PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) – Eating fresh foods has many benefits including enhancing health and the taste of meals and desserts. One of the best ways to always have fresh ingredients and healthy snacks is to grow your own fruit garden.

Fruit gardens are often less common than vegetable gardens due to how long fruit can take to produce and the space people believe they need for it. However, you don’t need acres of land to grow at least some fruit in your yard.

Requirements for a fruit garden

In order for your fruit garden to thrive, your yard needs to have nutrient rich, well-drained soil. Mulch should be considered because it will retain water to ensure plants are getting the best amount and it will keep weeds at bay.

Fruit trees and plants both don’t do well in areas with too much moisture, but fruit plants struggle equally in dry conditions.

The biggest requirement however is space. The size of your yard will help determine what type of fruit you can grow. Fruit trees will need larger space than other fruit plants like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

Sun is also an important factor. A majority of fruit plants require at least 6 hours of sunlight and enjoy up to eight. If your yard is mostly shaded, this is obviously problematic. However, some fruit plants such as rhubarb, currants, kiwis and pears can withstand shadier areas.

All fruit plants need protection from the wind too, especially trees. It will be hard to have a successful harvest if the fruit is blown away before it can mature or if the branches snap. Make sure you plant fruit near something that can block strong winds such as a fence or wall.

What to plant

Once you’ve decided where you want to place your fruit plants, the fun begins – you get to pick what you want to plant.

There are different factors to consider including what you and your family like to eat and whether you want a new tree in your yard or if you will stick to fruits with smaller fruit varieties.

Choosing between perennials and annuals, or a mixture, is another decision you will need to make. Perennials are less work as they grow back every year and therefore require less yard maintenance and they usually require less water. Annuals will give you the option to change what fruit you grow every year, as they only last one season.

According to the Primex Garden Center located in Glenside, Pennsylvania the climate of the keystone state is optimal for most fruits.

There are many fruit trees that will thrive including apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, peach trees, cherry trees, pawpaw trees and persimmon trees. Primex notes that raspberries and blackberries grow really well in Pennsylvania too, but the easiest fruit to grow is blueberries.

Where to begin

After you’ve chosen what to plant, you need to decide how you will plant them. There are essentially three options when it comes to fruit: already established plants, bare root fruit trees or seeds.

The plants that are already mostly grown might be easier for novice gardeners and they will produce fruit quicker than the other options, but it will be more expensive.

Bare root fruit trees are fruit trees that have their roots exposed and are rooted in sawdust or peat material. With this, they are easier to package and cheaper. According to the Outdoor Apothecary, they are 30-50% less expensive than a tree of equal size that is in a container.

Seeds are the cheapest option, but it will take significantly longer to see results from seeds than plants that have already started growing. If you do choose seeds, watermelon, melon and cantaloupe like to be placed directly in the garden while strawberries should start indoors.

Tips for a successful harvest

To have the best fruit garden possible, be sure to protect your plants from wildlife. Just like people like to eat fruit, so do animals such as deer. There are plenty of natural ways to keep deer away from your plants, including fences and hedges.

Something else to consider is the health of other plants in your garden. If you are growing a fruit tree, it will eventually be providing shade to an area of your yard. Be sure you plant the tree somewhere it won’t block the sun from other plants.

If you follow these steps and tips, you can have a supply of your favorite fruit in your own backyard. It will however take time and planning before you can enjoy a bite of that sweet, tasty strawberry.