Edible Perennial Gardening: Fruits & Berries

To wrap up the edible perennial garden series of blog posts we arrive at probably my favorite, fruits and berries. Who doesn’t love a fresh warm fruit crisp for dessert or plucking a raspberry straight off the bush? This category has a wide variety choices depending on your location and the size of your growing space. You can choose whether you want to grow bushes, vines or even trees in your space. Something I would love to try someday is espalier trees where you can have a variety of fruits grafted to one tree. This is really great if you have a small growing space and want a variety of the same fruit. The most common espalier trees are apples and pears, but I have seen cherries, figs and even plums and peaches. 

A lot of fruit we commonly see in the grocery store or farmers market are considered an edible perennial. Apples are probably the most well know perennial which is widely grown in many yards in many varieties. As with any edible perennial and even more so with apples it takes some time to establish to be able to harvest anything from the tree.  Dwarf varieties can bear fruit in about three to four years and a larger/standard apple tree can take five to eight years before you can/should harvest any fruit. There are so many varieties of apples, if you have the space to grow a tree definitely make sure it is a variety that works in your growing zone and has a taste you love. Once established you can harvest many, many apples each year.

When I was little our neighbors had the best peach and plum trees, one would hang over into our yard and I would collect peaches from it. The plum tree wasn’t close enough to do that, but they did occasionally give us some fruit, which was promptly ate by my sister and I. Then when we moved into our current house our neighbors had a small orchard in their backyard with cherry, apple, and plum along along the back fence, the trees have since been removed.

Did you know a grape is technically considered a berry?  When I was little we grew grapes on our chain link fence. I remember eating grapes that were not ready to be harvested and were so tiny and so incredibly tart/sour. It can be hard eating for perennials to reach harvest. Grapes are a great edible perennial to grow along a fence or up a pergola or other structure with its vines. You will want short seasoned varieties for here in Colorado so they have enough time to be harvestable. Make sure to grow them where dogs can not get to them, grapes are toxic to dogs. 

Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries may be the most popular edible perennials next to apples and are much easier to grow in smaller spaces. You can grow all of these berries in containers which makes them more accessible to gardeners with smaller spaces versus apple trees. Like with anything you grow, you’ll want to pay attention to the type of soil used and needed for each berry. They all want well drained sandy loam soil with blueberries preferring acidic soil. There are amendments you can add to your current soil to make it more acidic. Definitely make sure you choose a variety meant for containers if growing them in containers as berry bushes can get huge and take up a lot of space. Always do a bit of plant specific research before heading to the nursery or garden center. 

This is only a small selection of edible perennial fruits and berries to get you inspired to see what’s possible. There are many to choose from, just keep in mind the time it will take to establish and harvest, the size they can become (usually quite large, unless they are a container variety or espalier tree), and where they can thrive in your growing space. You want to plant perennials after the last frost and before the first frost so the plants have time to establish a good root system that first year. Depending on the perennial, you will want to pinch back the flowers to also help establish the plant when it is young. There are so many ways to use fruits and berries.  You can use them in jams, jellies, crumbles, juices, salads, parfaits, yogurt, chia puddings, muffins, other baked goods and a delicious simple bowl of fruit, if they make it into the house. I hope this brief introduction inspires you to learn more and grow more!

*If you need any help getting started you can book an online coaching session with me as your gardening guide. Information can be found here: Coaching

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