As I did my daily post-work stroll around the garden yesterday, checking plants for heat stress and peaking under the white nets to check the stone fruit for ripeness, I started to wonder whether it might be possible to produce year-round home-grown fresh fruit from my suburban garden.
Although I’ve planted lots of fruit trees in the nearly-six years we’ve lived here, it’s been done on an ad hoc and very unscientific basis. Most often I see something at a plant nursery and decide on the spot that I must have it.
Last night I sat down with an Excel spreadsheet and listed all the varieties of fruit that I currently grow and noted the months when they are in fruit. You can seen that there’s a spread of fruit across the year even though some plants aren’t bearing yet. The reason for the spread of apples over six months is that I grow five varieties: Jonathan, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Fuji. I also grow multiple varieties of nectarines, plums and pears.
I also tried to predict the spread of fruit at that wonderful time in the not-too distant future when my trees and fruiting plants are in full production. You can see that the spread is much greater and I should have at least some fresh fruit every month of the year. The question mark next to ‘bananas’ is because I have no idea whether my banana plants will bear fruit this far south.
How to enjoy year round home-grown fresh fruit
- Consider your climate: I live in Adelaide, South Australia, which has a Mediterranean-type climate with long, hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters with few frosts and no snow. Most of Adelaide’s rain falls in the three winter months. Living in a warm climate, I have chosen stone fruit trees with a low chilling requirement and heat-tolerant plants like pomegranates and citrus for very hot areas. If you live in a colder climate you may need a greenhouse to enjoy year-round home-grown fresh fruit.
- Plan ahead: If you have limited space (like me) it’s important to plan ahead (unlike me) and think about when in the year the varieties you grow will fruit. Also consider the layout of your plot of land and where your plants will fit in. High yielding dwarf fruit trees are worth considering if space is limited. Many of my trees are dwarfs, including four apple trees, two nectarines and a mandarin.
- What do you like to eat? You will see from the graphs above that most of the fruit trees I’ve planted are fairly mainstream. The most unusual plant is probably an Australian finger lime but I also have an ordinary Tahitian lime. The reason I’m a little unadventurous in my choice of fruiting plants is that my space is limited and I only want to grow things I know my family will love and will willingly eat.
- Swap and share: One of the best ways to maximise your access to home-grown fresh fruit throughout the year is to swap and share with others who grow different things. I attend a monthly food swap, Essential Edibles Urban Orchard which gives me access to delights like persimmons, quinces, walnuts, apricots and mulberries, none of which I grow myself.
What fruiting plants do you grow in your garden?