You don't need a full orchard for benefits of fruit plantings
Owners of new homes with underdeveloped plantings have an excellent opportunity to provide the area with edible fruits.
Even well-established home grounds may have space to set out a tree or two or perhaps a fruiting shrub. Not only will the selected plant give welcome fresh fruit, but it can also add materially to the value of the lot in the form of an ornamental planting in the landscape plan.
Fruits for the home grounds may be trees -- large, small, or dwarf -- shrubs, vines, or garden plants. What is chosen as a crop will be a matter of personal taste.
Probably the most common tree fruit is the apple, but pear, cherry, peach, and plum trees should be considered as well. A mixed assortment of fruits will ripen over several months to put fresh foods on the table and offer material for jams and jellies, sauces, pies, and other goodies to last well into the winter.
A fruit tree should be selected with several considerations in mind.
If the yard is large, a full-size tree may be desirable to provide shade for the house or the outdoor living quarters.
Where ground space is limited, however, small or dwarf trees are the answer. There will be an ample supply of fruits, and picking is easy because the branches are conveniently low enough to reach. One or more dwarf trees may be set out as an accent, such as a border along the property line, or, if there is sufficient room, as a miniature orchard at the back of the grounds.
Most apple, pear, and plum trees require a partner for cross-pollination. Those few that are self-pollinating will bear more heavily if a second tree of another variety is close by. Cherry and peach trees are likely to be self-pollinating. Dwarf trees can pollinate those of standard size. Favorite apple varieties are familiar to most gardeners. Early types are those such as Transparents and McIntosh. Jonathan and Delicious are mid-season ripeners, while Baldwin and Red Rome keep well into winter.
Peach and pear trees are desirable, both for their flowering beauty in the spring and their welcome fruits in late summer.
Both dwarf (10 feet) and large (20 feet) trees are popular, according to the space available in the home grounds. Many people enjoy the Elberta peach, but, like the apples, different varieties can be planted to provide a series of fruit to ripen over a period of a few weeks.
Pear trees, too, can be harvested from mid-August (Clapp's Favorite) into September, when the Bartlett and Seckel will be ready on either dwarf or standard-size trees.
Plums are late-summer ripeners and may be chosen for cooking (Damson) or fresh eating (red varieties).
Cherry trees bear either sweet or sour fruits. Bing cherry is a sweet variety that ripens in late June. Montmorency is a tart cherry that is especially good for pies. This variety tends to ripen in early July rather than in June, when the sweet cherries are ready.
Among fruiting shrubs that may be planted in separate beds or as part of a shrub border are the blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry. A blueberry bush is particularly adaptable as an ornamental accent because, in the fall, its foliage turns a spectacular red.
By setting out a group of different varieties, blueberries can be harvested in both July and August. They like an acid soil.
Latham is a popular red raspberry that can be picked in mid-July. Dead wood from raspberry bushes must be pruned out in late winter and the newer canes pruned back to about three feet. If this process is followed, plants of the raspberry should be viable for many years.
For those who prefer blackberries, the variety Thornfree is a good choice for July fruiting.
Two old-fashioned berries that are being seen again in modern gardens are the gooseberry and currant. Both are useful for jellies and may be planted as low hedges at the edge of a garden where their berries will mature in July.
There are few home grounds that have no space for at least a small grape arbor or trellis. Old varieties of grapes are still much favored for eating, and they are delightfully fragrant as they ripen in the September sun. Concord is the ever-popular blue grape that is borne in rather heavy clusters on a well-pruned vine. Niagara is a sweet white grape and, to round out the red, white, and blue theme, Catawba is an excellent variety with reddish fruits.
Everyone seems to like strawberries and, in fact, there is no more satisfactory fruit for the small property. There are several good June-bearing strawberries, among them Fairfax and Guardian.
Ozark Beauty does well in fulfilling its claim as an ''ever-bearing'' fruit. Its heaviest crop comes in June, with intermittent berries appearing during the summer.
With so many advantages from fruit crops, it is small wonder that when trees, shrubs, vines, or surface plants are needed to enhance the landscape value of a home, it is this type of material that people set out.
Spring flowers of fruit trees are showy, and the value of a crop is sufficient to warrant its cultivation. Moreover, the pleasure to be derived from the smaller fruit-bearing plants is well worth an allotment of space for their growth.