Fruit baskets are popular and enjoyable holiday gifts. What’s not to like? Colorful and juicy fruits spill forth out of a charming basket. Unfortunately the fruit gets eaten up in a hurry. This year, why not give a more lasting gift: a fruit tree, bush, shrub or plant?
Over my four decades of gardening, I have heard it all when it comes to growing fruit. It’s too difficult, I don’t know how, etc. But the overwhelming excuse for not growing your own fruit is that it takes too long from planting to harvest, three years or more in some cases. That may be true but think back to Christmas 2015. Was that all that long ago? Time goes quickly and before you know it, even the slowest growing fruit plant will be producing.
As for gifting the fruit, you have a myriad of options. For gardening buddies or even family members, buy them their favorite fruit tree or plant if there is sufficient room and proper growing conditions and be sure to help them plant it this spring. For those giftees in apartments some fruits do well in pots placed on their balconies. For friends with decidedly black thumbs, you can give your expertise and grow their favorite fruit for them, promising them a bountiful harvest each and every year. Or give what’s growing with weekly or biweekly deliveries of the freshest fruits on hand. What can you grow in our predominantly zone 4 gardens? Let’s start with the simplest fruits and work up from there.
Berries are perhaps the easiest to grow and extremely popular. Except for blackberries, almost any berry can be grown in zone 4a and warmer. For folks who love making juices, wines and jellies, aronia bushes and elderberries might be a favored choice. If you prefer to be on the cutting edge, try goji, gooseberry, honeyberry or kiwi berry. Try a classic Scandinavian Lingonberry. But don’t forget the classics: cranberries (yes you can grow them at home), strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Perhaps we could even include grapes in this section. Even in zone 3b, there are some berries for you to grow. For a detailed description of all of these fruits, see www.starkbros.com/products/berry-plants. Note that you can enter your zip code or that of the gift recipient and there will be a checkmark by the varieties that should do well in your area.
Think trees. Apple, cherry, plum, pear, and even peaches can all be grown in zone 4a. Although much maligned, mulberries are a popular tree in our yard, beloved by us humans, the birds and the raccoons. For most trees, choose from the newer hybrid trees, the dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties or spring for a classic heirloom type. Note that some trees require a partner for proper pollination. Although there are nurseries nationwide, I prefer to buy fruit from a nursery located in growing zones 4 or 5 where the plants have been cold-tested. Check out www.Jungseed.com.
You can’t really wrap a fruit tree or bush and place it under the Christmas tree so instead opt for a variety of wrappable gifts. A gift certificate, whether official or hand-crafted, is one idea and even better if it is wrapped along with a growing guide to that particular fruit and/or a cookbook featuring the favorite fruit. You can find and print many growing guides from Stark Brothers, www.starkbros.com/growing-guide, or check out The Learning Store, https://learningstore.uwex.edu/Fruit-C78.aspx, for publications that you can order or download and print for free. Include the famous Country Today yearly calendar and mark the planting date within.
Beverly Carney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.