Sunday, November 21, 2021

Year round fruit from a small space garden

Tigger melon

Sunday, November 21, 2021

I was recently asked if you can get fruit in a small space garden.  You can and if you are up for freezing, water bath canning and/or drying, you can have fruit from your garden year round.  I will share just a few options that I employ in our small space garden.  There are an infinite number of other options out there.

For spring,  strawberries and kumquats are ready for eating fresh.  Early cherry trees can bear fruit as early as June.

I have kumquats from a small tree I grow in a pot and early strawberries.  In the Midwest, we do have to bring most citrus indoors each winter to an unheated garage or inside the house.  Both have worked for me.  Kumquats fruit basically year round.  They are not a real sweet fruit.  It is their rind that is sweet and the pulp that is tart.  You eat the entire small fruit.  A great way to get your daily vitamin C!

I am growing 2 more citrus varieties that are hardy to my zone, a lemon and grapefruit tasting types.  They are still small so I am not sure how their fruits will taste and how hardy they will prove to be in the garden.  I have them in pots right now that I will overwinter again indoors.  Next year, I will transplant into the garden.  Since they are citrus, I will plant close to a wall with southern exposure.  This is the warmest spot in the garden.

You can grow many different varieties of strawberries to extend the harvest from late spring through fall.  They are perennials and hardy in the Midwest.  I plant them in between where I will have summer veggies and close to the front of my flower/edible garden bed.  
Strawberries ripening

Summer and fall are prime fruit season.  You have many options for small space gardens.  Strawberries will continue to produce.  Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries will all fruit during the summer.  Like strawberries, different varieties can fruit at different times over the summer.  You can plant early, mid and late fruiting varieties to extend the season.  

Melons are typically ready starting in July and continue through until the first frost.  Try smaller fruits like Tigger Melon if you want something for a couple of people for each fruit.  If you are planting to train the vine up a trellis, look for shorter vine lengths or pinch it off when it reaches the top of your trellis.  You can also let them ramble between taller plants as well.  They do a great job of shading out weeds!

I just planted blackberry bushes this year so mine should start fruiting next year.  There are thorny and thornless varieties.  I am trying both.  I do go pick wild blackberries each summer as well.  

I had planted an everbearing raspberry last year.  It fruited from late spring all the way through fall.  Here in Kentucky, we have a new pest fruit fly that they are encouraging us to plant varieties that fruit early in the season. It is the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzuki.  It is only 1/10" long and has red eyes.  If you have late fruiting plants, harvesting frequently will keep them in check.  I like to take a walk around my garden every day.  It is relaxing and fun to see how things are growing, seeing any issues arising, and, best of all, pick what we are going to eat for dinner!

The berries are easy to freeze.  I just put any I don't eat into a quart freezer bag.  When full, I move to our deep freeze.  Be sure to label with the variety and date.

Berries can also be dried or canned.  Here is a blog on drying veggies.  Same procedure applies to drying fruits.  Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

If you are one that likes to add sugar to your fruits, you can employ water bath canning to preserve the extras, too.  Be sure to follow the recipe exactly.  The pH has to be acidic enough to insure your canned goods stay safe to eat.  If you are concerned about BPA used in canning lids, here is a blog on other options in canning jars  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty  

For me, my go-to method is freezing and drying.  The advantage of both canning and drying is you don't have to use up valuable freezer space if you don't have a deep freeze.

Summer and fall are prime fruit season  Fall fruits include late or everbearing raspberries, kumquats, figs, apples and pears.  

Depending on the variety, pears and apple season is from August to as late as November in our area.  The great thing about apples as there are many varieties that store for months in a cool spot over the winter that will keep you in fruit until spring.  Some apple varieties stored just in the basement can last over a year.  Each apple should be wrapped in newspaper and stored in a cardboard box.  Good storage apples include Arkansas Black, Newton Pippin, and Winesap.  There are many more.  Stark Brothers is a reputable nursery to mail order fruit and nut trees from.  

I am going to plant Arkansas Black because it has very good disease tolerance in our area.  I am going to prune it so it stays small and easy to pick.  How to prune fruit trees for small spaces   You can use this method for any fruit tree.

If you are a big apple lover, you can plant a few different types of trees to be able to eat fresh apples for months.  Also choosing ones that store well can keep you in apples until harvest begins again next summer.

Pears are a little different than most other fruit trees.  They do not ripen until after they are picked.  You tell if they are ready by lifting the fruit sideways and if the stem easily comes off the tree, they are ready to be picked.  I have a neighbor that has a few pear trees.  He is happy to bring me many 5 gallon buckets of fruits.  I wait until they ripen (they will have some give when pressed and a sweet aroma when ripe), slice them in have, cut out the core, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake on a cookie sheet.  I'll then set them in the freezer until frozen and put into gallon freezer bags.  This way you can pull out individual half pears to eat whenever you want.

Baking brings out the sweetness in the pear.  I simply heat up and top with whipped cream for dessert or use frozen with milk in a blender to make a quick cinnamon pear shake.  What can be easier?

You can also slice and dry your pears and apples or can them.  If canning, follow the recipe exactly.  I like drying; they make good snacks as is or are easy to plump back up in water to use in recipes.

The last fruit that ripens in my garden are Chicago figs.  This year, my fig tree begin ripening in October and continue all the way through until a hard freeze.  I dry my extra figs.  It concentrates the sugars and makes a great snack all winter long.  You can also make fig preserves.  Be sure to follow the recipe exactly; pH is critical for safe and tasty results.
Ripe Chicago figs

Pawpaw and persimmon trees are another fall fruit tree.  Pawpaw typically bear starting in August into October while persimmon ripens starting in September and go into October.  They are both native fruit tree and can be found growing in the woods.  Pawpaw have a banana mango taste.  Persimmon have a sweet honey like flavor.  Drying is a good option for preserving the extras.

Fruits eaten in the winter are either those that you have stored, preserved or tropicals you grow indoors.  You can get storage apple varieties that will last a year or more in a cool area of your home.  The dried, canned and frozen fruits you preserved will be at your fingertips until spring arrives and strawberries begin again.

If you want fresh fruits, there are miniature indoor tropical fruits that will bear during the winter months like kumquats, mandarins, grapefruit and oranges.  They do require lots of direct sunlight to fruit indoors or a helping grow light.

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