One of our first gardening activities upon moving onto our three-acre property was to plant an orchard. We started with a variety of fruits and nuts - apples, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, nectarines, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, pecans, and almonds. Later we added Asian pears, quince, and American persimmon.
We have never used any chemicals in our orchard. While raising vegetables organically is relatively easy to do with good management, the same is not true for tree fruits in our humid Midwest climate. As a result, we have had mixed results.
Over the years, we have learned which fruits can be raised without chemicals in our climate and which don't do well. We discovered pear trees are the hands down fruit tree winner, as they are easy to grow, relatively immune to insect damage, and produce even during dry summers. Our Asian pear varieties are particularly tasty and a favorite of guests. Dried Asian pears are sweet as candy and keep well for at least a couple years.
Peaches come in second, as they produce well here and have minimal insect damage. We learned early on that the taste of store-bought peaches can't compare to that of those fresh from the tree. For the best taste, peaches need to be harvested just as they start to soften, which is too late for commercial harvesting.
We have had mixed success with apples, as they are susceptible to numerous insects and diseases. We gave up on plums, almonds, and nectarines as all are magnets for plum curculio, a very damaging insect that will destroy every fruit on a tree if not controlled. Our pecan trees are now tall and stately, but we are too far north for nut productions.
In the berry category, we have found currants to be prolific producers, although time consuming to harvest. We have also had good results with blackberries as well as yellow and red raspberries, especially during wet summers, and with strawberries. We preserve as much of our fruit as possible either by canning, drying or freezing. Guia prepares sauces from all our fruits using honey from our beehives.
Over the years we have learned because fruit trees and berries are sensitive to local diseases and insects, to source nursery stock from experienced growers, preferably ones that specialize in specific plants. We are happy to discuss with you our fruit related successes and failures (assuming we have time available), as well as how we are integrating Permaculture principles into our fruit production.
This was the very first fruit on our Bosc pear tree (Fall 2004) - it was a dandy! Bosc pears, which ripen in late October, are a nice complement to the prolific Bartlet which ripens in August.
This 20 foot row of hardy blackberries produces gallons of fruit nearly every year.
We learned that nectarines were the most difficult tree fruit to grow in our climate. Seems every bug in the county wanted to attack them.
Blossoms of our Kiefer pear. This extremely hardy tree has produced a dozen bushels of fruit per year for the past 20 years.
Asian pears ready for harvest in October. These tasty pears are our favorites. We also raise a yellow variety.
Black currants have a wonderful fragrance, second only to our lilacs and have been one of our most prolific berry producers. As with most berries though, production wanes after about a decade.
We live in the northernmost range for these American persimmons. While these fruits can be exceptionally astringent if not completely ripe (bright red-orange), when fully ripe, their flavor rivals the more popular Mediterranean persimmons.
This Ark-Black apple is hardy and an exceptional keeper, staying fresh until at least April if kept cool over winter.
Blueberries are one crop we cannot raise because our soil is too alkaline, so every few years we pick a large amount from an organic farm in Indiana. They keep well for up to three years frozen. We often serve them to our breakfast guests.