I just picked up the ‘Small Scale Fruit Production’ guide published by Penn. State. Perusing it, I noticed it gives the good news and bad news of growing fruit. Good news- “exercise, enjoyment, a supply of delicious fruits, enhancement of the home landscape, and a truly educational experience”. Bad news – “There are cultural requirements and pest problems to solve throughout the year.” Of course, they know that once you’ve paid $7.50 for their publication you’ve already weighed the merits of each and have decided to go for it.
The Planting Site
Home gardens are most productive when planted in areas that receive full sun. As the guide states, “the production of fruit is an energy-intensive process; and for plants, the energy source is sunlight.” Conveniently, what usually accompanies lots of sun is good air flow. Plants that are able to dry quickly from the morning dew and after rain storms will be less affected by diseases. As well, the soil should be well drained. Water logged soils limit the oxygen available to the roots, and the roots need oxygen too. Apparently not everyone in Pennsylvania has huge open yards as we wish we did in Maryland, so they give some pointers for those smaller areas:
- Use dwarfing rootstock for apple trees. These reduce the apple tree size by as much as 60%.
- Use fruit plants as a property screen or a divider. Fruit trees, grapes and brambles are ideal for this.
- Grow espaliered apple or pear trees or vining plants such as grapes or thornless blackberries on a fence or against a wall.
- Grow strawberries in pots or as a pyramid.
- Grow currants or gooseberries in partial shade.
I would also add that blueberries could be grown in partial shade.
Before planting, and on a yearly basis, the soil should be tested to determine its pH. Soil test kits can be obtained from the county cooperative extension office. They will also make recommendations as to the soil amendments, fertilizer, lime, etc. that should be used for the plants that will be grown or are presently growing.