How to Choose What to Grow
Many of us at some point in our lives get the urge to grow a fruiting plant. However for some of us the experience is disappointing as the plant fails to deliver the fruit quality or volumes that had originally been hoped for. Problems associated with diseases, pests, poor tree shape, lack of quality fruit etc, normally means the plant will be destroyed early in its life.
To make the experience of growing fruit rewarding, the novice gardener must be prepared to both invest a little bit of energy and patience but also do some homework on what varieties of fruit are likely to grow successfully for them.
Some guidelines on how to choose what to grow follow:
1. WHAT WOULD I LIKE TO GROW?
Most of us like a range of fruits and within each fruit grouping there will be selections more suited to our needs than others.
Things worth considering include:
- What taste experience do I like? Sweet vs tart or a good balance between the two; free stone vs clingstone; juicy vs firm; white flesh vs yellow flesh.
- Organically grown vs conventionally grown.
- When I like my fruit to ripen? It would be silly to have fruit that ripened at a time when you were normally away on summer holiday. Also some fruit ripens all at once while other selections ripen over an extended period.
- What are we wanting to use our fruit for? Cooking, eating fresh, preserving or drying?
- Do I want to be able to store some of my harvest? Some fruits don’t store for more than a few days while with those that do vary by selection. As a general rule late maturing varieties within each fruit group store longer than early ripening ones.
2. CAN ANY OF THESE PLANTS GROW IN MY LOCAL CLIMATE?
Main things to consider are:
- Frosts- how hard, how early and how late can they be expected during an average year, length of growing season (frost free days).
- Amount of winter chill, which is the number of hours below 7˚C.
- Frequency of wet or humid spring weather.
- Exposure to harsh or cold winds.
3. ARE THERE LIMITATIONS OR ADVANTAGES WITH MY HOME SITE?
- How much sunlight will my fruit get?
- Have I got drainage issues?
- Is my soil likely to be OK or will I need to make modifications (adding fertilisers, compost, loosening up etc) before I can grow my fruit successfully?
- How much shelter will I need to give my plant?
- Have I got the space to grow it?
- Have I got a sheltered warm and sunny spot (e.g. under eaves on a north facing wall) that will allow me to grow something normally not grown in this area?
4. HAVE I GOT ENOUGH GARDENING KNOWLEDGE AND PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO MAKE MY GROWING EXPERIENCE SUCCESSFUL?
If your knowledge is limited you can quickly get up to speed by reading this website, and getting a good book such as ‘The Backyard Orchardist’ by S Otto.
The first two to three years is the most important time to get your fruit plants established and trained to be capable of producing quality fruit from then on - you need to commit time especially from late winter through to summer to ensure this happens. If you are not wanting to commit to regular spraying choose disease resistant varieties.