Thinking of planting fruit trees or berry bushes? Your chances of success have a lot to do with which fruits you choose to grow. Many garden centers in our area currently have fruit and berry plants for sale. Before you rush in to buy, take the time to plan ahead to ensure the money you spend is not wasted.
WHAT YOU CAN GROW
Many types of fruits and berries can be realistically grown in home landscapes in southeastern North Carolina. In order from easiest to most challenging, these include: blackberries, figs, rabbiteye blueberries, Asian persimmon, muscadine grapes, hardy kiwifruit, strawberries, pears, plums, apples, peaches and nectarines. If you are looking for plants that will serve two purposes, try loquat, pineapple guava, or pomegranate, all of which are commonly grown as ornamentals but will occasionally produce fruit as well.
Other fruits are less realistic. Cherries, bunch grapes, raspberries, and apricots are nearly impossible to keep alive for more than a few years because of our hot summers and erratic springs. Citrus trees are not hardy enough to survive the winter outside but can be grown in large containers and brought indoors during winter months. Bananas will grow in our area as an ornamental plant, but our growing season is too short to allow fruit production.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SPACE
Most fruit trees and berry plants do not take up a tremendous amount of space, but they do need to be planted in the right conditions. All fruits must be grown in well drained soil, and will quickly die if planted in areas where water ponds for any length of time. Sun is also essential. Most fruit plants need at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day, though more is better. In addition, all fruits except blueberries need to grow in soil that is not too acidic – for most a pH around 6.5 is ideal. If your pH is too low, you will need to work lime into the soil before planting. Have your pH tested before planting by bringing soil samples to your local Extension office.
Some fruits and berries require cross pollination, meaning you will have to plant more than one variety to get fruit. Fruits this applies to include rabbiteye blueberries, pears, plums, apples, and some muscadine varieties. For kiwifruit, you must plant both a male and female plant. Peaches, Asian persimmon, figs, and blackberries can produce fruit even if only one plant is grown. Before buying fruit plants, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office to find out which varieties are recommended for your area.
WHAT YOU CAN GROW ORGANICALLY
Before purchasing fruits and berries, first consider how much time you are willing to spend caring for them, if you know how to prune them, and if you are willing to spray pesticides. Correct training and pruning is essential for long term success with fruits. Different types of fruits have different pruning needs, but most need to be pruned at least once a year. Fruit trees generally require more specialized pruning than berry plants.
Most fruit trees also require at least a few applications of pesticides each season to get a reliable harvest. Both organic and synthetic products are available for fruit tree pest control, but either way you have to be willing and able to correctly apply the right product at the right time. In our area, fruits that can most realistically be produced organically and with less maintenance are rabbiteye blueberries, figs, blackberries, Asian persimmon, pears, hardy kiwifruit, and muscadine grapes.
Learn more about growing fruits from these past Pender Gardener articles:
- Figs: //pender.ces.ncsu.edu/2012/07/figs-the-forgotten-fruit/
- Blueberries: //pender.ces.ncsu.edu/2012/06/blueberries-the-perfect-pick/
Home Garden Fruit Resource Page – includes links to publications on individual fruits, pruning, and pest control: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fruit-2/
Use Extension Search to find research based information from Cooperative Extension systems across the U.S.
Visit your local Cooperative Extension office to learn more about gardening and landscape care. Go to https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/local-county-center/ to find your county Extension center or post your questions to be answered online via Extension’s ‘Ask an Expert’ widget.
Contact your local Cooperative Extension office to get expert advice from an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer:
- If you live in Pender County, call 910-259-1235
- In New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660
- In Brunswick County, call 910-253-2610
- In Onslow County, call 910-455-5873
- In Duplin County, call 910-296-2143
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