One of the best ways to form an edible garden is to begin with some plans that include fruit bearing trees. No matter what climate you live in, you will find that you can grow garden fruit trees of one sort or another. Grafting fruit trees of one sort onto the rootstock of another allows gardeners to grow trees perfectly suited to the conditions where they live. Small and large gardens will all be enhanced with the addition of fruit plants and fruit trees – it is just about choosing the right varieties.
The apple is a common option for gardeners in a range of cooler, temperate climates. Apple trees require fertile soil that is moist, neither waterlogged nor free draining. The topsoil should ideally be at least two feet deep. Dwarf varieties can be grown and the potential for training against a wall means that they can suit even small spaces. Dessert apples need full sun, ideally, while cooking apples can cope with less sun. Plant apple trees in the dormant season, mulch and water well. Apple trees (depending on variety) fruit within a few years.
Plum trees are also a good option for cooler temperate climates. These trees can fruit abundantly in fertile soil when well mulched and watered, though should never be allowed to become waterlogged. Some varieties can be grown in containers, while others will grow much larger. You must check whether the plum you buy is self-fertile as sometimes you will need more than one plum tree to get fruits.
Another member of the plum family, with similar needs is the damson. This is one of the best garden fruit trees for those who like to make jams, jellies and other preserves. Damsons are usually self-fertile though may fruit better with a companion. One established, these adaptable trees usually require little care.
Cherry trees are another option that come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They can be grown as free standing trees or trained against a wall. Sweet cherries sometimes need a companion for fertilization and require full sun, while bitter cherries are usually self-fertile and can tolerate some shade. Cherry trees are prized for their blossoms as well as their fruits.
Pear trees can be great trees to plant. Pear trees will do well in sheltered and sunny spots that are not prone to frost and do well as individual specimen trees or as part of a forest garden. Depending on the variety, the tree you plant as a sapling in the dormant season will fruit within a few years and can continue to fruit reliably, in the right conditions, for many years.
Elders are unfussy fruit bearing trees that will often colonise woodland edges and are found in the wild as well as in gardens. This extremely fast growing fruit tree provides both flowers and berries for jellies, cordials and fruit wines. They can do well in a range of conditions, from full sun and excellent loamy soil through to a free-draining chalky soil and a degree of shade.
Peach trees will need protection from frost in cooler climes but will do well in a sunny, sheltered spot and can be grown in containers which would allow them to be brought inside in the winter. Containers should be at least 45cm wide and you should make sure you have a dwarf variety. In slightly warmer climates, peaches do well trained against a wall. Hand pollination may be necessary for fruit to form.
Apricots do best in soil which is moisture retentive, well-drained and slightly alkaline. They will struggle in colder areas and in shallow, infertile soils. In the right conditions, however, they can be grown in the ground or in containers, which, as with peaches, can allow them to be grown where the season in shorter and temperatures lower. Again, hand pollination may be necessary for successful fruit formation.
Fig trees also need warmth and plenty of sunlight. In colder climes, some fig varieties can be grown in containers to be brought inside in the colder months if you do not have a frost-free and warm, sheltered spot in your garden.
This citrus fruit is mostly grown in warmer climes, though it can be grown in a heated greenhouse or indoors in cooler climates. If you have a warm climate, an orange tree can be an exciting addition to your fruit garden or orchard. Watering and fertilisation will depend on the exact conditions where you live, as will when the trees will fruit.
Like oranges, lemons grow in full sun in a warmer climate. You will need to bring them indoors to have success in colder regions. However, many varieties are well suited to growing in containers and dwarf varieties are good for smaller spaces.
Pomegranate trees can survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees Celsius and are beautiful trees for a warm climate garden, with large, red flowers in the spring. When to plant fruit trees depends on where you live but pomegranates are best planted when the soil has warmed up in the spring.