Last Updated on July 1, 2020
Curious about edible landscaping? Start with some super-productive fruit trees! Growing fruit trees is easy and lets you incorporate food plants without overhauling your yard.
If you’re planting trees, consider making them fruit-bearing trees, and stealthily turn your yard into a bountiful source of free food!
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.
Here’s the low down on growing fruit on trees in any yard, even in the city!
Why to Consider Growing Fruit Trees in Your Edible Landscape
1) Fruit trees don’t take much more work than any other tree, but they grow you immense amounts of fruit that tastes better than anything you can buy!
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.
2) Growing fruit trees will save you money on fruit at the store.
How much would all this fruit cost at the store? Well, that depends. We buy almost all our fruit from local farmers or our co-op 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.
And there’s plenty to share with friends and neighbors.
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.
3) Like other flowering trees, fruit trees are GORGEOUS!
In spring, the fruit trees in your edible landscaping 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.
And it turns out that many of those beautiful blossoms are also edible. Most apple trees, for instance, produce many more flowers than you would want to turn into apples, and the blossoms can be harvested as a tasty addition to fruit salads or for a lovely floral herbal tea. Here are more than 150 flowers you can eat — I bet some are growing in your yard already.
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.
Growing Fruit Trees in Your Existing Landscape
Now that you’re sold on growing your own fruit trees, the questions are what and where?
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 Fruit Trees (& Nuts, Too!) to Consider for Your Edible Landscape
- Serviceberry (also known as juneberry or saskatoon)
- Paw Paw
What fruit trees do you most want to grow in your edible landscaping? 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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Additional photo credits: sarahtevendale, shamosan, glacika56, Hans Braxmeier
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.