Want to Save Money and Eat Healthy? Plant Fruit Trees
When our family planted apple trees in our backyard, we quickly found ourselves with a delicious source of healthy, nutritious fruit. Although commercially-grown apples are good for you, they travel long distances before reaching your supermarket and often include chemicals and preservatives designed to make them fresh longer, at the cost of many essential nutrients.
To quote a FitDay article about fruits and nutrition: “During the long distance most produce must travel to get to its final destination, fruits and vegetables are also exposed to lots of heat and light which may diminish or degrade some of the more sensitive vitamins in the produce. While picking fruit and vegetables early ensures a more attractive and “perfect” product, the produce may not be quite as rich in nutrients as it could have been if picked at a later date.”
Or, as our family learned: there’s nothing like biting into an apple that’s freshly-picked from your own backyard.
How to get started with fruit trees
First, determine what type of fruit you want to grow. Your local climate determines which fruit trees grow best in your area. Apples have an advantage over other fruits because they are hardy and include many varieties designed to grow in different climate conditions. There are many organizations offering apple trees for sale, so talk to these growers and find the apple tree that is right for you. Or, look into pears, oranges, or even peaches — the possibilities are endless.
Keep in mind that growing fruit in your backyard actually means planting two trees: nearly all fruit trees require cross-pollination from a second tree before the fruit will blossom. Read this excellent guide from Colorado State University to learn more about cross-pollination, and which pairs of trees make good cross-pollination matches.
Planting a tree from a seedling means it will be years before the tree is adult enough to bear fruit, so many people plant young branched trees instead, in order to get a fruit-bearing tree faster.
Caring for fruit trees
Unlike your garden, you do not need to water or weed a fruit tree — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a little extra care. It is a good idea to fertilize your trees in spring, especially if it appears stunted in growth. You also need to watch out for tree bugs and tree pests such as bagworms. Sometimes you’ll need a chemical treatment to prevent these pests from inhabiting and killing your trees.
You also need to make sure your trees are planted on well-drained soil, in an area that receives full sun. Think of all of those images of apple orchards and orange groves growing in sunny fields: fruit trees create shade, but they do not grow under shade themselves.
Eating the fruit
One of the hardest parts of having a fruit tree is waiting until the fruit is truly ripe! Trust me, after eating a few unripe apples, you’ll start to learn when the fruit is perfect for picking and when it needs to wait a little longer.
If you use fertilizer, or if you have pets who run freely in your backyard, you cannot eat fruit that has fallen to the ground. You run the risk of contracting one of the many stomach bugs that come from eating fruit contaminated with fertilizer or animal waste. When your fruit falls to the ground, add it to the compost heap and give your compost worms a tasty treat. Then, collect the rest of your fruit before it falls so you can enjoy it yourself!