The Fruit of My Little Labours

When I moved from Manitoba to Ontario, I began dreaming of drool-worthy fruit to grow. Literally drool-worthy! I had sweet cherries on the brain. However, I soon realized that I was not interested in providing all the sprays, fertilizer, and water that they demanded. And while the cherries and I parted ways many years ago, I’ve since welcomed a new group of fruits into my backyard; fruits that are small on space, light on care, and easy on the environment.

What Fruit to Grow? Here are a few of my favourites:

1. Saskatoons

Native to the prairies, these berries look like wild blueberries but have a taste that is described as sweet cherry with an almond flavour. And they have none of the fussy soil requirements of blueberries. Beautiful spring flowers and lovely autumn colour make this a great landscaping plant too.

2. Blackberries and raspberries

No home is complete without a small berry patch and these plants epitomize easy care! I have blackberries in several locations – full sun, part sun, dry soil, and moist. While my raspberries are well behaved, my blackberries love to stretch out to 2 meters or more; up walls, across the ground, and over the fence. Thankfully I have a thornless type that makes walking around them pain-free.

Blackberries are terribly tart if picked too early. Wait till they are fully black and come off the stem easily before enjoying. Here the canes are tucked in among hydrangeas and sage and supported by horizontal wire lines.

3. Nanking Cherries

Yes, I know that we can technically grow sweet cherries here, but I don’t want all the fuss. This plant is tough and can grow in dry areas with low fertility. Nanking cherries are sweeter than sour cherries and are produced in such quantities that you can share them with the birds. They do need a pollinator to set fruit so if you want more than their beautiful blossoms in spring, be sure to plant two.

4. Asian Pear

The saying goes that you “plant pears for your heirs” because they take so long to produce. But that saying only applies to European pears. Asian pears are precocious and start producing fruit very young. They are fairly carefree with few pests and diseases. Be sure to get one on dwarf or super dwarf rootstock if space or picking fruit from a tall tree is a concern for you. Provide your trees with support and regular water for the first year or two and they will return the favour with amazing honeycrisp-like pears.

This Asian pear will be ready to pick in late September. Already bearing pears at only a few years old, removing the fruiting spurs is important in the first couple of years to make sure these guys take the time to establish strong root systems.

I’m always interested in trying new fruits and have expanded the garden party to include grapes, hardy kiwi, apples, strawberries, haskaps, and blueberries. (In my garden near London Ontario, my blueberries are in raised beds as the soil in this area is too alkaline). And while most of these plants are too young to put forth dessert this year, I’ll keep you posted on how they grow. Now if I can just find room for those currant bushes…

Resources for Fruit to Grow

OMAFRA – Fruit trees in the home garden

OMAFRA – Raspberries and Blackberries for Home Gardens

Further reading

  • Extraordinary Ornamental Edibles: 100 Perennials, Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Canadian Gardens by Mike Lascelle. Available at London Public Library.
  • Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich – one of my favourite books about fruit with loads of practical growing advice.

Related Posts

Master Gardener advice about Planting Fruit Trees

10 Secrets for Growing Fruit Trees – Toronto Botanical Garden

Autumn’s Bounty – Apples are in Season