Growing Fruit in Temperate Climates

Meyer lemon

More and more people are growing their own food these days, and some of us are understandably getting a bit serious about it. Planting fruit trees or hedgerows of berries is taking it to the next level, in my opinion. That's not to say that growing seasonal veggies like greens, squash, tomatoes, etc. isn't a big commitment, because it totally is, but when you plant food-producing trees and bushes, they start to take up significant space. Once they're planted there is less overall labor involved, as compared to a vegetable garden, but most of us simply don't have the space sitting around waiting to be turned into an orchard. So were starting to talk real commitment and dedication. What part of your existing garden are you going to rip out??

If you don't have the space even if you do clear out existing plants, another way is to grow them in containers. The minimum size I'd use would be a 15 gallon black plastic nursery pot. The black plastic helps retain moisture and warmth in the soil, so they're actually not a bad choice. If you can manage it, bigger is better, and nutrient rich soil and regular, sufficient watering are keys to success.

If you've got to the point where you're ready to make space, you really want to make sure that you plant the right varieties so they'll actually produce fruit in more temperate climates - particularly maritime-influenced temperate climates. What is a temperate climate, you say?

"Temperate climates are those without extremes of temperature and precipitation (rain and snow). The changes between summer and winter are generally invigorating without being frustratingly extreme."

First find out if the variety you want is self-pollinating (1 plant will do) or if it needs cross-pollination (you'll need at least 2 different varieties). Also, many types and varieties of fruit need a certain minimum number of chill hours (temp. between 32 & 45 deg.) in the winter, and a sustained period of warm weather in the summer that we just don't get in our neck of the woods. You can find out these requirements from either the tag at the nursery or from the catalog you're ordering from. Here's an important bit of info that will be helpful: coastal temperate zones get an average of 500 or less chill hours, so it's usually safe to plant something that requires 400 hours or less and is early ripening. (again, catalog or tag will indicate)

Here's a list of what you can grow, might be able to grow and probably can't grow:


- low chill apples & pears

- most plum varieties

- strawberries

- most blackberry varieties

- figs

- Meyer lemons


- low chill blueberries & raspberries

- low chill nectarines

- kiwifruit

- avocado


- peaches

- pomegranites

- cherries

It's time to start shopping and planting now, if you're going to plant bare root, or in a month or two at the nurseries, so better get busy!

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