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Robin Friedman: Try adding fruit trees to your edible garden
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As a new resident to Gainesville and moderately experienced edible and organic gardener, I developed a fenced-in, organic raised-bed vegetable and herb garden last spring.

I experienced a steep learning curve to understand local soil. Thankfully my garden was most forgiving and prolific, particularly my tomatoes, squash, melons and herbs. I also found joy observing my pollinator friends sharing the space.

Last fall, I decided to add fruit to my edible garden. I started with blueberry, then blackberry and finally raspberry. Next, a neighbor brought me lemon and orange trees. Then a Master Gardener needed a home for some wayward banana trees. Those spent the winter season in our living room and now are displaying their new shoots and bright leaves. The list goes on.

Recently we’ve added to our collection. Then a neighborhood deer party passed through, and now the fruits are fenced with the rest of our edible garden. On the bright side, not only did the deer have a feast, they assisted in pruning the blossoms.

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

Therefore, if you have a garden, consider adding fruit for birds, other wildlife and humans.

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

Before you start planting fruits and vegetables, plan ahead. Creating a base map with soil, sun, space and water needs can lead to a 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 the gardening hobby, consider easy-to-grow fruits such as berries and figs. They need a lot of sun. Therefore, site selection and full sun are 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. 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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