New isn’t always better, especially when it comes to choosing reliably productive perennial fruits for our yards and gardens, but “the new” certainly is appealing. Here in North Georgia, we are able to grow many kinds of fruits, and some of those need very little care, but the list can feel limiting to the more adventuresome gardener.
Little-care, reliable fruits
Our little-care list of reliably productive fruits includes blackberries of many varieties, Heritage red raspberries (and Dormanred; read more about raspberries in my raspberries article), Rabbiteye-type blueberries, mulberries, June berries (aka: service berries), muscadine & scuppernong grapes, some varieties of plums (Methley is an old-reliable, and Auburn has developed several good varieties for the South), some pears (the old “sand pears” and a few others are quite hardy), persimmons (both American and Asian), the tart cherries like Northstar (sweet cherries don’t do as well here), strawberries, and probably a few more (pawpaws, for example, would make the list if I knew of any that were very productive).
Prior to 2014, I would have added figs (brown turkey, Celeste) to the little-care list, but many fig trees in our area have been hammered by two very cold winters, then attacked by borers, and we will not be harvesting an abundance of figs any time soon. However, even without figs, there’s a lot to choose from!
This list, as long as it is, still does not satisfy some gardeners, and I have to say that I am among the many who have tried growing other fruits in their yards, with varying degrees of success.
The Concord grape vine that I planted a decade or more ago produces pretty well some years, but not every year. The “hardy kiwi” planted 6-7 years ago, and that is supposed to be self-fertile, produces 3 to 5 kiwis each year. I planted lingonberries one year, since they are supposed to be okay down to zone 7 and prefer acid soils (which we have), but they died in less than a year.
My Jewel black raspberry plants produce some fruit, and I love them, but they are less productive than the blackberries. Wineberries also taste great and are very productive, but they tend to be invasive; keeping them out of the lawn and other planting beds requires some work (important to know).
My Jostaberries (which are supposed to be good to zone 7) provide only a few berries each year, even though the plants are several years old and pretty large.
Less commonly grown fruits
One of my friends is having good success with jujubes. In addition, know people who love their Meyer lemons and other citrus and assorted tropical fruits, but those need protection from our winter cold. I count that protection as enough work to keep them off the little-care list.
I don’t know anyone locally who is getting much fruit from their pomegranates, and the one guy I know who is trying goji berries (he bought plants grown from 5-year-old roots, to speed fruit production) is not having much success with those, even though he checked his soil pH and nutrient levels and matched them to the plant requirements listed on several websites. Just to find out what he might expect from his plants, we checked with someone a little further north who is growing goji berries as part of a permaculture project, and she reported a harvest of “a few berries at a time” from her plants that have been in the ground for three years.
How to find fruit to grow in your yard?
The basic point of this list-plus-commentary is that, for anyone looking for a new fruit (or any other plant!) to grow, checking around with other gardeners to find out whether anyone locally has had a good experience in terms of plant care and productivity might help keep harvest-expectations on a realistic level. Checking around might also turn up an unexpected treasure (like jujubes!)!