One of the most enjoyable aspects of gardening is harvesting fresh fruit. They have great flavor and are nutritious. Several types of fruits are relatively easy to grow in the home landscape.
Blueberries are native to Georgia. They produce tiny blue fruits that provide tasty treats during the summer. The plants require full sun and well-drained soils. They need the soil to be acidic at a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. The plants require higher amounts of iron, which is more available in soils with low pH. They are classified as “acid-loving plants” — including azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, cranberries, mountain laurels and many others.
To lower the pH, incorporate sulfur or material containing sulfates such as acid plant-loving fertilizers. In the first growing season, remove the berries to allow the plant to become better established.
Blueberries have three classifications: Northern highbush, Southern Highbush, and rabbiteye. For the home landscape, rabbiteyes perform the best. The other two are for commercial production. The rabbiteye blueberries can be divided into three categories based on the time they bloom and produce fruit: early season, mid-season, and late season. The early season varieties include Austin, Premier, Climax, and the variety Titan, which can grow to the size of a grape.
The mid-season ones include Brightwell, Powderblue and Tiftblue. Among the late-season ones are Baldwin and Centurion. Two varieties are necessary to get cross-pollination for fruit. They both need to come from one of the categories. Do not mix a late-season bloomer with one that is early season, or they will not be in bloom at the same time to pollinate.
Another low-maintenance fruit is blackberries, which along with raspberries, are sometimes called “brambles.” They are self-fertile, meaning they do not require two varieties for cross pollination to set fruit. Many are familiar with the wild blackberries that grow prolifically in natural areas. Their berries are small and somewhat bitter, whereas the hybrid varieties have larger ones that are sweet.
Blackberries can be divided into trailing varieties, such as Chester and erect types that include Natchez and Arapaho. The trailing ones are like vines and require support, whereas the erect ones do not. Also, many of the newer varieties are thornless.
Raspberries prefer cooler climates; however, some varieties do thrive here. Examples include Carolina Gold and Caroline. All varieties are trailing and need support. They need to be used as soon as possible after harvesting since the berries do not hold up in storage long.
Figs are another easy-to-grow fruit. The plants can reach up to 20 feet in height, that much in width, and have large green leaves that are deciduous. They are self-pollinating, meaning the plants do not require two different varieties to set fruit. Their fruits can be up to one to one and one-half inches inch long and have a sweet taste.
One drawback is that they can suffer harm in hard freezes below 20 degrees. Plant them near your home on the south side, where the wall will reflect the heat from the sun. Also, the trees can be covered with a blanket or plastic. Celeste, LSU Purple and Brown Turkey are among the best varieties for our area.
UGA Extension Gwinnett is taking orders for our annual plant sale. They include several types of fruiting plants as well as ornamental ones. For more information and to download a form, go to: https://tinyurl.com/22tx2d79 or contact the Extension office to have one mailed to you.