How to Avoid Newbie Fruit Gardener Mistakes and Save Money
Thanks to Stella from The Backyard Orchardist for this guest post!
When fruit gardeners, especially first-timers, come to me with their problems, I often discover those problems have their roots in a few oversights or basic mistakes when the garden is first planted. What I am about to share, applies to both tree fruit and smaller berries and vines.
Avoiding problems when planting a home orchard is more important, however, since the trees will be a larger investment and not as easy to pull out or replant as a few strawberries or brambles.
Dreaming Too Big
With all the promises of “no maintenance” gardens and enticing descriptions of every fruit variety that ever graced a nursery catalog, we all fall victim to the “I want one of everything” dream for our gardens of Eden. I’m as guilty at the next gardener!
Start small; a few tried and true fruit trees is a more realistic set-up for success. Reining in your big dreams will give you time to learn what grows best in your soil; how much time you realistically have to tend your garden; and whether you really can put all that bountiful harvest to use without being swamped in too much excess apple sauce.
As your experience builds, you can slowly, manageably add to your home orchard. In time, you can try fruits that are more challenging to grow in your conditions. Eventually, you can explore some of the novelty fruits for fun and flavor.
The big 3 in this category are:
- Hurrying to get a garden started before properly preparing the site
- Choosing the wrong plant for your garden conditions
- Choosing varieties that will not mature, given your growing season length
To avoid some of these mistakes, do some homework: read some good gardening books, take a Master Gardner class, or join a local backyard fruit growers’ group. Take time to test your soil for necessary nutrients and soil pH. Augment and adjust as necessary. Rid your planting site of weeds. Check out the USDA climate zone map to determine both the length of your growing season and any cold hardiness or heat unit accumulation information that can guide you in choosing fruit trees that will thrive in your location. A peck of patience and planning now will pay off in bushels of success and satisfaction in the future.
Improper Care in the Months After Planting
As we live today’s busy active lifestyle, the idea of a no maintenance garden carries a lot of appeal. I’m here to be honest with you—there is no such thing. And, after all, isn’t part of the reason we garden because we actually enjoy doing so? On the up-side, it’s my experience that tending to the important aspects of a fruit garden in a timely manner, saves time and effort over the season. Getting fruit trees and bushes off to a strong start is one of the great keys to success.
Often I see plants that suffer from:
- Under or over-watering
- Lack of early training & pruning
- Failure to keep the area around your fruit tree or bush weed-free
- Failure to remove blossoms in order to allow the young tree to gain strength first
When these needs are properly addressed, the newly planted fruit tree can direct all it’s energy to growing a strong, deep-reaching root system and developing a healthy branch structure that can support a bumper crop. I’ve devoted chapters in the Backyard Orchardist to guide you through the early care of your home orchard. Make sure you pay attention to these early care details and you should be ready to get that Garden of Eden growing amd producing prolifically!
Post provided by Stella Otto and adapted from The Backyard Orchardist: A complete guide to growing fruit trees in the home garden, 2nded. 2016.