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What 3 or 4 fruit trees should I begin with?

 
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Hello fellow growers!
I'm a beginner food Forester! Just received my first two loads of wood chips! But all the choices for fruit trees are overwhelming! I want all of them but my yard is only 8,000 square feet. Would you be so kind as to share what you veteran gardeners would recommend if I had to limit the amount to three or four? And why? How easy are they to grow? What other uses do they have?

FYI, I live in Central Virginia, zone 7. But I am curious about other zones.
 
Posts: 17
Location: Zone 7
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(Disclaimer: Not a veteran grower, just an enthusiastic beginner.)

Since you are in Central Virginia, my recommendation is to choose from among trees suited to the area: voila!  

http://ediblelandscaping.com/products/trees/

This location is probably an easy drive for you if you are near C-ville.  If you volunteer there on certain days, you can get experience AND store credit AND networking with like minded and located individuals.

Personally, I enjoy fig trees because they are really easy to propagate, and "obtaining a yield" and "returning/sharing the surplus" are important principles/ethic to me.  That's also why I enjoy thornless blackberries, too...they can be tip/serpentine layered easily.  Figs also have a specific religious symbolism to me:

https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/vine-and-fig-tree/

If you are considering adding a chicken system down the line, and there are no vehicles/pathes to worry about, I would consider the humble mulberry tree.

Otherwise, I think there will be good future markets for PawPaws, (need two trees) and there is something to be said for growing something you can't easily purchase from current local markets.
 
Nate Hornbrook
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George Yacus wrote:

If you are considering adding a chicken system down the line, and there are no vehicles/pathes to worry about, I would consider the humble mulberry tree.



Thank you for the fantastic tips George! But what do mulberry trees have to do with chickens? (I'm getting chickens this weekend!)
 
George Yacus
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Location: Zone 7
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Well then, aren't you in for a treat!  

It's the quintessential permaculture tactic of making the output of one system the input of another for efficiency and mutualism of the elements.  

In this hypothetical case, you could take the high protein summer fruit drop of the mulberry (one element), and arrange it over the chicken run.  The tree provides fruit (and bugs seeking the fruit) as a feed, plus sun and wind block to protect the chickens below (another element), and the tree receives manured wood chips as fertilizer, plus pest control from your chickens.  Win-win.

Your feed/fertilizer and associated work costs are reduced...win-win-win.  This is pretty much the key concept behind permaculture design...

"Permaculture design is a system of assembling...components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms". (Mollison's Permaculture, Designers' Manual, page 36)

I see this is one of your first posts...enjoy all the ideas you'll discover around here!  
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Mulberries are chicken candy. They will eat the dropped fruit as well as pruned leaves, which are a good source of protein.

Mulberries can also flower for up to three months, which means they're bearing for up to three months; that's a lot of supplemental chicken feed.

Also, migratory birds, the ones you don't want on other fruit trees, prefer mulberries, apparently. So mulberry trees can be something of a sacrificial crop to save your larger-fruited, soft-skinned other fruit from damage. Oh, and should you be lucky enough to get avian visitors that like a little meat with their fruit, they'll happily take care of pest insects in some cases (they might also go after your bees but that's why you get lots).

I am going to suggest that you take a look at the other types of tree included in your food forest. You probably want to plan that out first, as the non-food producing trees in your food forest are the ones that will be doing the work of creating leaf litter, fixing nitrogen (either actively, through the hosting of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in nodules in the root zone, or by growing nitrogen-rich leaves, whose litter transfers that wealth to the soil), hosting beneficial soil fungi and bacteria, and accumulating and distributing nutrients and minerals.

So to be clear, you I think you should begin with no fruit trees. I think you should look at the supportive infrastructural levels of your food forest-to-be and plan out where that stuff is going to go.

I would also keep in mind the fact that different trees have different needs with respect to sun and shade. Mulberry and hazel, for instance, are understory trees, and so can be placed such that they get a lot of shade, and it will not adversely affect them.

But once you've dealt with the mundane planning aspects (which I don't consider mundane, but anyways), I would consider what fruit I like to eat, or to process into jams and stuff, and see what comes from that. Don't plant persimmons unless you have someone who wants to pay you for them, or unless you love them yourself.

Let us know how you decide to proceed, Nate, and good luck.

-CK
 
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you might start with soil test for ph at least, is soil acid or alkaline or just right,  and npp test is good to to know if you might want to amend soil, local extension agent will test your soil for free
apple, pear, cherries, peaches, plum, they will all grow in your climate
 
Posts: 61
Location: Appalachian Foothills-Zone 7
9
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Mulberries (away from things you wouldnt want stained purple), Pears, figs (near a south facing masonry wall or driveway, if possible), Jujube, and while not a tree, but a fairly large bush, blueberries.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2438
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Assuming that your 8,000sqft plot of land is 80ft by 100ft. If you plant trees every 10ft you can fit 36 trees. Thats quite alot.

I would start off with
1) vines: grapes(Mascadine, European/reg, concord/northern), kiwi (artic, fuzzy/regular, hardy), akebia, shizandra and maypop/passion fruit.
2) berries: blackberry, raspberry, currant, gooseberry, jostaberry, blueberry, aronia, honeyberry, goumi, seaberry
3) pawpaw, quince, asian persimmon, asian pear, jujube, figs, dwarf mulberry, pomegranate, medlar, shipova pear
4) bush cherry, sand cherry, beach plum, apricots, plums
5) the last thing I would plant is regular apples/pear, peaches/popular cultivars of stone fruits they require too high-maintenance. Unless I was planting from seedling and let 80% die/cull and only keep the best 20%.

 
Posts: 561
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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Apple
Lemon
Fig
Plum
Peach

With a bit of trial, and perhaps error, you can graft multiple types of fruit to each tree, or, early/late varieties so you can have fruit for most of the growing season.
 
gardener
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Apricots are pretty much fool proof.  And tasty.  They live a long, long time and are tough trees.

How many chill hours do you normally get?  A great low-chill apple variety is "Anna" -- a lovely early season apple that bears in the second year.  

 
pollinator
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I also say black mulberry.

They make wonderful shade trees, are really tough, and don’t require lots of watering or care. Their roots are invasive and shallow though so beware of putting them near pipes or building foundations. Same goes for figs, but your climate’s too cold for figs.

I’d say also just focus on what thrives in your local area. Don’t try do something too challenging or exciting by trying to grow what really needs a warmer climate to thrive, or varieties that tend to have more problems with diseases and pests (eg. nectarines suffer peach curl disease more than peaches do; sweet cherry trees suffer root rot more than sour cherry trees. Plums on the other hand don’t seem to suffer anything. These are all stone fruit trees for the family roasaceae, yet one will do well where the others struggle). Also be sure to find out if a tree or plant needs pollinators. Most plums need another pollinator tree, so if you can only plant about 4 trees the. two will have to be plums. Apples and pears are the same. Something like apricot doesn’t. Other trees are self-self fertile, so they’ll produce on their own but will produce better with a companion.
 
bruce Fine
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have soil tested first, plant what you like to eat that will grow well in your soil, local extension office can be a great resource for what will grow well in your area, many extension services will even come to your place and provide free soil test. soil ph, nutrients in soil soil type and drainage are some factors that will have effect on what will or will not grow well where you are
 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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My advice would be to pay attention to what is growing well for your neighbors. Then plant those species/varieties.

 
gardener
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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I would narrow it down to what you will actually eat. If figs are not your thing, don't grow figs. I cannot stress that enough, especially when your growing area is limited.

My biggest blunder when limited by space has been herbs. They take up so much space and you need very little of the product. I think of how much canned tomatos i would have had in that same place. I am not against herbs, i just don't need to dedicate my zone 1 garden that is deer protected when they can be planted further out. That zone 1 space is precious.
 
Tim Kivi
pollinator
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wayne fajkus wrote:My biggest blunder when limited by space has been herbs. They take up so much space and you need very little of the product.



Herbs are probably best planted in very narrow spots where nothing else can grow.

An Iranian can never have enough herbs. Every Iranian meal is ideally accompanied by ‘sabzi khordan’, which is a dozen fresh herbs all mixed together without any dressing and eaten as a salad or as an accompaniment to a meal.

Some unpopular fruit trees are surprisingly very easy to grow and don’t encounter any pests or problems. It’s surprising they’re unpopular! They haven’t been cultivated and refined over and over to the point of becoming weak and fragile as the price for ideal fruit size and flavour. An example of one such fruit that I’ve read of is the medlar tree.
 
pollinator
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As the people before me said -- the main criteria are: things that you like to eat, because space is limited; and things that want to grow so you're just helping them along a little bit, not pushing a boulder up the hill.

Another consideration (but not replacing those two) could be "what can I share with neighbors for their stuff that interests me".
 
pollinator
Posts: 417
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
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If you want to go totally organic and beyond look for the easy fruits. The ones that do not have insect or disease problems.  Go to < convev.org > and read the fruitbook9.  He has a list of hard to easy fruits to grow.  
I started out doing the easy fruits before I found his book and found out on other fruits that he was spot on about hard fruits requiring a lot of special handling.
Easy fruits:
Persimmons
Muscadines
Pawpaws
Rabbiteye Blueberries
Eleagnus
Jujubes
Figs
Pomegranate
Che
Passionfruit
Kiwis
Most Berries
 
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Location: Central Texas
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I agree with those saying to grow something you'll actually eat... especially when you have limited space & producing your own food is a priority. I'm notorious for planting things just because they look interesting, or just to see if I can grow them, but there's several things I just don't have a taste for. Fortunately I have the space (for now) to, at least, try them out.
The stuff I don't care to eat is usually used as poultry and/or pig food, so it's still useful for reducing the feed bill. Another option would be to sell/barter it. I also view it as "insurance," because I can eat it if it ever comes to the point where I don't have anything else to provide nourishment.

So, if you have limited space, definitely choose things that you will eat, or can use as feed for livestock that you can/will eat. If you are planning to expand the forest area later, start with things that take longer to mature/yield, like nuts. It may make you impatient for a yield while they're growing, but getting them started early will allow you to enjoy them longer in life. Plus, around here, nut trees increase property value, which could be good if you know you want to someday move to a new property.
 
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