Depending on where you live, and your growing zone, it is possible to eat from your own fruit garden year-round. By planting a variety of plants that bear fruit at different times of the year, you can enjoy fresh fruit for much of the year, and enjoy preserved fruit the rest of the time.
It doesn’t matter if you only have a small plot of land for growing. If you choose plants that grow at different heights, you can make the most of your garden. Get inspiration for how a forest grows at various levels, such as tall trees, shrubs, ground level plants, and those that creep.
Some of these plants can even be grown in containers, if that’s your only option. So let’s explore some delicious and sweet varieties for your own fruit garden!
Most fruit prefers a sunny position, but even if your garden has some shade, you can grow apples, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, currants, and rhubarb.
A trip to your local nursery or garden center can really help you find the best plants for your climate. When we lived in Vermont, in Zone 3, we were surprised by all the varieties there were for us to choose from. As such, even if you live in a cold climate, you can still grow your own fruit.
Trees are an investment. Depending on their maturity when you buy them, it could be several years before they bear fruit. Some varieties even need multiple trees for cross-pollination (no pollination, no fruit).
When you eat your own homegrown fruit, it’ll all be worth it. Just make sure to pick trees that produce fruits your family loves, and try to find self-pollinating trees whenever possible.
If you want several types of fruit but don’t have a lot of space, consider dwarf varieties. Dwarf trees are the result of grafting. This means merging two (or more) trees to create a living, fruit-bearing combination. Dwarf trees grow in less space and don’t get as tall as they would if they grew on their own roots, yet produce the same size fruit as a full tree. You can also get several varieties of fruit on one plant. Plus, the fruit is easier to harvest, since it’s lower to the ground.
You can also train trees to grow vertically on a frame, usually along a fence or wall. This technique is known as “espalier”, and was incredibly popular during the Medieval and Renaissance era. It’s especially easy to do with apples, pears, and plums.
Plums bear fruit from July to September, and there are many delicious methods for preserving them to eat during winter. Check out the many varieties of plums and see which ones are best for your garden. I’m a fan of the Italian plum, which has a lot of flavor and stores well. Try “Stanley” in colder climates, and “Beauty” in hotter ones.
Apple trees need to be cross-pollinated, so you need to be sure to get two trees that flower at the same time in order to get fruit. That said, there are a few that self-pollinate. Try “Red Rome” in the north and “Golden Dorest” in the south. Many apple varieties store well, and can be eaten fresh months after harvest.
Elderberries grow wild in much of the US and Europe. They’re ready to harvest from mid-August to mid-September and can be grown in Zones 3-9.
They are big, bushy trees that are difficult to prune so take care to place it somewhere in the back of a garden—maybe against a wall where it can fan out. Cook down elderberries to use for syrups, jams, preserves, pies, and even wine.
American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) can be grown in zones 5 through 9. Although “Meader”, an American persimmon variety is self-fruitful, most other persimmons benefit from cross-pollination with another variety. These fruits are astringent, which means they need to be very soft before they can be eaten.
If you let them ripen on the tree, however, you’ll be competing with birds and other wildlife for the fruits. Therefore, they’re most often harvested in early fall before they’re fully ripe. Allow the fruit to ripen at room temperature or store in the refrigerator for up to a month, or frozen for up to 8 months.
Medlars are fruit trees grown all over Europe since the Medieval era. They’re a little different from more modern fruits, and as such, they’ve fallen out of favor in recent centuries. This is unfortunate, since these trees have a lot to offer!
They’re self-fertile, pest resistant, and can be grown as a bush on a dwarfing rootstock. Harvest the fruits in late October or November, while still hard. Store them in a single layer at room temperature, and within 1-3 weeks, the skins will brown and the fruit will be soft to the touch. That’s when you know they’re ready to eat. Eat medlar fruits as is, or make them into jellies or jams.
Bushes and Shrubs
Whether you’re aiming for a lower-storey layer beneath taller fruit trees, or are growing in a small space, you can’t go wrong with bushes and shrubs. Many of them are also well suited to grow in containers, so they’re ideal for patio gardens.
6 & 7. Blueberries and Raspberries
Both blueberries and raspberries can be harvested from June to September, if you plant several varieties that fruit at different times. Blueberries and raspberries both freeze well, and can be made into jams and jellies to eat all winter long. Blueberries can also be easily grown in containers.
Currants all have attractive flowers and foliage. They come in several varieties, including red, black, pink, and white. They are shade tolerant and deer resistant, and can be easily grown in containers. Red currants are ready to harvest in late May to early June and blackcurrants, a few weeks later. Both can be harvested for about a month.
Here’s a tip: most animals (including birds) generally don’t register white berries as ripe, so they’re less likely to steal them from your bushes!
9. Ground Cherries
Ground Cherries are very prolific and easily reseed themselves every year. They are beautiful to look at, since they grow in golden husks (they are part of the tomatillo family) and they have a taste reminiscent of pineapples. They can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months.
10. Ever-bearing Strawberries
Everyone knows that strawberries are one of springtime’s first crops to arrive. Sadly, as soon as you start really getting into eating them, they’re gone. Fortunately, there’s a solution: ever-bearing strawberry varieties that produce three separate crops, in spring, summer and fall.
These are best suited to mild climates. If you live in a hotter region, you should stick to the June-bearing varieties. The nice thing about strawberries is that they grow well, and look beautiful in hanging baskets.
Rhubarb isn’t technically a fruit, but we typically use it with other fruits, like in strawberry rhubarb pie. There’s also the benefit that it’s one of the first harvestable plants in early spring. Strawberries and rhubarb overlap in terms of their harvest time, which is likely another reason why they’re prepared together so often.
This plant is a great option if you live in a colder climate, or have depleted soil.
These plants are ideal for using up space that would otherwise go to waste.
Lingonberries are a close relative of cranberries and blueberries. They’re deliciously tart, and pop with flavor as you bite into them. They are used most often in Scandinavian cuisine as sauces and preserves, and one of the essential accompaniments to Swedish meatballs. These berries have two harvests a year, with the first crop in July and the second in October.
Plant several of them 14-18 inches apart, and these shade-tolerant plants will fill in after just a few years. You’ll soon have a low ground cover of delicious fruit.
Melons like to sprawl and climb and can either be grown vertically, supported by a trellis, or allowed to sprawl on the ground. Try these cute mini varieties, so they don’t take over your garden.
Vines are great to add to any fruit garden, because they can be trellised or trained to cover an eye-catching edible arbor. Just make sure you have room for them, because the plants can get pretty big. They also need dedicated care and pruning.
One healthy grapevine can produce about 20 pounds of fruit each year. You can eat the fruit and use the leaves to make dolma. Grow them to eat fresh, to make jams, jellies, and juices, and wine! Check to see which grapes grow best in your climate by visiting your local garden center.
15 & 16. Passionfruit & Kiwi
If you live in an area that has mild winters and late frost, you can grow passionfruit and kiwi plants in your garden. Both need a lot of space for their vines to grow, and are well suited to arbors.
Passionfruit only grows in subtropical zones. “Nellie Kelly” and “Panama Gold Select” varieties are self-fertile. This guide shows you all the steps to growing your own passion fruit vines.
Kiwis do not self-fertilize, so you need a male and a female plant to ensure that you get fruit.
The key to healthy blackberry plants is pruning and training the canes. Every year new canes sprout from the older root stock, so it is important to train them for easy harvest. You can train all the new canes on one side of the supports, say the left, and have the old canes trained on the right side. If space is tighter, you can train the new canes vertically, in the middle of the old canes which are arranged like a fan on either side.
Try “Loch Ness” a thornless variety that is also resistant to blackberry rosette disease (double blossom).
Also known as “honeyberry”, this member of the honeysuckle family produces absolutely delicious fruits. Native to mountainous boreal forests in Europe and Asia, it’s ideal for cold climates. Haskap (Lonicera caerule) has been treasured in Japan for centuries, especially by the indigenous Ainu people. They refer to it as the “berry of long life”. They’ll grow 4-6 feet tall, and need to be cross-pollinated.
How to Preserve Fruit
If you learn some simple preservation methods for your fruit, you truly can eat your homegrown fruit all year long, and learn how to make some delicious recipes from them!
There are 4 main ways to preserve fruit: canning, freezing, drying and fermenting. Here’s a great primer on how to can fruit from Simply Canning. Jamie Oliver shows us how to eliminate food waste by learning how to freeze fruit, and then provides some delicious recipes for using the frozen fruit.
You can dry fruit in several ways. Dehydrating produces the most uniform and easy-to-replicate results, while oven and sun-drying are a little less reliable. They take some trial and error, but don’t require any special equipment.
There are 3 different ways to ferment fruits: with lactic acid, alcohol, and vinegar. Learn about the different ways in this easy-to-follow guide from Cultures for Health.
A Fruit Garden is Worth Cultivating
The best thing about a fruit garden is that most of the plants are perennial, which means that they’ll continue to grow and produce fruit for you for years to come. Just keep in mind that the plants require an investment of time and care, as well as money. If you can be patient through the first year or two, and learn some simple preservation skills, you can easily eat from your own fruit garden all year long!