We began eating ripe fruit from the yard a few weeks ago, and the future of fruit in the yard looks promising. Several kinds of fruiting plants are in flower, and others are loaded with unripe fruits that will be ready to eat soon. The sequence of ripening fruit in my Southern yard begins with strawberries.
Strawberries ripen first in my Southern yard
We grow a June-bearing type of strawberry, called ‘Chandler’, instead of an ever-bearing type. Even though the “June” part seems wrong (most of them ripen in May in our yard), this type of strawberry produces all its berries within 5-6 weeks in spring. Ever-bearing types produce berries all summer long.
In general, strawberries are a low-maintenance home-garden fruit for the South.
With our June-bearing ‘Chandler’, we can harvest and eat-or-preserve the whole crop in a short time-frame. After harvesting the last ripe berries, I can take the bird-netting off the strawberry patch, renovate the bed (see UGA’s Home Garden Strawberries for guidance), and then leave the patch mostly on its own for the rest of the summer.
This feels like a win-win to me. We harvest in early spring when other fruits are not yet ready, and we do most of the work in one big burst after the fruiting is done for the season.
Mulberries are second in our sequence of ripening fruit
A great feature of our mulberry tree is that the birds planted it for us. We didn’t have to dig a hole in the hard red clay or worry about keeping a new tree watered in the first couple of years after planting! If the birds don’t plant mulberry trees in your yard, to come up wild like ours, you can also buy trees to plant. Then, of course, you have to dig the hole and remember to provide water.
Even better than a “volunteer” fruit tree is one that needs zero maintenance, as long as it stays in-bounds. Our first little tree came up too close to a pathway, and we prune it every year to keep it out of the way. Otherwise, there is no work involved in keeping this tree.
Eventually, another mulberry tree came up in a much better spot, several feet away. These both bear fruit now, but it took a few years for them to be mature enough. The location is fairly shaded; if the trees had more sunlight they would produce more fruit, but what we get makes me happy.
Not everyone loves mulberries, I know. Dealing with the stems can be tricky. Also, birds can make a huge mess after eating the fruits.
Mulberries, though, are a fruit from my childhood. When I harvest and eat mulberries, I am a kid again. Also, they are very good in pies.
The mulberries here are larger than the ones I picked in Oklahoma, but the flavor is just like I remember.
Plums and blueberries are tied for third in the sequence of ripening fruit
Beginning in mid-to-late June, plums and rabbit-eye blueberries (the earliest varieties) begin to ripen. These are the feast days for fruit lovers! The mixed harvest continues until mid-July.
Home gardeners usually do not need to spray their blueberry bushes with any kind of pest control products or disease control products, because the plants are hardy in the upper South. They do need acidic soil, though.
The bushes benefit from some pruning as they age, and some fertilizer to keep the berries coming. Caterpillars attack one of my blueberry bushes each year — just that one bush, not any of the others. Every year when I see the caterpillars in late summer, I prune out the branches they are congregated on to remove from the yard. That is not a hard chore, just a weird one.
Clemson University’s fact sheet on planting and maintenance of home garden blueberries contains complete information about choosing, planting, and maintaining blueberries in the South.
Our plum tree is still a young tree; this is its second year of fruiting. It is the variety AU Rubrum, developed through Auburn University. Right now, its green fruits are nearly full sized, which makes me think they will begin to ripen soon.
The tree would produce more fruit if it were planted in a location that has more direct sunlight, but our yard, like many in North Georgia, contains some very tall trees. So do our neighbors’ yards. In the hot summertime, the shade from all those trees helps keep the neighborhood cool. However, when we are looking for places to plant sun-loving crops, the shade can be a problem.
Blackberries and raspberries are also tied for third place in the sequence
Our sequence of ripening fruits includes ‘Heritage’ red raspberry canes, planted in the shadier backyard, that tolerate more shade than most fruits. We planted blackberries in a sunny part of the side-yard. Cultivated blackberries do not tolerate shade very well. A few canes of black raspberry are near the blackberries. We also have some wineberries, an invasive species of berry, in the side yard. These can take some shade, so they are behind the blackberries, where the sunlight is more limited. All of these bramble-fruits are delicious!
More fruits will come ripe as the season rolls along, with grapes, paw paws, and persimmons. These are all good. In addition, because we can’t plant as much fruit as we would prefer, we usually supplement what grows in the yard with fruit from our local parks. We rarely see anyone else picking the wild blackberries, muscadines, and persimmons that grow there.
What does your sequence of fruit look like this year?