If you’re planting trees, consider making them fruit-bearing trees, and stealthily turn your yard into a bountiful source of free food!
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Do you have fruit trees in your yard? If not, you’re missing out on one of the delights of summer and early fall. Seriously, get some. You’ll be so glad you did.
As summer wanes, we revel in the bowls of plums and apples from our dwarf trees. One small tree easily produces 7 or 8 bowls like the one below (plus lots more that resident squirrels happily pilfer) with virtually no work on our part. I water when it’s dry, prune a few branches occasionally, but other than that expend very little time or energy on these wonderfully productive members of our garden.
How much would all this fruit cost at the store? Well, that depends. We buy almost all our fruit from local farmers or our coop to avoid pesticide residues. (Here are some of the reasons I think this is important. Read more about protecting kids from these chemicals here.)
Plums are typically $3/pound, apples $2-$3/pound. I would estimate our most productive tree yields us in the neighborhood of 40 pounds of intact plums, worth $120 at the store. The apple tree some years gives us 20-30 pounds, worth say $60. Not bad for $49 trees planted over 8 years ago!
But of course we can’t eat all that before they spoil, so the comparison isn’t entirely accurate. We do, however, dehydrate a huge portion of the harvest and enjoy natural “fruit chews” for months to come.
(Full disclosure: prepping all those plums for the dehydrator is no small time commitment. It can take a couple hours to sort and slice it all. If you’re after truly easy green tips, dehydrating plums should not make that list. But I’ve been pretty happy with this dehydrator, recommended by the queen of dehydrating, Mary Bell, at a workshop she hosted that got me hooked.) And there’s plenty to share with friends and neighbors.
Why else are fruit trees awesome? In spring, they compete with the best ornamentals, flaunting gorgeous displays of flowers, which brighten up a not-yet-wakened yard and smell unbelievable. But of course, they’re better than any ol’ flowering tree, because those flowers turn into FREE FOOD.
I’m a little obsessed with the brilliance of fruit trees, to the point that when I see a sunny lawn, all I can think is, “If all that space were mine, I’d plant an orchard.” I imagine the pears, apples, and serviceberries I would cram into that space. Maybe even experiment with peach trees, which are marginal in this part of the world. When I travel to warmer regions, I look enviously at the citrus, avocados, and other warm-climate trees I see.
Take a look at your yard. Are you missing some opportunities for free organic fruit? If you’re not doing anything this weekend, go check out the fruit tree options at your local nursery and get planting! Then enjoy the delectable fruits of your minimal labor for years to come.
Don’t have much space? Talk to the staff at your nursery about which dwarf trees are self-fertile (which means you only need one). And check for overlooked spots in your yard where you might squeeze one in, like that underutilized strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. Some trees (apples and serviceberries among them) can handle less than ideal soil and a decent amount of road salt if your town uses it in winter.
Some Trees to Consider for Your Landscape
- Paw Paw
What trees do you most want to grow? Share in the comments!
If you’re ready to get serious adding edibles to your landscape, check out Angela England’s new book, “Gardening Like a Ninja,” which has tons of sneaky ways to incorporate fruit, herbs, and veggies into your yard design.
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Photo credits: sarahtevendale, shamosan