Total Fruitcake, or Growing Fruit in the Home Garden

Total Fruitcake, or, Growing Fruit in the Home Garden. I keep this dwarf 'Redfree' apple at about 6.5'.

I like vegetable gardens as much as the next girl, but I am nuts about growing fruit. You plant it once and it comes back for years.

This year I harvested my first apples from the dwarf ‘Redfree,’ and they were fabulous. Seriously, I can think of nothing better than pulling an apple off a tree in my front yard and eating it right there. I am completely hooked on growing fruit wherever I can.

What I Have

I’ve been slowly working on a miniature food forest in my front garden. I already have a dwarf ‘Lapins’ cherry, the ‘Redfree’ dwarf apple, and a ‘Liberty’ dwarf apple too.

Total Fruitcake, or, Growing Fruit in the Home Garden. I keep this dwarf 'Redfree' apple at about 6.5'.
My dwarf ‘Redfree’ apple. I’m keeping it at 6.5′ tall, which is about as high as I can comfortably reach. I harvested my first crop four years after I planted it as an unbranched whip.

The ‘Liberty’ was puny this year; some sort of fungal infection, I think. I had a consult with master arborist Jerome Delbridge, who gave me some excellent advice about shaping up that tree and pointed out a fungal-infected spot I hadn’t seen. I have high hopes for even more apples this year!

The hell strip between the street and sidewalk is planted with ‘Honeye’ strawberries and has a sign inviting people to help themselves. Even with neighborhood kids eating all of those berries, I still had boatloads of berries for fresh eating from other plants.

In the back garden, the ‘Heritage’ raspberries are doing well, and I may have actually managed to keep two blueberries alive in the raised beds. I’ve killed more blueberries than I care to think, mostly because our soil is too alkaline. By putting them in raised beds and amending the hell out of the soil with elemental sulfur each year, I’m slowly lowering the soil pH.

I planted a peach tree last year—the ‘Starking Delicious’ peach from Stark Bros.—but the top of the whip died back bit. Jerome said I can tie a side shoot that’s still living to the dying leader, and in a few seasons that shoot will take over as the leader. So I’m hoping that I can still coax that tree along.

What I Want

Oh, so many things. One of the problems with being an urban farmgirl on a tiny lot is that I just don’t have room for as many fruit trees as I want. So I’m going to take out the raised beds along the fence in back—I don’t use them since I moved all the veggies to the front—and try an espalier back there.

Total Fruitcake: 'Lapins' dwarf sweet cherry. I LOVE it, and if I had room, I'd plant ten more.
‘Lapins’ dwarf sweet cherry. I LOVE it, and if I had room, I’d plant ten more.

I’m leaning toward ‘Enterprise’ apple, because it fruits later than my existing trees and is a good keeper. I’d also like to work in a plum, maybe ‘Jubileum.’ Plums are sometimes trained as fans on walls, but it’s not at all common to train them as espaliers along fences. I’m going to do it anyway. Blind optimism has to count for something, right?

Speaking of blind optimism, I’d like to add another blueberry. I have ‘Northcountry’ and ‘Northblue’ back there, but the blueberry growing in the center raised bed didn’t make it through the winter. I’ve recommend ‘Peach Sorbet’ from the Razzleberry line to clients as a good container berry, so I may plant that and see how it does.

And eventually I want to add honeyberries, which are an edible fruiting form of honeysuckle. I’m not sure I’ll get to that this year, though. And maybe I could pull out that butterfly bush at the back corner of the house and put in another cherry…

Fraudulent Farmgirl
I teach garden and homesteading skills—the stuff your great-grandmother knew how to do. But if there's a faster, cheaper, or easier way to do it, I'll find it!By day, I design earth-friendly gardens for Spotts Garden Service. By night, I don my Wellies to become the Fraudulent Farmgirl. On my small urban homestead, I've ripped out the front lawn to plant vegetables and fruit trees, turned the garage into a chicken coop and grown enough strawberries to feed half the neighborhood.

4 Comments

  1. Why is it so hard to keep those blueberries going? I know it’s the soil that really compromises them but how do the big ‘fields’ do it? Do they spend constant time/money working the soil?

    1. I think it’s a combination of constantly amending the soil and choosing one of the pockets of Indiana that has a more acidic soil. Blueberries are an edge-of-woodland plant, so they like that highly acidic, highly organic soil. I cannot figure out a good way to deal with it in Indy. Exhibit A: my current kill tally.

    1. Hi Beccah!

      Are you doing full-scale urban farming? I don’t have any good recs for that, since commercial urban farmers often use different strategies than homesteaders do. Although you might try The Resilient Farm and Homestead if you’re interested in permaculture. You might contact my pals at Growing Places Indy; they run several urban farms and might have some good recs. Modern Farmer might be another good resource.

      If you’re interested in gardening and homesteading (producing food primarily for yourself and family), my faves are Starter Vegetable Gardens, RHS Growing Fruit, Gaia’s Garden, and anything by Storey Publishing (Raising Chickens, for example).

      Hope that helps!

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