The advent of summer conjures up idyllic days spent in the summer haze, vibrant orchards filled with fruit, and delectable berry pies. Fruit orchards, featuring prominently in lush Southern settings, have played a vital role in communities for centuries, providing sustenance as well as linking tradition to a shared identity.
With the relentless march of modernity, many unique cultivars have disappeared – some forever lost to the ravages of time. Apples cultivars, once numbering in the thousands, have dwindled to just a few commercial varieties. Yet, through perseverance and the effort of local communities, gardeners have rediscovered the joys of growing their own fruit trees in their own backyard. Below is a list of fruit trees you can grow for a rewarding experience.
Grow Fruit Trees in Raised Garden Beds
When choosing the types of fruit trees to grow, it is important to take into account your hardiness zone and local climate. Some trees, mostly in the apple, pear, plum and cherry family, will require cross-pollination. Considered self-unfruitful, these types of fruit trees should be planted with other varieties of the same species to promote fruit growth.
Contrary to belief, you do not need a large space to grow fruit trees. Dwarf and shrub varieties can easily be grown in raised garden beds, which lead to improved fruit set rate, blush color and maturity. You can also grow them in containers, espalier on fences, or intersperse them with ornamentals.
1. Apple Tree
A traditional fruit that evokes the rustic appeal of the countryside, apples have remained stalwart staples in the pantry, whether eaten raw or prepared in pastries. The two main categories of apples are eating apples and cooking apples. Eating apples are primarily eaten raw while cooking apples are used to make pies, sauces, and jams. Unlike supermarket apples, which tend to feature waxy skin and a predictable blandness, home-grown apples feature a crisp and refreshing taste. Some popular eating apples include Honey Crisp, Fuji, and Golden Delicious.
2. Dragon fruit
If you’re looking for something unusual, consider growing dragon fruit. Native to Central America, the dragon fruit plant is actually a cactus and requires a specialized trellis to support its water-filled branches. It’s known by a host of names, including pitaya, cactus fruit, strawberry pear – and the most regal – Honolulu queen. Its intense color and spiky shape add visual interest to the landscape, and they are great additions to ice cream, smoothies, and sorbets. Those looking to bring the taste of the tropics can do so using Vego Garden’s dragon fruit rolling planter, which makes it easy to grow this exotic plant.
3. Mandarin Orange Tree
Prized for their sweetness and fragrant peels, mandarins are recommended for beginners because they are lower maintenance and easier to grow. Unfortunately, they are restricted to the Southern climate – they grow well in Texas in well-drained soils. The Satsuma Mandarin variety is an extremely cold tolerant variety that is able to withstand temperatures in the 20s °F. To ensure maximum sun and protection against the elements, place your orange trees in the south or southeast side of your home.
4. Cherry Tree
The tart taste of cherries has made it a classic addition to ice cream and pies. Although cherry trees can take a while to become established – up to five years – once it does so, it can produce about 30–50 quarts of fruit in a season. Most sour cherries are un-fruitful and require cross pollination with another variety in the area. Cherry trees can become quite large and can grow up to 20 ft without pruning.
5. Fig Tree
You’ve probably been acquainted with the taste of figs through the popular Fig Newtons, a soft cookie with a sweet fig paste derived from Mission figs. However, fresh figs taste nothing like Fig Newtons, instead retaining a subtle, honey-like sweetness with hints of berry. In antiquity, figs have figured as symbols of prosperity and abundance. Fig trees are self-fertile, so you need only one plant to produce fruit. If left unpruned, they will sprawl skyward up to 30 ft.
6. Lemon Tree
Summer would be amiss without the piquant taste of lemons, whether as flavoring in juice or as garnish in desserts. Lemon trees are the most sensitive to cold out of all citrus fruits, so they should be grown in warm and humid climates. They should be pruned from their second year onwards to encourage fruit production and prevent them from becoming leggy. Start by removing any dead or deceased branches, then cut back on any long branches.
7. Peach Tree
Peach cobbler is a classic Southern dish that you can make using a fresh supply of peaches right in the comfort of your home. They tend to blemish easily, so growing them in your yard will allow you to pluck them intact. While peaches thrive in zones 6 – 8, they can be grown in zones 4 – 10. The hardiest varieties can tolerate temperatures as low as –20 degrees °F. You can also try growing nectarines, a smooth variety that has been cultivated without the fuzzy texture.
8. Plum Tree
Plum trees yield medium-sized fruit with red-purple skins. Their tart, distinctive taste makes them ideal for desserts and jams. The Friar bears large, rotund fruit with a glossy purple-black sheen that brings to mind the qualities of a fat monk. The Methley variety produces red-purple fruits with blood-red flesh and has a mild, sweet taste that is characteristic to that of plums. Plums do need to be regularly pruned and watered, but these tasks should not prove to be too difficult or burdensome.
9. Mulberry Tree
With a history rooted in folklore and legend, the mulberry tree is an unusual tree seldom seen in either backyards or grocery stores. The deeply red color of its berries, staining at the slightest touch, can be extracted to create botanical ink. Closely resembling blackberries, mulberries retain a similar flavor that still manages to be distinctive. They can be eaten raw or used as a substitute for berries in recipes.
10. Apricot Tree
A stone fruit sharing resemblance to peaches, apricots are slightly tarter in flavor and less juicy. They can be a good alternative if you find peaches messy to eat. Plant apricots in well-drained, loamy soil to establish a strong root system. Able to withstand cold Northern temperatures, apricots can nevertheless be affected by late frost, and should be grown in zones 5 – 8.