Thinking of adding some fruit trees and bushes to your garden this year? I am. I currently have a dwarf Fuji apple, a pear, and a lime, but am contemplating adding other fruit trees. I asked Phil Pursel, field representative at Dave Wilson Nursery (a Hickman, CA, grower of deciduous fruit trees and small fruit bushes) to share with us five easy-to-grow-and-maintain fruit trees and bushes.
First, though, a word about the importance of size control when it comes to fruit trees. “Most homeowners have a fear of pruning their fruit trees because they think that will limit fruit production. A 15- to 20-foot tree, though, produces fruit that can only be reached by squirrels and birds,” he notes. “So we promote size control by pruning fruit trees during the growing season in the summer.” And you will still get a plentiful harvest from a fruit tree that’s six to seven foot tall, he says, as long as it receives water and is in a sunny spot.
Please keep reading to learn how and what fruits to plant this year for your home garden:
Photography courtesy of Dave Wilson Nursery unless otherwise specified.
Phil suggests that the novice edible gardener start with blueberries. “Here’s the catch: I always suggest blueberries be grown in containers not their native soil,” he says. “The reason is that blueberries require an acid soil and this is best attained by the correct PH level found in a custom blueberry mix.” To achieve this acid and well-draining mix, combine equal parts of high-quality organic potting soil, coconut coir and orchid bark. And if you can get a container the size of a wine barrel, you can plant multiple varieties of blueberries (two to three plants) and have cross pollination and a staggered harvest.
Suitable for Zones: Southern Highbush 7-10. Northern Highbush 4-8.
2. Fuyu Persimmons
“Believe it or not, the Fuyu persimmon is the number one selling variety in our home garden mix—and we offer many hundreds of varieties of fruit trees,” says Phil. Turns out, this plant is popular because it’s basically disease- and insect-free, it’s self-fruitful (so no pollinator is required), it’s a very late harvest fruit, produces stunning fall color, and it’s tasty to boot. (For more on growing persimmon trees, see Gardening 101: Persimmon Trees.)
Suitable for Zones: 7-11.
3. Miniature Peaches & Nectarines
Dave Wilson Nursery groups the miniatures together because they are basically the same fruit, except one has fuzz (peaches) and the other doesn’t (nectarines). And while the trees require a dormant spray in the winter and early spring, he says the benefits are worth the effort. “First, they are naturally a dwarf tree,” he explains. “They only grow to a height of between five to seven feet without pruning, making them perfect for the modern-day small backyard.” Second, their blossoms are show-stopping. Plus, they are self-fruitful, and most importantly, the new varieties have fantastic flavor.
Suitable for Zones: 6-9.
4. Japanese Plums & Pluerries
“Japanese plums give you a great bang for your buck,” says Phil. With many varieties to choose from, there’s an extended harvest time, so the fruit can be enjoyed over a longer period of time. Phil explains that despite needing to apply a winter dormant spray (like with peaches), they are fairly easy to care for. And related, Dave Wilson Nursery has introduced the Pluerry, a hybridized cross between a plum/pluot and a cherry, which means you get the sweetness of a cherry and the great flavor of a plum. Plus, Phil says it has an extended hang time on the tree (about three to four weeks). Note: this new fruit type is not genetically engineered but is a simple cross of pollen from one like fruit variety with another. (For more on plum trees, see Gardening 101: Plum Trees.)
Suitable for Zones: 5-10.
Figs trees are easy to control in size, and have no real insect or disease issues. This fruit also thrives in the most extreme heat but is adaptable to very mild climates. Phil shares, “There are even varieties that work in the colder regions, such as Chicago Hardy. This plant has unique foliage, is drought-hardy, and its late fruit harvest gives the home gardener a piece of fruit not easily found in local grocery stores. (For more on growing fig trees, see Gardening 101: Common Fig.)
Suitable for Zones: 6-10.
For more fruit trees to try: