No Orchard? You Can Still Grow Fruit

If you don't have space for an orchard, or if your orchard is in but will not produce for a few years yet, you can still grow fruit! Here are a number of ideas for growing fruit in your garden and yard.

Do you dream of having an orchard but lack the space? Or do you have one started but it will not produce for a few years yet? What can you do if you don't have a producing orchard and want to grow your own fruit? Don't worry, there are options! If you lack space for an orchard, but have a bit of room for a bush or two in your yard, you can plant some fruiting bushes. These often produce beautiful blossoms in the spring and for preppers are a good option over non-edible bush varieties. Berry plants such as raspberries can be grown in smaller spaces, even in containers. There are also a variety of plants you can grow in your garden or in containers that produce fruits you can use for pies or canning. Below is a list of ideas for bushes and plants to consider growing in lieu of (or in addition to) a fruit orchard.

Fruiting Bushes

Blueberry - This well-known berry is eaten raw and used in jams, pies, and other desserts. Blueberry bushes require moist, acidic, well-drained soil. While they are self-pollinating, cross-pollenation produces a better crop, so it is a good idea to plant 2-3 varieties that bloom around the same time. There are many different varieties, so be sure to look for ones that are right for your area.

Gooseberry - Gooseberry is not a bush that I am personally familiar with. I have read that they produce a tart berry and are self-fertile, meaning you only need to have one plant for them to produce berries. They do have thorns, so harvesting them can be a bit of a challenge. If you like the idea of a gooseberry, but don't want the thorns, check our the currant bush or jostaberry bush below. A word of warning: it may be unlawful to plant gooseberry or any of the genus in your area. Be sure to check your state law.

Currant - Currants are related to the gooseberry but they are thornless and produce smaller fruits. There are many varieties - red, pink, white, and black. Not all varieties are self-fertile, so be sure to do your research. You may need two different varieties to ensure they produce well.

Jostaberry - The jostaberry bush is a cross between a gooseberry and a black currant bush. It produces a lovely tart fruit, larger than a currant, that is reddish-purple in color. The plant is thornless, which is a bonus for harvest time, and is said to be fairly disease resistant. They have good flavor when eaten raw and are said to be good when cooked as well.

Serviceberry - The serviceberry bush has many names (Saskatoon berry, June berry, etc.) and grows wild throughout much of the northern United States and Canada. If it grows in your area, you may want to consider foraging for them in order to leave more room in your garden for other plants. You can purchase serviceberry bushes at some nurseries if you do choose to include one or two in your home garden. Serviceberries are partially self-fertile, and will produce better if they have another variety in close proximity. Serviceberry has one of the highest protein contents of all the berries and makes a flavorful jam. See our article titled "Service Berry - The Forgotten Gem" for more information on this wonderful option.

Raspberry - Most people are familiar with the raspberry, but did you know that there are summer-fruiting and ever-bearing varieties? In case you didn't know, most varieties have thorns, but you can find thornless varieties these days, which makes harvesting much easier. Raspberries are self-pollinating so you only need one bush to produce fruit. They do require pruning, but can be easily grown in many places. Be careful, though, these plants will easily spread outside their designated area!

Blackberry - Blackberries, like raspberries, are reportedly easy to grow. There are three varieties: erect thorny, erect thornless, and trailing thornless. The erect varieties are self-supporting while the trailing variety needs to be supported with a trellis. Like the raspberry, the blackberry should also be pruned. Also like the raspberry, they tend to easily spread so will require attention to keep them in their designated area.

Garden Plants - 

Rhubarb - Rhubarb is technically a vegetable that is used like a fruit. It is a tart plant with edible stalks and toxic leaves. It was known as the pie-plant by some of the pioneers. Rhubarb pie is still a favorite today, though many people like to combine it with strawberries. Rhubarb grows from spring to summer and is one of the first plants ready to harvest. Here's a tip: When harvesting rhubarb, pull and twist the stalk to harvest. This will separate the stalk from the root and encourage new growth, thereby keeping your plant healthy.

Strawberry - Strawberry plants are fabulous because they can be grown right in the garden and don't take up a lot of space. There are many varieties of strawberries, but they tend to be divided into two main categories: June bearing (those which produce a large, concentrated crop in June or July) and everbearing (which produce a large amount in June and continue to fruit throughout the summer). Strawberry plants put out runners, which can then be guided to where you want the new plant to root. This is an easier method for propagation than growing them by seed.

Ground Cherries - Ground cherries remind me of a tomatillo and are indeed part of the nightshade family. They grow in a husk and are not ready to eat until the husk dries up and is ready to fall off the plant (they can be toxic if eaten before they are ripe). It is helpful to cage them to keep them from falling over and spreading out. There are a few varieties. We grew the Cossack Pineapple variety the first year we grew them. This variety has a complex flavor that evolves on the palate starting with a shortbread flavor and slowly changing to something reminiscent of pineapple. They were a sweet treat and a fun plant to try. They are a versatile fruit and can be used in crisps, pies, and jams like a sweet fruit or added to a salad like a cherry tomato.

Garden Huckleberries - Garden huckleberries are not related to the huckleberry at all, but like the ground cherry are part of the nightshade family. They grow like peppers or tomatoes on a plant that will get tall and sprawl if given a chance. It is recommended to use a tomato cage if you want to keep them more compact. They are reportedly not good eaten raw and can be toxic if eaten while still green. Nonetheless, they are said to be quite good when sugar is added as in pies and jams. They are considered ready to pick after the glossy sheen has dulled and they berry has softened a bit. We have not grown these before so I was excited to find these at one of the seed companies we use. We will be trying these out this year!

Melons - There are many different varieties of melons you can grow in your garden. Cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew melon are probably the best known simply because they are the most widely available in grocery stores, but they are by no means the only varieties out there.  Melon plants are usually  vining plants and as such can take up a lot of space. If you don't have a large garden, you can try growing these vertically on a trellis to maximize your growing area. If trying this method, you will want to be sure that your trellis can support the weight of the plant and fruits. I have also been told that melon stems are often not strong enough to support the weight of a hanging melon, thus, you will want to create some kind of support for the fruit (such as a sling or a net) to keep it from detaching from the stem before it is ripe.