The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Don't neglect small fruits

GooseberryIn the long run, tree fruits are the least work for the most food, but they also take so darn long to produce!  Due to a couple of years learning about how to plant trees in our waterlogged clay soil, we only ate our first tree fruits --- peaches --- last summer.  This year, we'll have more peaches and maybe a pear, but it could be another couple of years before we taste a homegrown apple.

Meanwhile, we've been eating strawberries since our second year on the farm (and could have eaten them less than a year after planting if we'd set them out in late summer.)  Our everbearing red raspberry fruited the first year we had it in the ground, and has since colonized two more garden rows and our rabbiteye blueberries also had a handful of fruits the first year.  Thornless blackberries fruited copiously starting the second year and grapes had a few fruits the first year (if you don't count the year they grew in the garden as hardwood cuttings.)  If the photo above is any indication, it looks like our new gooseberries are going to be fruiting the second year after planting too (which is a bit surprising since I put them in the ground later than I should have and they had a hard summer.)

Strawberry flowerWhich is all a long way of saying --- don't put all of your fruit eggs in the tree basket.  Planting a few small fruits in your garden the first year --- especially brambles and strawberries --- is a great way to keep yourself from going crazy waiting for that apple tree to slowly mature.  (And, yes, this post really is just an excuse to show off my strawberry and gooseberry flowers.)

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I picked up a strawberry pot and filled all its spaces with an ever-bearing cultivar. I've read that it's advantageous to pinch the blooms until July 1st with ever-bearing strawberry plants and pinch the first year blooms on June bearing cultivars. I also got a few blueberry plants but I suspect a critter of some sort will likely beat us out of any harvest we could expect form those.
Comment by Dean Sat Apr 16 16:41:40 2011

I tend to prefer berries to tree fruits. Strawberries also have the advantage of being small enough to grow in a hanging basket, making them the perfect fruit for renters and others without a patch of soil to dig up.

Also, don't forget melons! Some of my favorite fruits belong to the melon family.

Comment by Edward Antrobus Sat Apr 16 18:00:11 2011

Dean --- That's the reason I plant strawberries in mid-summer now. If you do that, they get enough growth in the first fall that you don't have to pick off the blooms the next spring (which is heart-wrenching!) Good luck with your strawberry pot!

Edward --- Great point with the melons! We seem to have a tough time growing them in our humid climate, but if you can pull it off, they will give you fruit in just a few months.

Comment by anna Sat Apr 16 18:23:39 2011
We started adding small fruit a couple of years ago. First a couple of baby blueberry bushes, then a huckleberry and lingonberry bush, then a few strawberry plants and a go with some melons (that didn't do so well in the Pacific Northwest, but we might try them again anyway just because). I'm hoping to add some more lingonberries and huckleberries, and figure out a thornless raspberry that won't take over the garden.
Comment by trashmaster46 Sat Apr 16 21:13:06 2011

Melons are tough in damp places --- they're just so prone to molds. We've had the best luck with Sugar Baby watermelons --- they seem to be more resistant, and the fruits are small enough that you get some before the vines keel over.

I highly recommend everbearing raspberries --- they're the most copious fruiters (except for strawberries) in our small fruit garden at the moment. Of course, blueberries will grow into high production, but they're nearly as slow as trees....

Comment by anna Sun Apr 17 08:45:13 2011

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