Growing fruit can sometimes be more complicated than other plants due to issues like pests and disease. Learn about common challenges and discover fruit gardening tips to grow a healthy, thriving harvest.
How to Overcome the Challenges of Fruit Gardening
Every type of plant and garden comes with its own set of challenges, but fruit gardens are particularly susceptible to several issues that can get in the way of a successful harvest.
Not Bearing Fruit
Many fruit trees won't bear fruit for the first few years. However, if your tree is mature and not producing fruit, another issue could be at play.
You can take a few steps to try to boost your tree's production. First, make sure your garden is set up for successful pollination. Determine if your plant self-pollinates or if it requires cross-pollination to produce fruit. If cross-pollination is needed, you'll want to plant additional trees of a different variety. Even self-pollinators still require bees and other pollinating insects, so plant flowers that will attract pollinators close by.
Another issue that can impact fruit growth is competition for nutrients and water. Maintain the soil around the tree's base, regularly removing any weeds. It's also essential to dig up suckers, which grow up from the root line and can pull nutrients away from the plant.
Like anything you grow in your garden, plants, trees and bushes growing fruit are susceptible to pests. Smaller pests like winter moth caterpillars, apple sawflies and raspberry beetles commonly attack and damage fruit-bearing plants, like cherry and apple trees, raspberry bushes and blackberry vines. You also need to look out for larger garden pests, like birds and squirrels, removing or damaging the fruit.
Managing pests will depend on the type you're dealing with. Both commercial and natural pesticides can help eliminate pests, like caterpillars and sawfly larvae. Also, be sure to remove any infested leaves or fruit to prevent spreading to the entire plant. Bird netting can be effective at deterring large pests.
Fungus and Disease
Several bacterial and fungal diseases can impact fruit plants. Common diseases include brown rot, which typically affects stonecrop fruit, like peaches, as well as apples and pears. The fungus appears as brown rotting spots on fruits and leaves. Peach scab is a common fruit fungus that affects peaches, nectarines and apricots. Bacterial canker is another disease that commonly affects fruit trees, causing holes in fruit and leaves.
Treat any fungal or bacterial disease as soon as possible to prevent its spread and spare the plant. Using a natural fungicide spray and pruning to remove affected areas and improve airflow can help treat fungus and bacteria.
Cleaning your garden tools is essential when dealing with plant diseases. Always clean and sterilize cutting shears after removing affected parts to avoid spreading the same diseases to other areas or other plants.
Fruit trees require well-draining soil to prevent rotted roots. Poor drainage is usually caused by planting in heavy, clay soil.
Before you plant a new fruit tree or bush, check the soil in the area you plan to use. If your soil is mostly clay, dig up the planting area and mix in organic matter or compost to amend it. You can also try contouring the land or creating a natural slope so that water can drain away more easily.
Many fruit trees tend to flower early in the spring, which means there's still a danger of encountering a late frost, depending on where you live. Freezing temperatures could kill off those early blooms before they even have a chance at pollination.
All is not lost if you do experience a late frost. You can protect your fruit trees when you know freezing temperatures are coming by wrapping the entire trunk of the tree up to the lowest branches with an insulating blanket or other material, like cardboard. If the tree suffers any damage from the frost, prune off the affected branches and twigs.
Fruit Gardening Tips to Get Started
Don't let common challenges deter you from growing fruit. If you follow these simple fruit gardening tips when you get started, you can avoid many of these problems.
Understand Your Garden Growing Zone
Before you plant anything, it's vital to understand your climate and frost dates. Determine your garden growing zone and ensure the plants you select can thrive in your region.
Make a Planting Plan
Make sure you have a plan for your garden and what you intend to grow around it. Ensure that there isn't any competition from other large trees but that there are plenty of pollinator-attracting flowers.
Check Your Soil
Before planting, take a soil sample to the County Extension Service and make any necessary amendments, including compost and fertilizers, to ensure your plant will receive nutrients and have proper drainage.
It might take some extra work, but growing fruit is extremely rewarding with some planning and care.
Ready to grow? Browse Burpee's selection of fruit plants and seeds for your garden.