If you would love to grow fruit in your own yard, here's why you should consider growing a miniature fruit garden, what disadvantages you need to be aware of, and how growing fruit is very different from growing vegetables.
Here are 8 big advantages to growing miniature fruit gardens:
- You can grow fruit in areas too small for a single semi-dwarf fruit tree
- Miniature fruit gardens are easier to protect from most pests
- You can produce a very wide variety of fruit in a small area
- Miniature fruit trees start producing earlier – often in just 3 years
- You can extend the harvest season by planting early and late varieties
- Growing a variety of trees in your yard allows for better cross-pollination
- You can work on the plants while standing on the ground – no ladders!
- You won’t be overwhelmed by a huge harvest from a larger tree
The 4 disadvantages you need to be aware of include:
- It is more expensive to buy larger numbers of plants for a mini fruit garden
- You usually need to do more frequent pruning to keep the plants smaller
- A miniature fruit garden requires more irrigation than larger trees
- Miniature fruit gardens often need more protection from deer and rabbits
One of the best videos I’ve found that describes the advantages of planting a miniature fruit garden and discusses the different issues you need to consider is this fantastic 16-minute one from Dave Wilson Nursery in California:
For an article on growing very dwarf fruit trees, see: Backyard Orchard Culture
Growing fruit is very different from vegetable gardens
If you’ve never grown fruit before, you need to be aware of a few issues before you get started:
1. You usually have a larger investment of money and time.
I can plant a 3′ x 16′ raised bed with vegetable seeds for less than $1, and start harvesting crops in 2-6 months. It would cost over $50 (in 2011) to plant two quality fruit trees in the same bed, and usually takes at least 3-4 years to start harvesting any fruit from them.
2. If you make a mistake (such as choosing a wrong variety for your area), you can lose several years worth of effort by the time you discover the error.
I’ve learned the hard way that it is extremely important to do as much research as possible before I buy and plant my fruit garden. I once planted English walnut trees, not realizing that they bloomed as early as peaches – and they would never produce nuts with my frequent late spring frosts. It was years before I realized my mistake! In my vegetable garden, I learn from my mistakes within months, and can start again with a new variety by the next year.
3. You will harvest a lot less fruit per square foot of bed space per year than you can with vegetables.
I can easily harvest 150-200 pounds of vegetables (worth at least $200-$300) in a 50 square foot bed in one year. If I planted four blueberry bushes in that same bed, I would only expect to harvest a total of about 16-24 quarts (about 24-36 lbs, worth at least $48-$72) of berries each year – once the bushes have reached full size after several years. Raspberries can produce far less than that – often only 1.5 quarts per plant, or a total of 7-8 quarts from a 50 square foot bed!
4. There is a much longer learning curve involved.
From planting to harvesting vegetables, it only takes weeks to months. It usually takes several years to start harvesting fruit, and I might only replant trees or bushes every 10-20 years, if that. So I am able to build up experience and learn from my mistakes with vegetables much more quickly than I can with fruit.
Are you still interested in growing fruit in your backyard?
I only started growing fruit a few years ago, so I’m still in a learning curve myself. I’m making my share of mistakes, despite my best effort to learn everything I can ahead of time. But I’m thrilled with the results I’ve had so far, so I urge you to give it a try, too!
Part 1: Eight Reasons Why You Should Grow a Miniature Fruit Garden
Part 2: How To Design Your Own Miniature Fruit Garden
Part 3: How to Select Fruit Varieties That Will Thrive in Your Garden
Part 4: Six Steps to Planting a Successful Fruit Garden
Part 5: Growing Berries and Grapes in Your Mini Fruit Garden
Part 6: Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees in Your Mini Fruit Garden