Creating an Edible Landscape
County Agent II
Jackson County Extension
I often talk to gardeners who tell me that flower gardening is fine, and they enjoy the spirit-lifting color of floral displays, but they want their landscapes to provide something to nourish the body as well as the soul. In other words, they want a landscape that provides something to eat, as well as being attractive. The concept is called edible landscaping.
Young satsuma tree Photo Credits: Rob Trawick, Jackson County Extension
Trees, vines and bushes that produce edible fruit are an important part of this approach. January and February are great times to plant hardy fruit trees, bushes, or vines, and local nurseries should have an excellent selection newly arrived for planting in winter and early spring.
Because these plants are expected to do more than just look nice, careful attention must be paid to selection, planting, growing conditions and care. As a rule, plants we grow for fruit require full sun, excellent drainage and room to grow. Find out the mature size and proper spacing of the fruit plants you want to grow, and take all of this into consideration when choosing locations.
The cultivars you choose must be adapted to the mild winters of the coastal South. Always check that the chilling hours the plant requires will be satisfied by the cold we normally get (chilling hours are the accumulated hours below 45 degrees that occur during winter). Generally, choose fruit cultivars that require 500 or fewer chilling hours.
You must also know whether the fruit you want to grow is self-fruitful or requires a pollinator. Self-fruitful plants will pollinate themselves, and you need only plant one. Plants that require a pollinator will not pollinate themselves, and another plant of the same type of fruit, but a different cultivar, must be planted for cross-pollination and reliable production to occur.
The fig is one of the most common and easily grown fruit trees in our area. Most gardeners choose the Celeste fig because of its reliability. Other good fig cultivars include Southeastern Brown Turkey (fruit similar to Celeste, but more prone to splitting and souring) and Florentine (large yellow fruit).
Fruiting pears produce beautiful displays of white flowers in February and delicious fruit in August. Other pears to consider include Baldwin, Garber, Orient, Kieffer, Biscamp and LeConte. It is best to plant two cultivars to ensure pollination and good fruit production.
Japanese persimmons are low-maintenance fruit trees that rarely, if ever, need to be sprayed. Their major problem is fruit drop, which generally is worst the first five years after planting the tree, but improves as it matures. Recommended Japanese persimmons for our area include Taninashi, Hachiya (harvest these two cultivars when the fruit is very soft), Tamopan, Fuyu and Suruga (these three are non-astringent and can be eaten when the flesh is crisp). Only one tree is needed for production.
The Acid Test
If you want to grow blueberries, you will definitely want to check the pH of your soil, since they need to be grown in an acid setting. Blueberry bushes are excellent for small gardens, as they stay much smaller than most fruit trees. Recommended cultivars include Tifblue, Woodard, Climax, Premier and Choice. Southern highbush blueberry cultivars, such as Cooper, Gulfcrest, Blue Ridge and Cape Fear, can also be planted. Blueberries are self-fruitful, but planting more than one cultivar improves production and quality.
Blackberries -- or brambles -- are relatively carefree to grow, with the major task being annual pruning after harvest. Trailing types, such as boysenberries, dewberries and youngberries, must be trained to trellises or other supports. Erect types include Navaho and Arapaho (these two are thornless), as well as Brazos, Shawnee and Rosborough. Blackberries are self-fruitful.
Satsuma is a citrus tree commonly grown in northwest Florida that is self-fruiting and easily grown. There are many varieties available, but you will find that Kimbrough, Browns Select, and Owari tend to be the most popular available. While citrus have a variety of pest problems, none are generally too bad.
Muscadine grapes are native to our area and require a moderate amount of maintenance. Support must be provided for the vines, and the annual pruning, in which up to 90 percent of the previous year's growth is removed, can be quite a chore. Self-fertile types can be planted individually and include Carlos, Cowart (considered one of the best), Dearing, Magnolia and Southland. Pistillate (female) cultivars, such as Fry, Higgins, Scuppernong, Hunt and Jumbo, must be planted with a self-fertile cultivar close by for pollination.
For more information on growing fruits in Florida please visit, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_hs_fruits.