Growing Fruit

Here on the mini-farmstead we successfully grow bananas,  citrus,  pineapples, star fruit,  avocados,  loquats, Cattley guava, capulin (strawberry tree), mulberries, white sapote, , elderberries, sapodilla, canistel (egg fruit) sugarcane (not actually a fruit, but…) and have many more are in the  experimental phase.

 

Fruit is superior to grain as a carbohydrate source. Fruit provides vitamins, especially Vitamin C, as well as anti-oxidants, anthocyanidins, carotenes, bioflavonoids etc., while starches do not. Fruit is easy to eat raw, whereas grains……

 

 

Fruit, honey and sugarcane are generally neutral in the calcium-phosphorus balance, as opposed to grain which is very high in phosphorus and low in calcium.

Fruit is a great source of potassium, grain, not so much.

Fruit, honey and sugarcane all provide a complex of sugars: fructose, glucose, sucrose etc. Starches, on the other hand, convert to pure glucose, which is not good.

Store-bought fruit is expensive is expensive and often very poor quality. Growing your own solves both problems.

LIVESTOCK AND FRUIT

Fruit trees and livestock, especially goats, work together on the mini-farm. The goats and chickens provide manure for fertilizer, and the trees trimmings and waste fruit and scraps provide an excellent feed source for them. The mulch around the trees is a habitat for insects. The chickens find bugs etc. in it and this, in turn, helps control pests that would harm the fruit. The goats and ducks can also help with weed control of the orchards and gardens. You have to take some measure to protect your trees, of course, but it’s well worth the effort. Nigerian Dwarf goats are particularly good for this, since they’re not so tall. Currently I have the goats pasturing among bananas. It’s sufficient to put a little compost tea/manure tea on the lower leaves and shoots of the bananas after each rain in the summer and fall. Other trees can have a collar of chicken wire or other fencing around their trunks. (Goats like to eat bark). Goats generally don’t like citrus trees too well, and will generally avoid them unless they’re pasture is poor.

Pasture in the Orchard

MICRO-CLIMATES

You can grow plants and trees outside of your zone, if you take advantage of the micro-climates. The south and east sides of the house are great micro-climate areas, as well as water-side. Windbreaks, that block the North and West wind, also help. A major trick, is making sure the plant/tree doesn’t get sun in the winter before the frost melts, usually about 10:00 am. This is because when the sun hits frost, it acts as a prism and burns the leaves. Plants/trees will not be damaged unless the cold in prolonged enough to cause tissue collapse. Plants with heavier, tougher foliage are more resistant to tissue collapse.

The best fruits for temperate climates, as the Mid-west, zone 6:

Apples (cherries, peaches, plums, pears) These are definitely foundational orchard trees, but bear in mind, that these fruits are generally poor in Vitamin C.

 

 

Mulberries- What a great tree! Mulberries are very nutritious, super-easy to grow (They’re wild!). They drop their berries for great chicken feed, and the trimmings are also excellent livestock fodder. If you want to plant one near the house, plant a white one to avoid staining purple berries and bird droppings.

Blackberries – An old standby. You can get thornless, which are not as sweet, or you can put up with the thorns and get the best berries. The old canes (that just fruited) are removed every year.

 

Blueberries – Another excellent fruit; be aware that they need acid soil, so pine needles or oak leaves are for them.

 

 

Strawberries – A good fruit, high in Vitamin C, but also high in oxalic acid, so they should not be eating in huge quatities over a season. Strawberry plantings can get overwhelmed with weeds easily, so bear that in mind.

 

Elderberries – make excellent jam. They are known for their anti-viral properties. This is one fruit that should be cooked, as the inevitable green ones contain toxic cyanide, which is removed by cooking.

 

 

Concord-type grapes do the best in the mid-west. Of course, they need a strong arbor. Stock panels work well for this.

 

Maypop Passionfruit – This is a more cold-tolerant variety that will fruit at least as far North as Southern Indiana. It gets cut back to the ground in the fall, and mulched heavily.

 

 

 

 

Melons – Good drainage and plenty of manure = super melons!

 

 

 

Persimmons – Usually these are found growing wild, but there are cultivated varieties. Persimmons should not be eaten in unlimited quantities because they contain too much tannin.

 

Fruiting dogwood – This is a fruit I encountered on the sidewalk at a state park…I really enjoyed them, they reminded me of chocolate, and of course, the tree does double as an ornamental.

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes….yes, a fruit. Surely, there’s no need for instructions!

The best fruits for temperate climates, as SW. Florida, zone 9

Citrus fruits (Orange, grapefruit, kumquat, tangerine, tangelo, Meyer’s lemons, Rangpur limes)

You can get a very long fruit season from citrus. For oranges, Parson Brown’s for early-season, navel for mid-season, and Valencia for late season. Kumquats are a must; they’re super-nutrient dense. Make sure you get the round, Meiwa variety, the other one (Nagami) is sour.

Bananas – Yes, bananas can be grown in the frost-prone areas of Florida. The secret lies in the right varieties. Ice Cream (or Blue Java), Dwarf Cavendish, Orinoco and Dwarf Namwah are the varieties to grow. Banana plants often get their leaves frosted in the winter here. Apparently, other varieties must keep all of their leaves in order to fruit. They will grow huge, but never flower.

Loquats – This one has it all: It’s beautiful, bears very good fruit, it’s very cold-tolerant, it has very fragrant flowers, and the prunings are goat’s very favorite thing.

Pineapples do surprisingly well in Florida. You can simply twist the top off of a pineapple from the store. The key is to plant them in an area that does not get sun in the winter until 10:00 am. This is so they don’t get frost-burn. Most years they do fine, they will get damaged and will not fruit after a very cold year. There are many kinds of pineapple, the white type is very good, it has a different flavor. There are also ornamental varieties with striped yellow or white foliage.

Cattley guava- A great landscape shrub, that produces nice little guavas

Mulberries do fairly well in Florida, but they need a water source. The berries ripen during the dry season, and they tend to wait to ripen until there is a rain. So, they’re not as great as they are in the North, but still worth it. If you want to plant one near the house, plant a white one to avoid staining purple berries and bird droppings.

Papayas need two things cold protection, and very rich soil. The east side of the house makes a good micro-climate for growing papayas. Be aware, though, that the soil must be heavily enriched each year.

Jaboticaba – I haven’t really grown this one yet, I only have a small one. But, I’m told they do really well, are beautiful, and quite cold-tolerant.

Avocados – Mexicola, Winter Mexican or other Guatemalan race avocados are the hardiest. Caution: the leaves of other types of Avocado, such as the large “Florida” type, are poisonous to goats.

White Sapote -A large tree, very cold tolerant, delicious fruit. Caution with the seeds; they are said to be highly toxic.

Figs can do well in Florida, however they need a special location because nematodes are a major problem for them. The best place for them is beside a livestock enclosure. They fit very well with the duck enclosure, since they can reach both the rich soil and a water source. Birds can be a problem with figs, a solution for that is growing white figs. (The birds don’t know when they’re ripe.)

Muscadine grapes grow in S. Florida, I know that because there was an elderly gentleman here that had a u-pick. However, I haven’t had much success. I am trying again with the exact varieties that he grew, and they will be grown on the duck enclosure.

Passionfruit- There are two types of these in S. Florida the purple passionfruit and the lilikoi. The purple passionfruit is a normal passionfruit, it needs a special spot to grow well. It does not do well on alkaline soils. I have not had success, but I am going to try it again and allow it to grown on a livestock enclosure. The lilikoi can become quite montruous: up in the palm trees and everything else, in my experience it did not fruit easily (they have some pollinations issues) and the fruits that we did get were very sour, and had a very strong scent, that filled the house. Pleasant or obnoxious, depending on the person. So, I do not recommend those.

Surinam cherry produces a nice cherry-like fruit, but the red ones have a resinous after-taste. They say the black ones are much better. They make a nice landscape shrub, but are susceptible to harder frosts.

Sugar cane – not exactly a fruit, but it fits in welll. Sugar cane can be squeezed for excellent, nutrious juice. However, it’s not practicle to do it without a cane juicer.

Fruits that I’m trying, and hopefully, will join the list above:

Sapodilla – the Alano variety is supposed to be the most cold-hardy. Time will tell.

Mango – These thrive in S. Florida, but the frost is a problem. I am trying one in a micro-climates and another that is super-large growing and supposedly is more successful.

Grumichama – First time try.

guava – Severely damaged by frost, but will recover. Again, I’m trying a microclimate.

Lychee – First time to try, supposedly they are fairly cold-hardy.

Canistel – Trying along the east side of the house.

Longan – First time to try, supposedly they are fairly cold-hardy.

Macadamia – First time try

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