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Robin Friedman: Adding fruits to your garden is a worthwhile decision

POSTED: April 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.

As a new resident to Gainesville and moderately experienced edible and organic gardener, I developed a fenced-in, raised-bed vegetable and herb garden.

I experienced a steep learning curve to understand the local soil. Thankfully, my garden was most forgiving and prolific, particularly my tomatoes, squash, melons and herbs.

I found joy observing my pollinator friends sharing the space. I thoughtfully incorporated pollinator-friendly plants and herbs.

Last year, I decided to add fruit. I started with blueberry, then blackberry and finally raspberry.

Next, a neighbor brought me lemon and orange trees.

A Master Gardener needed a home for some wayward banana trees. Those spent the winter season in the living room and now are displaying their new shoots and bright leaves.

Recently, we can be found physically extending our garden to make room for more raised beds and small fruit. This time, blueberries and strawberries will be added.

The reason I grow fruits and vegetables is I believe food is best eaten as close to its natural state as possible. And I firmly support local merchants and farmers. And what is better than growing your own?

Therefore, if you have a garden, consider adding fruit for birds, other wildlife and humans. You may want to consider growing an extra row to share with friends, neighbors or those who may be fresh food insecure.

Edible fruit plants can be easy to grow and are a tasty addition.

Before you start planting, plan ahead. Creating a base map with soil, sun, space and water needs can lead to an edible bounty from April to October in Northeast Georgia.

Then ask yourself what fruits do you and your family like to eat. Determine if you have the space and right soil pH to make them grow and flourish.

If you are new to gardening, consider easy-to-grow fruits such as berries and figs. They need a lot of sun. Therefore, site selection is important for successful production.

For example, blueberries and fig shrubs should be planted where they can get the most-full sun.

A soil test is also recommended, since blueberries need acidic soil with a pH level around 5. The extension office can help with that.

Then incorporate about 1 cubic foot of peat moss and organic matter into the soil around the plants.

Blueberries also need space. Plant them about 4 to 6 feet apart and at least 3 to 4 feet away from the house. They tend to get quite large.

Remember to plant a minimum of two varieties of blueberries for good pollination and fruit set. Varieties such as premier, powderblue and centurion are a good mix.

Pay attention to when the varieties produce: early, middle or late season. I grow some of each for a long harvest season. Blueberries are harvested from June to August.

Finally, be patient. Blueberries need time to get established.

Pick the blooms off the bush the first year to improve next year’s crop. A healthy bush can yield up to 2 gallons a year.

Also consider planting figs, as they are a delicious fruit for your garden.

Figs can be planted individually and come in many different sizes and varieties. Two of the best varieties are celeste and hardy Chicago. These fig plants perform well across the state and produce from late spring to early fall.

Remember fig shrubs and trees can grow to be 15 feet tall, so make sure you know what type you are planting. If planting more than one bush, give them at least 10 feet of space between them. One bush can produce enough figs for a family of four.

It usually takes a year or two before a fig bush produces fruit, so again be patient. Buying more mature plants may yield fruit a little quicker.

These edible fruits can be planted in the fall should spring planting times pass.

And now enjoy the easy-to-grow berries and fruits for many seasons ahead. I am!

Robin Lynn Friedman is the Master Gardener coordinator for the Hall County Extension Office. She can be reached at robinf@uga.edu or 770-535-8293.



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