An outdoor fruit garden is a gift that keeps on giving.
Check out part one of our three-part blog series on gardening and find out how a personal fruit garden is a wonderful way to improve your personal health by spending time outdoors. You can enjoy the warm sun and cool spring breezes every day when you tend to your garden. Second, you can make your garden as big or small as you want. That makes it easy for gardening to be a meditative, solitary experience, or a cooperative activity for the whole family. Third (and this is our favorite part), you will – literally – reap the fruits of your labor with delicious produce.
Getting Started with an Outdoor Fruit Garden
You want to take the leap and start your very own fruit garden in your backyard. But before you jump into planting a garden, you should know that fruits can be a little particular about where they’re planted. There are a few things to consider:
- Sun and Shade Coverage: How much sun does your yard receive and for how much of the day? Likewise, which parts of your yard are shaded? Some fruits, like cherries, do well in shade. Others generally require “full sun”, like watermelons.
- Soil: What kind of soil do you have? Soil can be acidic or basic, sandy, chalky, loamy, or a host of other characteristics. Some soils are better suited to gardening. If your soil can’t support fruit, you might need to purchase soil.
- Climate: What seasons does your region experience? Is there an annual frost? High temperatures? If you expect inconsistent weather and temperatures, you should consider more hardy plant varieties.
- Space: Plants must be pollinated to produce fruit. For some plants, particularly fruit trees, that means you need at least two specimens to see a harvest. Other varieties are self-pollinating and can be planted alone.
- Effort: You might not be able to, or want to, spend hours each week in your garden – or maybe you can’t get enough! Some plants require more care than others to produce fruit. Be sure you know how much work is required for a crop before you plant it.
There is no wrong answer to any of these considerations. No matter your location, there is a fruit that will thrive in your yard. Additionally, some conditions can be changed to better suit the plant you want to grow.
Planting Your Outdoor Fruit Garden
Now onto the fun part – what kind of fruit should you plant? Here are some of our favorite ideas to get you started:
- Strawberries: These are the go-to choice for beginner gardeners. They’re easy to grow in almost every climate and can fruit the first year they’re planted (although preventing first-year fruiting will see bigger returns in the second year). Just make sure they receive full sun!
- Raspberries: If your garden space is limited, consider planting raspberries. Unlike strawberries, they grow in tall bushes, so most of the space they take up is vertical. As an added bonus, all raspberries are self-fertile, so you only need to plant one bush to see a great harvest. There are varieties suited for almost every region. For example, many black raspberry varieties have great heat-tolerance.
- Blueberries: These berries are great for otherwise ‘troublesome’ backyards. Where other fruits might be put off by acidic soil, blueberries thrive in it. Full sun is preferred for the biggest berry yield, but blueberries are shade tolerant and will still fruit with less sun.
- Grapes: Looking for a more time-intensive project? Grapes might be the fruit for you. They take a few years to produce fruit, have to be trained onto a trellis or other structure, and must be pruned annually. Note that not all grapes make for good eating – many grapes are selectively bred for wine. If vinification isn’t on your to-do list, make sure you stick to table grape varieties.
- Watermelons: Want to see how big backyard produce can get? Plant watermelons and see fruit that weighs in at ten pounds or more. This summertime favorite does well in sandy soil and needs full sun and a long summer of high temperatures to really flourish. Watermelons can still be successful in colder climates if the seeds are started indoors.
Most people think of a tree as a large commitment of space. While that can be true, it doesn’t have to be. There are many dwarf varieties available if you have limited space (some can even grow in pots). Fruit trees are, however, an investment of time – even if you choose a variety that requires less care, fruit trees generally need a few years to produce fruit.
- Cherries: This is the beginner’s fruit tree, as they don’t require quite as much work as other trees. Most cherry trees are self-sterile, so plan to plant in pairs.
- Citruses: Lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes all fall under the citrus umbrella, and the care requirements are similar for all of them. They need full sun, warm weather, and regular watering. While citruses are thought of as southern or island plants, don’t be discouraged – they can still grow in colder climates.
- Apples: These are the crown jewel of homegrown fruit. Apple trees must be planted in pairs and generally require a great deal of space. They are also hard work, needing regular pruning, pest control, mulching, and watering. If you opt for a dwarf variety, the tree will also require a trellis or other support, so they don’t uproot under the weight of their own fruit.
Health Benefits of Gardening
Gardening comes with some obvious benefits for your personal health – you spend time outside, and in the sun, it tends to be a bit of a workout, and you’ll eat healthy with easy access to delicious fruits.
The benefits aren’t just physical, though. Spending just twenty minutes a day in nature is proven to reduce stress. Even better, regular exercise is a treatment for anxiety and depression, with exercise improving mood and decreasing anxiety. Tending a garden with a group can also give you a sense of community and belonging.
Thoughts from USHEALTH Group
Growing fruit is a fun, delicious way to boost your personal health. Just be sure to identify the key features of your yard, so you know what fruits are right to plant in your location. This spring, reap the rewards of a bountiful harvest and all the health benefits of gardening with your very own fruit garden.
Interested in eating healthy, but don’t spend much time at home? Check out our tips for eating healthy on-the-go!