Gardening

How to grow fruit year round in your garden

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Want to grow fruit year round in your garden? Here’s how we do it – and how you can too!


We live in Agricultural Zone 7b on the outskirts of Greenville, SC. Our climate has cool/mild winters (temps dip into the low teens) and hot, humid summers (sustained temps over 90°F). We also have an incredible quantity and diversity of pest insects.

Yes, we live in a hot, humid climate chock full of pest insects and plant diseases, but we can also grow an incredible diversity of fruit year round here. Pictured: a summer harvest of blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and pink lemonade blueberries.

Yes, we live in a hot, humid climate chock full of pest insects and plant diseases, but we can also grow an incredible diversity of fruit year round here. Pictured: a summer harvest of blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and pink lemonade blueberries.

Farmers we know often refer to our area as a “petri dish” for plant diseases/pathogens. These conditions make it very difficult to organically grow stone fruit crops here (apples, peaches, apricots, etc).

If you live in the northeastern US or west of the Rocky Mountains, it’s far easier to grow stone fruit crops using organic growing methods since the disease and pest insect pressure in those areas is significantly reduced.

So, to some degree, where you live will dictate what types of fruit you can and should grow. (Mangos won’t grow well in Maine.)

“Push the ball down the mountain” – e.g. grow low-maintenance fruit

Chris Miller, one of my farming buddies, recounted a funny story with an old farmer he knew. Some young whipper-snapper (probably a 50 year old) was complaining about how hard it was to grow a certain crop in our area. 

“I have to spray these insecticides now, then these herbicides in two weeks, then these fungicides… It’s so much work and money!” The old farmer looked at him, shook his head, and replied: “I always found it easier to push the snowball down the mountain rather than up it.” 

That pretty well sums up our attitude when it comes to growing our own fruit: be lazy. For us, that means we only grow fruit that’s easy to grow here and produces abundantly.

Select fruit varieties that require minimal input and provide maximum output

Sure, we’ll make sure our fruit-producing plants have:

  1. healthy living soil to boost nutrition and plants’ immune system, while reducing plant stress;
  2. adequate water to reduce plant stress and maintain optimal growth rates, and
  3. a diverse plant ecosystem to live in which reduces pest and disease pressure.

However, if a plant needs much more than that, we either won’t grow it or we’ll replace it with something easier and more productive. Likewise, we highly recommend you grow fruit plants in your garden that thrive in your climate zone when grown organically.

That makes much more sense to us than repeatedly applying endocrine-disrupting neurotoxic synthetic pesticides in the place where you, your family, and your pets live. 

An early summer fruit offering for The Tyrant. Back to front: blueberries, ground cherries, tomatoes (technically a fruit, but not included in this article), blackberries, pink lemonade blueberries, dwarf tamarillos, and wonderberries.

An early summer fruit offering for The Tyrant. Back to front: blueberries, ground cherries, tomatoes (technically a fruit, but not included in this article), blackberries, pink lemonade blueberries, dwarf tamarillos, and wonderberries.

This means we buy fruit such as certified organic apples and apricots from a grocery store if we want them, rather than growing them here. Could we use OMRI listed organic pesticides to grow apples and other stone fruit here? Probably so. But we don’t feel like making the effort.   

Where can you find fruit plants ideally suited to your local climate? A local plant nursery and/or local gardening groups (real world or facebook) can be invaluable resources for finding out what grows best or even sourcing plants.  

Fruit varieties we grow in our Zone 7b garden to get year round fruit production

In our ag zone, here are the low-maintenance fruit varieties we grow to get year round fruit production, listed in chronological order from spring – winter

Red strawberries 

When they produce: April – May

We grow a few different varieties of red strawberries, from the small native Fragaria virginiana (whose flavor will knock your socks off) to the standard large red hybrids, including ever-bearing varieties which produce another small round of fruit in the fall. 

Don't let their small size fool you. These native Fragaria virginiana strawberries pack an incredible amount of flavor and are much better than the large grocery store varieties we're all accustomed to.

Don’t let their small size fool you. These native Fragaria virginiana strawberries pack an incredible amount of flavor and are much better than the large grocery store varieties we’re all accustomed to.

We’ve yet to meet a strawberry we don’t like.  

Yes, we grow the larger hybrid strawberries as well, which are crosses between native eastern and western strawberry varieties.

Yes, we grow the larger hybrid strawberries as well, which are crosses between native eastern and western strawberry varieties.

Black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis)

When they produce: May – June

Blackberries

When they produce: June – July

A dragonfly guarding a thornless blackberry patch at Tyrant Farms. The Tyrant and I probably ate about a pound of blackberries daily from our garden during peak season this year.

A dragonfly guarding a thornless blackberry patch at Tyrant Farms. The Tyrant and I probably ate about a pound of blackberries daily from our garden during peak season this year.

Red and gold raspberries 

When they produce: June – August (we’ll also get smaller second flushes of fruit from late summer – fall on our ever-bearing varieties) 

Do we have a preference for red or gold raspberries? Yes. Both of them. And as many as we can pick and stuff our faces with at any given time. 

Once you get nice raspberry patches started, you'll have more each year as long as you keep the soil healthy and mulched.

Once you get nice raspberry patches started, you’ll have more each year as long as you keep your soil healthy and mulched.

Peaches

When they produce: August – September 

We planted two peach trees years ago before we realized how difficult it is to grow peaches here organically. Some years, we have large yields and some years we have virtually no fruit. We always promise ourselves that we’ll use Bt and Surround WP/kaolin clay (two non-toxic organic insect controls) the next year, but never get around to it. 

One of our ducks admiring a good peach year at Tyrant farms.

One of our ducks admiring a good peach year at Tyrant farms.

Nevertheless, we’ve promised ourselves (again), that next year we’ll try harder. We even have a bag of Surround kaolin clay ready to go for next spring!  

Ground cherries

When they produce: June – July 

We will always have a special place in our hearts for ground cherries, the fruit that originally got us hooked on gardening and heirloom seeds over a decade ago.

We will always have a special place in our hearts for ground cherries, the fruit that originally got us hooked on gardening and heirloom seeds over a decade ago.

We LOVE ground cherries, a physalis fruit native to the Americas. You will too. Ground cherry articles you should read:

Wonderberries

When they produce: June – July 

A neat little nightshade fruit that tastes kinda like a watered down cross between a blueberry and a blackberry. 

Wonderberries won't ever make it to a grocery store because the thin skins tend to split when they're harvested. But they're a fine plant for home gardeners who want to grow fruit that doesn't need to last for many days or weeks.

Wonderberries won’t ever make it to a grocery store because the thin skins tend to split when they’re harvested. But they’re a fine plant for home gardeners who want to grow fruit that doesn’t need to last for many days or weeks.

Blueberries (we grow early, mid, and late-season varieties)

When they produce: June – July 

There are lots of early, mid, and late season highbush blueberry varieties, and we recommend mixing it up so all your blueberries don't come in at once, making harvesting them all overwhelming. How to grow year round fruit.

There are lots of early, mid, and late season highbush blueberry varieties, and we recommend mixing it up so all your blueberries don’t come in at once, making harvesting them all overwhelming.

Blueberry eating tip: let your blueberries sit at least one day indoors at room temperature after harvesting them BEFORE eating them. They’ll be much sweeter and more flavorful if you do. 

Yellow wonder strawberries

When they produce: June – September 

These tiny yellow strawberries produce throughout the hot months of summer and offer incredible flavor. They don’t taste like traditional strawberries; they taste more like tropical fruit punch.  

Dwarf tamarillo

When they produce: June – September 

Dwarf tamarillos are an odd and interesting little fruit native to Bolivia and Argentina. It’s not a true tamarillo, it’s actually in the nightshade family.

They grow quite well here as annuals (grow like a tomato) and readily reseed. We do have one “mother plant” growing in a pot that’s four years old, so they can be grown as perennials as well if they don’t experience a frost or freeze. 

Dwarf tamarillos are best when they're deep orange in color. How to grow fruit year round.

Dwarf tamarillos are best when they’re deep orange in color.

How do dwarf tamarillos taste? The have a delightful array of sweet and tropical flavor notes on the front and some bitter notes on the back that some people might not like. 

Elderberries 

When they produce: July – August 

Nope, elderberries aren’t a great fruit to eat raw, but we can’t sing their praises highly enough. They have an extraordinary flavor once cooked.

Harvesting all of our elderberries can get pretty overwhelming during peak elderberry season (late July - early August where we live), but the work is worth it. How to grow fruit year round.

Harvesting all of our elderberries can get pretty overwhelming during peak elderberry season (late July – early August where we live), but the work is worth it.

Elderberries also contain potent flu and cold-fighting compounds, which is why we use them to make elderberry syrup every year.  

For more information on elderberries read our articles: 

Muskmelons (cantaloupes, honeydews, etc)

When they produce: July – August 

2 gallon vole king wire mesh basket on one of our toadskin melons.

2 gallon vole king wire mesh basket on one of our toadskin melons. We use vole king mesh wire baskets to keep rodents and other mammalian pests from eating our melons.

Concord grapes

When they produce: July – August 

Not many grape varieties grow well or easily in the hot, humid south. Concorde is a variety that performs pretty well here.

Not many grape varieties grow well or easily in the hot, humid south. Concord is a variety that performs pretty well here.

Watermelons (small early varieties – larger later varieties)

When they produce: July through September 

A yellow-fleshed 'Moon & Stars' heirloom watermelon (so named for the yellow spots on the skin) growing amongst marigolds in our front yard. These taste like candy.

A yellow-fleshed ‘Moon & Stars’ heirloom watermelon (so named for the yellow spots on the skin) growing amongst marigolds in our front yard. These taste like candy.

Prickly pears 

When they produce: July – September 

What’s better than a cactus that makes an edible fruit (prickly pear)? A cactus that also doubles as a vegetable (nopales). 

Bright red prickly pear fruit from one of our prickly pear cacti.

Bright red prickly pear fruit from one of our prickly pear cacti.

Read: How to grow and eat prickly pear cactuses

Black aronia berries (Aronia melanocarpa), aka chokeberries 

When they produce: August

Aronias are a native fruit that supposedly have the highest antioxidant content of any fruit in the world. However, they aren’t exactly the most delicious fruit for fresh eating. 

When they’re perfectly ripe, they do have some good flavor notes, but they also pack an unpleasant puckery astringency. I like to chew up a handful of them fresh along with a stevia leaf. 

This year, we’re also experimenting with an aronia-blackberry wine. We’ll write more on that experiment at a later date… 

A nice pile of just-picked Aronia berries, about to made into aronia-blackberry wine. Year round fruit.

A nice pile of just-picked Aronia berries, about to made into aronia-blackberry wine.

Figs

When they produce: August 

Brown turkey figs grow great here. We also grow another more cold-sensitive variety — whose tag we of course lost shortly after purchase — that produces the best figs (dark purple skin and flesh) we’ve ever tasted.  However, it’s much more cold-sensitive than our brown turkey so doesn’t produce nearly as much fruit. 

Brown turkey figs ready to be presented as an offering to The Tyrant.

Brown turkey figs ready to be presented as an offering to The Tyrant.

Pawpaws

When they produce: August – September 

Oh, the pawpaw, quite possible our favorite native fruit. They can grow as large as mangoes and taste like mango-banana custard. 

North America's largest native fruit: the pawpaw. These are finally making a big comeback in popularity. Due to their short shelf life, they're very hard to commercialize.

North America’s largest native fruit: the pawpaw. These are finally making a big comeback in popularity with high end chefs and gardeners alike. Due to their short shelf life, they’re very hard to commercialize.

Additional pawpaw articles you should read: 

Muscadine and scuppernong grapes

When they produce: August – September 

Got a fence? Then you also have a grape arbor! We grow muscadine and scuppernong grapes on our backyard fence.

Got a fence? Then you also have a grape arbor! We grow muscadine and scuppernong grapes on our backyard fence.

Passionfruit (Native variety, Passiflora incarnata)

When they produce: August – October  

Not only are passionfruit a gorgeous flowering vine that produces a tropical-flavored fruit, they’re also the only host plant for Gulf Fritillary butterflies

Growing up, we called our native passionfruit

Growing up, we called our native passionfruit “maypops.” The inner seeds are covered with an incredibly delicious fruit pulp. When perfectly ripe, Passiflora incarnata fruit will have slightly wrinkled skin, get heavy or even fall off the plant.

Persimmons

When they produce: September – October 

There are plenty of wild native persimmons that we forage near our home, but we grow larger-fruited Asian persimmon varieties in our yard (such as Fuyu and Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro). These are also much shorter than native persimmon trees, making harvesting easier. 

Like native persimmons, large Asian persimmons taste best when nipped by a frost, which increases their sugar content.

Like native persimmons, large Asian persimmons taste best when nipped by a frost, which increases their sugar content.

Pomegranates 

When they produce: September – October 

Pomegranates root fairly easily from cuttings. Years back, our friend Eliza Holcombe gave us a cutting from a pomegranate tree that’s been in her family for over 100 years. 

So dang good! Pomegranates straight from the tree.

So dang good! Pomegranates straight from the tree.

It’s now thriving and fruiting at Tyrant Farms and we have more cuttings rooted and ready for transplant this fall!  

Citrus

When they produce: October – March 

A beautiful array of fresh citrus varieties from our potted citrus plants, which produce the bulk of their fruit from fall through early spring.

A beautiful array of fresh citrus varieties from our potted citrus plants, which produce the bulk of their fruit from fall through early spring.

We’re citrus fanatics. We currently grow tangerines, blood oranges, kumquats, limequats, makrut limes, Buddhas hands, meyer lemons, Yuzu fruit, pink lemonade lemons, and finger limes. 

The Tyrant examining two nice Buddha's hand citrons. These are incredibly aromatic and make great citrus candy and zest.

The Tyrant examining two nice Buddha’s hand citrons. These are incredibly aromatic and make great citrus candy, zest, and simple syrup.

Is it easy to grow citrus here? Yes, in the sense that in all the years we’ve been growing citrus, they’ve had zero disease pressure. In the winter (especially if they’re brought indoors), they can get spider mites and scales, which are easy to control with neem oil

In December, our calamondin tree looks like it's covered in orange Christmas ornaments. How to grow fruit year round.

From November – January, our calamondin tree looks like it’s covered in orange Christmas ornaments. On Christmas Day, we gather around it and sing “Oh Citrus Tree, Oh Citrus Tree.”

Citrus is also relatively difficult for us to grow because most citrus varieties don’t like sustained deep freezes, which are fairly frequent in our winters. So that means we grow our citrus in containers/pots, and move them into our garage on winter nights when temps are below freezing. 

Our engineer friend made this process much easier for us by building a custom pot mover

The Tyrant showing off the Porta-Potter, our citrus pot mover. Don't let this picture fool you, she's not usually the one out moving the potted citrus on a cold winter day, although she does model the contraption better than I do.

The Tyrant showing off the Porta-Potter, our citrus pot mover. Don’t let this picture fool you, she’s not usually the one out moving the potted citrus on a cold winter day, although she does model the contraption better than I do.

Given the indescribably delicious taste of fresh-picked organically grown blood oranges, kumquats, and other rare citrus on a winter day, we’re more than willing to put in the extra work. 

Kumquats are a citrus variety that you eat skin and all. The skin is sweet and the inner fruit is nice and tart, making a delightful flavor combo.

Kumquats are a citrus variety that you eat skin and all. The skin is sweet and the inner fruit is nice and tart, making a delightful flavor combo.

Our kumquats and blood oranges keep us buried in citrus throughout January and February. 

Want to grow your own organic citrus? Read our article: How to grow citrus in pots in any climate zone.  


So that’s how we get fruit from our garden year round in Ag Zone 7b! Hopefully, this article will inspire and help you grow lots of your own fruit as well.

KIGI,

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