There is a developing trend to grow our own food in our gardens and landscapes. We tend to hear a lot about growing vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and such. Why not grow fruits as well?
Homeowners looking to add something new this spring to their landscapes should consider growing blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and figs. Edible fruit plants can be easy to grow and are a tasty and easy addition to your garden.
Planning ahead and creating a base map with soil, sun, space and water needs can lead to a bounty of fruits from April to October in the Northeast Georgia areas.
Ask yourself what fruits do my family like to eat? Do I have the space and right soil pH to make them grow and flourish? Think about easy-to-grow fruits such as berries and figs.
Site selection and full sun are important for successful production. Easy-to-grow berries and figs need a lot of sun. For example, blueberries and fig shrubs should be planted where they can get the most full sun. Homeowners should plant them at least 3 to 4 feet away from the house, because they tend to get quite large.
If you are interested in planting blueberries, a soil test is recommended for the area in which you want to plant. You can do that at our extension office.
Blueberries need acidic soil with a pH level around 5. Incorporate about 1 cubic foot of peat moss and organic matter into the soil around the plants. Also blueberries need space; plant them about 4 to 6 feet apart.
When planting blueberries, remember a minimum of two varieties need to be planted for good pollination and fruit set. Varieties such as premier, powderblue and centurion planted together are a good mix. Check to make sure what varieties include early, middle and late season produce. Blueberries are harvested from June to August.
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 established bush can yield up to 2 gallons a year.
If planted properly , blackberries and raspberries can yield up to one or more quarts per plant. The extension office has great publications on getting started.
Blackberry varieties good for the area are navajo and arapaho (thorn-less) and kiowa (which has thorns).
Raspberry varieties that grow well are caroline, redwing and heritage varieties. Some produce a spring crop and others in the fall.
Strawberries are a popular fruit to grow at home. Strawberries are considered a perennial in Georgia and will produce for up to five years from the same patch.
A soil test is recommended before planting strawberries, and they grow best in soils with a pH of 6 to 6.5. Lime is usually recommended to amend the soil when planting strawberries.
As with blueberries, pick the blooms off the first year to encourage good produce and look for the strawberries the next year. Strawberries can produce up to a quart of berries per plant and produce fruit from April through mid- May.
Some good dependable strawberry varieties include cardinal, surecrop, earligrow and albritton.
Figs are a delicious fruit to grow in 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 their fruit 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. Also if planting more than one fig bush, give them at least 10 feet of space between them. One fig bush can produce enough figs for a family of four.
It usually takes a year or so before a fig bush produces fruit, so again be patient. Most edible berries and figs will take a year or two to produce. Buying older plants may yield fruit a little quicker.
These edible fruits can be planted in the fall should spring planting times pass.
Remember a few important facts when planting fruits in your landscape such as soil pH, sun requirements, water and spacing needs. Then enjoy the easy-to-grow berries and fruits for many seasons ahead.
Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/
extension. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.