘Meyer' Lemon Trees to ‘Key Lime' Trees to Blood Oranges, Mangoes, Loquats, Grapefruit, Tangelos, and more, you'll find dozens of varieties of citrus plants to boost your vitamin C. Most of our citrus trees are easily grown in containers for your enjoyment inside and out.

While most avocado trees only survive in tropical climates, you can grow your own delicious fruit in any climate as a container planting. Imagine harvesting these nutrient-rich fruits in your own garden. With 60% more potassium than bananas, avocados have also been proven to reduce bad cholesterol. We offer Cold Hardy Avocado (15-20' height, 8-12' width, zones 5-11 potted, 9-11 in ground), as well as ‘Haas' Avocado (15-20' height, 5-8' width, zone 4-11 potted, 8-11 in ground), both which can be grown in containers. A single tree can produce up to 30 lbs. of fruit in a year.

When you're looking for a plant with a bit of "wow" factor, an olive tree can easily impress. It's a perfect potted specimen plant and focal point on a patio, or it adds beauty in the landscape. The ‘Arbequina' is one of the most cold tolerant olive trees, and it can also be grown in northern climates in a container. Fragrant, cream colored blooms appear in spring, followed by ample fruit in the summer. The evergreen foliage adds interest all year, whether indoors or out. 20' height, 12' width, zones 4-11 (potted), 8-11 (in ground).

Who doesn't love apples? Apple pie, applesauce, apple butter, or just freshly picked from the tree, apples are our most celebrated All-American fruit. Sunlight is key to producing a good crop of apples. Early morning sun is most important, allowing the dew to dry from the leaves, which reduces diseases. Good soil is essential to a healthy tree, and apples prefer a soil pH between 5.8 and 6.5. When selecting apple trees, we offer a large variety of dwarf trees in some of the most popular varieties, like ‘Gala,' ‘Fuji,' ‘Granny Smith,' ‘Red Delicious,' and ‘Yellow Delicious.' (10-15' height, 8-10' width, zones 5-8.) If you can't decide among the varieties, grow several varieties on one tree. Our ‘4-in-1' and ‘5-in-1' apple trees provide the ultimate in gardening convenience: multiple varieties grafted onto sturdy rootstock to provide an ongoing harvest throughout the growing season. (10-15' height, 8-10' width, zones 5-8.) And, if you enjoy the popular, sweet ‘Honeycrisp' but often find it sold out at your local orchard, you can now grow your own. (14-18' height, 12-15' width, zones 3-7.)

Summer isn't summer without sweet, juicy peaches. Now, imagine picking them from your own tree! Growing peaches in your garden is rewarding. A little care, and you'll be harvesting plenty of peaches to preserve and share. Peaches need full sun, especially morning sun to dry the dew on leaves. They require good, well-draining soil, as they're more prone to root rot than other plants. Peach trees prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to produce well. They should be planted when dormant and fertilized in early spring with a well-balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. As with most fruit trees, peaches require pruning for best productivity, as well as attention to spot pests and diseases. For the best peach varieties, try ‘Dwarf Elberta' Peach Tree, one of the juiciest fruits with the smallest pits (10-15' height, 8-12' width, zones 5-9.) For the perfect patio or balcony companion, try ‘Bonanza' Peach Tree, the perfect size for growing in a container. Its small size produces a large harvest of fruit. (4-8' height, 4-8' width, zones 5-9.)

Sweet cherries are a fabulous addition to the garden, allowing you to enjoy delicious fruit at a fraction of the supermarket cost—and fresh from the tree. Birds also love cherries, so to protect your crop, you may wish to invest in bird netting. Cherries, like most fruit trees, require full sun, good air circulation, and well-drained soil. Most cherry trees also require another tree for pollination, and even self-fruitful trees set more fruit with cross pollination. We offer a variety of cherry trees for your garden, from the popular ‘Bing' Cherry in a gardener- friendly dwarf size (20' height, 10-15' width, zones 4-8) to ‘Rainier' Cherry Tree, with its blush colored fruits. (10-15' height, 10-15' width, zones 4-8.) We offer many varieties to keep your garden producing cherries all summer long.

As with other fruit crops, sunlight is important for pear production. Select a site with full sun, good airflow, and protection from spring frosts. Pears tend to bloom early in the season, making the blossoms susceptible to frost damage. Select a variety suitable for your location. In the Southeast, for example, many varieties of pears succumbed to fire blight due to the high heat and humidity. Read the plant's information carefully to select the variety appropriate for your climate. Two easy-to-grow varieties are ‘Keiffer' Pear and ‘D'Anjou' Pear. ‘Keiffer' is self- pollinating but does produce even better with another variety in the garden. It's perfect for fresh eating, canning, desserts, and preserving. (15-25' height, 5-10' width, zones 4-9.) ‘D'Anjou' is the perfect mate for Keiffer, as it requires a pollinator to produce fruit. Its buttery flavor and texture makes it the perfect choice to pick off the tree and eat in the garden. (10-15' height, 6-10' width, zones 5-8.)

Plums are a delicious addition to the home garden. The trees tend to bloom early, so plant in a location protected from late spring frosts. Plums need full sun, well-draining soil with a pH of 6.5, and good air circulation. Most plums require another plum tree for pollination. Pair our ‘Methley' Plum and ‘Santa Rosa' Plum together in your garden for a delicious, productive harvest. Methley's sweet, deep purple skin and rich red flesh is both delicious and beautiful, perfect for fresh eating or preserving. (10-20' height, 10-15' width, zones 5-9.) ‘Santa Rosa' is the most popular plum tree among commercial producers, with its thin skin and lovely yellow flesh. (20-25' height, 10-20' width, zones 5-10.)

A beautiful, delicious addition to the home garden, blueberry shrubs provide a bounty of fruit in small spaces, while also adding a burst of autumn color with their fall foliage. Blueberries are easy to grow with a bit of preparation. They require acidic, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. While it might take a bit of effort to prepare the site, blueberry plants can live 25 years, which makes the effort a good investment. We offer a wide selection of blueberry plants to fit your needs, from the best-selling ‘Rabbiteye,' one of the earliest to ripen (10-12' height, 8-10' width, zones 6-9) to the bright pink ‘Pink Lemonade' Blueberry, with its dazzling fruit and gorgeous foliage (4-5' height, 4-5' width, zones 4-8). Or, if you're looking for a perfect container plant, our diminutive ‘Blueberry Peach Sorbet' is small on size but large on flavor (2' height, 2' width, zones 5-10).

Blackberries and Raspberries
Delicious fruit grown on hedges, both blackberries and raspberries are excellent crops to grow in the home garden. When harvested fresh from the shrubs, these berries offer a completely different burst of flavor than the bland ones found in the grocery store. Both are considered brambles, and their difference lies in the fruit. Raspberries are clusters of small drupes that separate from a core and look like a thimble. The core of a blackberry doesn't separate from the picked fruit and is part of the edible berry. Both plants require full sun for best yields. They prefer well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 6.5. A trellis to support the arching canes helps maintain order in the garden. While many bushes are challenging to harvest with their sharp thorns, we offer a Thornless Blackberry that produces large, delicious berries all summer. With a more upright habit than typical blackberry bushes, it makes a lovely container plant on the patio, providing instant garden snacks. Best of all, you can grow them organically to ensure you're only eating healthy, sweet fruit—not pesticides. (3-6' height, 3-5' width, zones 5-9.) Our ‘Heritage' Raspberry provides two harvests: June and September, and its upright habit requires no staking. (4-8' height, 4-6' width, zones 3-8.) Golden Raspberry is a small bush with big impact—beautiful golden berries provide brightness in the garden and add elegance to desserts. (2-3' height, 1-2' width, zones 4-9.) BrazelBerries' ‘Raspberry Shortcake' is the perfect patio plant. Its compact size, delicious fruit, and lack of thorns make it an ideal companion for outdoor seating areas. (3' height, 3' width, zones 5-9.)

Celebrate spring by harvesting the season's first fruit, straight from your garden. Strawberries begin to ripen 4 to 5 weeks after the first flowers, and the plants continue to produce runners (new plants), increasing your harvest each year. Unlike some strawberries that produce only in the spring, our ‘Everbearing' Strawberries produce fruit from spring until frost. Strawberries need full sun, well-drained soil, and prefer a pH of 5.5 to 6. They should not be planted in any areas where potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants have grown in the past 5 years, as strawberries are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a disease also found in these vegetables. (8-12" height, 8-12" width, zones 4-9.) Perfect for container planting, too.

Background Information on Fruit Trees and Bushes

Unlike some plants that thrive on neglect, fruit crops require proper care to produce quality fruit each year. Don't be intimidated by their needs—we're here to help you maximize your harvest while also enjoying the process of growing your own fruit. By selecting fruit that you enjoy eating, as well as selecting plants appropriate for your space and climate, you'll maximize your success in caring for the crop, while also minimizing frustration levels.

Some crops, like strawberries and blackberries, require little effort and space for high rewards. Others, like apple trees and olives, need appropriate climates and space to thrive. No matter where you live, though, there are perfect fruits for your garden.

How to Select the Right Fruit for Your Garden

When deciding upon what fruit you'd like to grow in your garden, look carefully at your space. Most fruit requires full sun to ensure the best harvests, so look for areas that receive 8 hours of sun per day. Also, fruit trees vary in height. Decide if you will grow your tree normally, or if you'll choose to espalier it along a wall or fence, which can save space without reducing productivity. Many varieties of dwarf apple and pear trees produce full-sized fruit sooner after planting and occupy less space than standard-sized trees. You'll find many options to select when planning your mini-orchard.

Not all fruit-bearing plants require excessive space, however. Strawberries can create a beautiful, edible border or ground cover in a perennial bed. Blueberry bushes are the perfect solution for a multipurpose hedge—they're edible, create excellent borders, and add beauty with their colorful fall foliage. Small trees and shrubs can also be used for creating gorgeous container plantings, allowing you to snack on berries while relaxing on your patio. Some shrubs also make excellent foundation plantings, providing the dual benefits of concealing unsightly spaces while producing delicious treats.

Always consider the mature height of trees when selecting which varieties you'd enjoy in your garden. If power lines or overhangs provide obstacles in your garden, choose a dwarf variety. Also, consider the amount of space in your landscape. Fruit crops planted too closely together can become weak or less fruitful if competing for sunlight or soil nutrients. Overcrowded conditions can also encourage disease and pests. Instead, select a site with plenty of room to provide your new fruit trees and shrubs adequate sun, good soil, and excellent airflow.

Also, consider how you will use your harvest. If you plan to eat the fruit fresh from the trees or bushes, any cultivar is excellent. However, if you're looking for fruit that's good for freezing, canning, and preserving, you can find varieties that are perfect for those uses. You may also wish to plant several varieties of the same fruit, such as apples, with different maturity times to prolong the harvest season.

Additionally, research the pollination requirements of the fruiting plants. Some cultivars are self-fruitful, meaning that the plant can reproduce by itself. Others are self-unfruitful. For those cultivars, you'll need a second plant for pollination to ensure a fruit crop. All of the fruit trees and shrubs listed on the website indicate whether they require a second plant for pollination.

As always, if you need assistance selecting the tree, shrub, or perennial that is right for your garden, we're happy to help. Just give us a call at 800-399-9514.

How to Plant Fruit Trees and Shrubs

As soon as you receive your plant, give it a good drink, particularly if you plan to wait a day or two to plant it.

Proper site selection and preparation will help grow a happy plant. Full sun, good drainage, and adequate airflow are all ingredients for a healthy trees and shrubs. Remember to look up—are there any power lines or structures that might become a problem as your tree grows? If so, choose another location. There's really nothing sadder than a tree pruned badly by a power company, particularly if they choose to prune it right as you're ready to harvest.

Most fruit trees grow best on fertile, deep, well-drained soils. A sandy loam or sandy clay is perfect. However, amending heavy, compact clay soils with compost will improve the health of your tree, allowing water to drain adequately so it won't rot the plant's roots. Avoid planting fruits in low areas or "frost pockets," where late spring frosts may kill flowers and eliminate the year's harvest. In sloping landscapes, plant fruits at the highest elevation or on the side of the slope, away from cold air which flows downhill to the low sites.

Late fall or early spring are ideal times to plant trees, allowing the plants to settle in without severe heat stress or impending freezes before roots establish in their new home. However, beautiful summertime blooms tempt many of us when we spy them in the nursery, and somehow that lovely tree manages to follow us home in June. With a little extra pampering, the tree will be fine—just keep it well watered during the heat of summer.

When planting your fruit tree or shrub, dig a hole approximately twice as large as the plant's root ball. A well-dug hole gives you the opportunity to breakup any compacted soil, add amendments, and give your plant a good start without overcrowding its roots. Your plant will thank you.

Loosen the plant in the container, carefully removing it, and massaging the root ball. Place in the center of the hole, making certain the soil lines of both the root ball and the hole align. You want to ensure that you don't plant the trunk too deep in the hole. Back fill the hole, pressing the soil into place. Water well. Add a layer of mulch over the site, but avoid the "volcano" effect—simply spread mulch over the site to conserve moisture. Never mound mulch around the tree's trunk, which can promote disease.

Each spring, add a layer of compost over the planting site, as well as a good, organic fertilizer. However, do not over-fertilize. Too much nitrogen will promote lush foliage—and few blooms and fruit.

Keep the plant well watered through the first growing season, approximately one inch per week. Fruit plantings require good, consistent moisture for the best yields. Mulch can help preserve the moisture.

To minimize pests and diseases, practice good hygiene when caring for your fruit trees and shrubs. Sterilize pruning shears in a 20% bleach to water solution to keep diseases from spreading. Remove fallen leaves and fruit, as many pests overwinter in them. Check your plants often for any signs of pests or diseases. Diluted Neem oil or organic insecticidal soap spray works well for aphids and caterpillars. Make certain to spray both sides of the leaves. By monitoring your fruit plants, you can resolve any problems early that might affect your harvest.

Pruning Fruit Trees and Shrubs

To grow a bountiful harvest, training and pruning fruit trees and shrubs are essential practices. Fruit size and quality is affected by pruning. Untrained and unpruned fruit crops can become unruly plants that produce little or no fruit. They can also harbor disease and pests if not properly tended.

To make it a little less scary, just visualize your end results. Sometimes, it's as simple as tying up shoots instead up snipping them. However, when removing branches, use sanitized, sharp pruning tools to make clean cuts. Discard or compost the shoots or branches to eliminate them as a site for pests to overwinter. Some training and pruning can turn a fruit tree into a beautiful focal point, creating an espalier in your garden.

Pruning is best done when the plant is dormant in the winter or early spring. Just prune sparingly to maintain a lovely, healthy plant.

Fun Fruit Facts

In Greek and Roman mythology, the pear is sacred to three goddesses: Hera (Juno in Roman), Aphrodite (Venus), and Pomona, an Italian goddess of gardens and harvests.

Cherry farmers hire helicopter pilots to air-dry their trees after rains so that the fruit doesn't split. Cherries symbolize fertility, merrymaking, and festivity. In China, cherry trees symbolize immortality, and the wood is thought to keep evil spirits away. The Chinese place cherry branches over their doors on New Year's Day, and carved cherry wood statues are placed by entranceways to guard the home.

"An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away" is a fairly current phrase. The original phrase was, "Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread." In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the phrase evolved to "an apple a day, no doctor to pay." The current phrase was first recorded in 1922. There's some basis for the saying. In 2012, an Ohio State University study found that eating an apple a day helped lower levels of bad cholesterol in middle-aged adults. In 2011, a Dutch study found that eating apples and pears might help prevent strokes.

The peach is a member of the rose family. It was first cultivated in China and revered as a symbol of longevity. Travelers along caravan routes carried the peach seed to Persia before it was cultivated in Europe. In the early 1600s, Spanish explorers brought it to the New World. By the 1700s, missionaries had established peaches in California. The peach is the official fruit of South Carolina and Georgia.

Momotaro is a popular hero of Japanese folklore. His name means "Peach Boy." According to the tale, Momotaro came to Earth inside a giant peach, which was found floating down a river by an old, childless woman who was washing clothes. The woman and her husband discovered him when they tried to open the peach to eat it. The child explained that he had been sent by Heaven to be their son. The couple named him Momotaro, from momo (peach) and taro (eldest son.)

The red raspberry is indigenous to Asia Minor and North America. Fruits were gathered from the wild by the people of Troy in the foothills of Mt. Ida. Records of domestication were found in 4th century writings of Palladius, a Roman agriculturist, and seeds were discovered in Roman forts. In Medieval Europe, the juice of wild berries were used in paintings and manuscripts. During this period, only the rich enjoyed raspberries. King Edward (1272-1307) is recognized as the first person to call for their cultivation. By the 18th century, berry cultivation had spread throughout Europe.

Christopher Columbus brought the first citrus to the New World in 1493. Wealthy Victorians grew lemon trees indoors as a sign of prestige. In the United States, more than 1,000,000 acres of land are dedicated to citrus production.

A pear tree in Danvers, MA continues to bear fruit, although it is almost 400 years old.

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