This morning with my coffee I walked around the yard taking to see how the fruit trees were progressing. This year looks to be fairly promising. The most of the citrus and the fig don’t show any signs of putting forth effort for fruit quite yet but it is still too early for them. The pear again seems to be resting this year, but some of my steady work horses are showing their stuff along with a few surprises.
Olive tree buds. Maybe I’ll be able to make some olive bread with home-made olives this year.
The peaches on the peach tree continue to swell and grow, they are still too green but they are starting to get soft enough that they are sweet and crunchy rather than rock hard.
The first pomegranate flower of the year. There are plenty of swollen buds this year for the first time. Maybe I’ll get a small batch of pomegranates.
The plum tree had a few plums on it which was a nice surprise. It did bloom sparsley this winter if We’ll see if I’m lucky enough to snag these from the birds.
About 5 loquats that I could find survived this winter on the tree. Note to self. This is an UNRIPE color. It is still very sour. Wait until deep yellow/orange to pick the next one??
Little grape buds out on the grape vines. Timing is everything with grape blooms. Right when the flower buds opened we had a rain storm last year. This basically washed all the pollen out of the flower and there was sparse pollination for the grape cluster. The grapes tend to flower right at the beginning of our storm season but it is possible we’ll get lucky.
Out at the Garden Patch:
And finally back at the garden patch I’m still busily harvesting turnips which are likely not my thing. I have yet to find a recipe in which I would want to make again.
Fall is underway. It’s not quite going strong but it’s getting there. It’s been a joy to go outside with coffee and stand in front of the loquat tree watching all of the little insects flitter about getting their breakfast. Monarch butterflies are migrating and the little beauties are stopping by the yard to get a snack and rest before they continue their journey south.
The cold killing frosts are typically the end of November here and This may be the first year that we don’t have completely bare spots in the landscape. The goal has always been to have a green yard in winter, a primarily edible landscape, and flowers all year round. The edible part wasn’t too hard to figure out with fruit trees and herbs. Last year quite a lot of effort was spent to pull off the green-in-winter part. This year just may be the year where flowers can become the focus (after figuring out and filling in the remaining brown spots).
Most things still look fairly similar in the back yard from summer. The peach and pomegranate tree are starting to turn a little yellow and of course the orange fruit on the persimmons is a dead giveaway fall is here also.
Little native asters are in the grass covering our lawn. I always leave and encourage the wild flowers in the grass in our back yard. Not only are they beautiful, but the honey bees love them. Sometimes I like to lay on the back deck with a drink and just watch the honeybees fly from one flower cluster to another. They help me with pollinating peppers, so the least I can do is encourage other food sources for them so they have a reason to visit frequently and often.
It was unpleasant to think that this year, the first year the loquat tree bloomed, will likely be a harsh winter and kill all the buds/fruit on our loquat tree. But today, watching all the little insects get a meal, I realized that feeding the bees and the butterflies was enough for me this year. Even if we don’t get one fruit out of the hundreds of flowers on that tree I am enjoying providing for the little animals out here. The joy of watching them this fall can be enough if there is no fruit to be had.
There was an iridescent blue bee (google told me it’s an orchard mason bee) and a hummingbird moth that were too quick for me to snap a photo of but here is what they looked like:
All of the little cute insects and animals that visit beautiful flowers we plant is something that gives me so much pleasure. It’s so nice to watch butterflies and honey bees visiting a fruit tree that you have planted and taken care of. It feels wonderful like being a steward of nature. Encouraging the wildlife that you love to come a little closer and say “hi” so you can observe it. It feels like being in a butterfly sanctuary standing next to the loquat tree, at any given time there are at least 12 butterflies flying all around you in the air and resting on a cluster of flowers nearby.
Nothing will ever be perfect in a garden. Nature is not perfect. There is always an unfinished spot in the yard, a work in progress, or a failure to be seen. It’s easy to focus on those things. People that truly love nature and gardening have the capacity to find that flower that’s blooming and focus on its beauty even if it’s sitting in a bed that needs to desperately be weeded. To watch bees fly from one dandelion to the next and smile even if it’s in your lawn. If you love nature, you can find beauty everywhere.
There are tons of plants that are multi-functional. Beautiful and tasty. Probably wouldn’t recommend putting tomatoes in the front yard if you’re in an HOA that doesn’t allow it, but there are so many other things that you can do to get your yard to be productive for you. Here in Austin Texas this is some things that you can plant that you can eat in addition to serving other purposes in the landscape that are also beautiful and you can put in your landscape without worrying about HOA’s.
I’ll starting with the big stuff and work my way down through the different layers of a landscape which is how you plan out what you want to plant. I’ll provide pictures and ideas on how to use the plant and where to put it to make it the most happy.
One thing to keep in mind is fruiting times. I tried to pick varieties that vary when they ripen so I don’t get gobs of fruit in fall but nothing in spring or winter. Also since we are on the verge of semi-tropical/arid here but still have the ability to get snow, I also picked an array of trees that will do well under different conditions. If we get an unseasonably cold year, the peaches, pears, persimmons and plums will do great, if it is a warm winter year, I’ll get plenty of loquats, and mandarins, kumquats and pomegranates.
Evergreen Fruit Trees/Large Shrubs
Evergreen with fruit that you can eat! Evergreen trees do not lose their leaves in winter and are great if you are trying to block a view or provide a permanently shady location. Austin has two of them that seem very happy in this climate and a few more finicky varieties that may or may not be happy depending on the sort of whether we get that year and the site that you plant it.
The lovely Loquat
This thing grew SUPER quickly it can get 25 feet tall and wide so be sure to give it enough space from the fence line and other trees. It has nice large dark green leaves with lighter new growth all year which is valuable when the typical scene in the winter time here is tan grass and silver leaves. I NEED GREEN. It’s Perfect for blocking views of neighbors. Not only that, it fruits in winter/early spring when the winters are warm enough to not kill the blossoms.
(also known as Feijoa)- you’ll see this name when looking for recipes since it’s a South American plant
This was plant is a slower grower but still grew to approximately 7 feet tall in 4 years. Pineapple guava will get to be about 15 feet tall without pruning which it takes well. It would be well suited to a hedge, or tree form. The stunning flowers you see in spring have the added surprise of having edible petals. They taste like tutti fruity which is why the birds go crazy for them. Then in fall the fruit drops to the ground which is how to know it is ripe. takes about 4 years to produce. I had 2 or 3 fruits last year on all 3 of my trees this year they are loaded so heavily it’s weighing down the limbs. The one that is the happiest is in Part shade. The one in full sun doesn’t fruit as much and is shorter. It looks fine but could probably do with supplemental water. The best thing about these is that all pests – even the birds – seem to leave them alone.
Other Evergreen Edible Trees
Bay leaf – for cooking spices needs full sun and winter protection. I have one in a pot that I bring in for the winter. I’m sure I could put it in the ground if I was willing to baby it for a few years with winter protection…but I’m not. Full sun, they can get HUGE but do well with trimming.
Olive – I have mine in a pot that lives outside all year and can take the cold and yes it fruits olives! (making them edible is a longer process than I was prepared for).
Mandarin – This one is more of a temperamental plant, careful site selection for full sun but shelter from winter winds and cold is important. Pay attention to variety. Mine is arctic frost. It’s given me 5 mandarins one year and they were dry and not flavorful. I assume that’s because the plant is still young and takes longer to produce good quality fruit. There’s one in our neighborhood that’s HUGE. I wonder how long it’s been there to get that big.
Elaeagnus or silver berry – has a wonderfuly fragranced flower in winter and fruits berries that taste close to grapes with one long football shaped seed in each. Used commonly for hedges in sun-part shade areas. Bees love this plant and so do I.
Kumquat – Same issue for variety and site selection as mandarins. We got a cold snap last year down to 26 degrees (only for a day or two) and that was enough to kill off over half the plant.
Pygmy date palm sounded tempting but when a description of “the absolute worst tasting ‘date’ I’ve ever had, may be edible but is not palatable” description popped up in my searches I decided against trying it. After all, I’ve got limited space to work with.
Deciduous fruit trees
for places where you want shade in winter and full sun in summer or don’t care about blocking a particular view all year-long. They loose leaves when it gets cold. Consider the following when selecting trees:
Fruit. Trees. Get. Big. look for dwarf or semi dwarf varieties if you don’t want to hassle with ladders or extensive pruning. If you have enough space to get a standard apple tree that will get 50 feet tall and wide that’s great, but that’s not my little suburban back yard.
Chilling hours. A lot of fruit require a certain number of hours a year below 45 degrees in order to even form fruit. I looked for the lowest number of chilling hour requirements. We supposedly get 700 on average a year. However, that is average. We get winters so mild banana plants make it through the winter every few years, then will get a light snow. My philosophy here is hedge your bets. Plant things that require a lower number of chilling hours (I looked for ones in the 400-500 range) because they will most likely get that, even in a mild winter. Cold doesn’t kill stone fruits like apples, peaches, pears and plums. A lack of winter will though. Enough winters without enough chilling hours will stress the tree so much it will die.
Self pollinating. This was another big one for me. A LOT of fruit tree varieties require a pollinator to get anything, but there are always a few that don’t. Most will say something like “is self fertile but will produce more with a pollinator”. Those are fine. Anything that says self fertile go for. If you’re lucky a neighbor a few blocks over will have a peach or plum tree too and you’ll get even more. You don’t need a self pollinating variety if you’re willing to plant two or more types of whatever you’re looking at but that takes up space and you want to be sure they’ll flower the same time.
Plant them in Fall. It gives the poor thing as long as possible to grow roots and to get adjusted before summer hits. Buy them bare root or in a pot dig a large hole, fill it with a TON of amended soil and water it well. It will reward you with leaf buds in spring. The first TWO summers water it very frequently and deep if you want it to live. When we get a crazy summer every other day may be necessary.
I am so happy with my peach tree. It’s been the most reliable producer of fruit of all my trees to date. Fruiting buckets when it was only 3 years in the ground. In spring you get beautiful flowers and later on you get wonderful fruit:
It was a four foot tall, wispy stick when I stuck it in the ground 4 yeas ago which is the first picture. I had to prop it up with bamboo sticks during a windstorm its first year. This is my first recommendation for anyone wanting traditional fruit here in Austin. It’s far and away out performed every other tree I have.
It’s provided us with fun things like peach cobbler, peach pie, and peach salsa the past two springs (which is must do if you haven’t tried it).
This is by far the second best fruiting tree I’ve planted. I actually have two of these. They are self pollinating but I love them so much I wanted more than one variety. They love full sun.
This was my tiny persimmon tree. It’s fourth year in the ground it decided to give me a bumper crop. Both trees were LOADED. I hadn’t expected that so it caught me off-guard since every other year the fruit dropped before it was mature (it’s common for young trees to do that and focus their energy on growing instead of producing fruit). I had so many I didn’t know how to use them all so I froze pulp until I could figure out what to do with all of it. The largest variety is now 20 feet tall and the other variety is a dwarf which will stay provably 6 feet tall or so.
Other Deciduous Fruit Trees
Plum – Mexican Plum handles the summer heat well in our area but is a sporadic producer. Plant in full sun to part shade
Pomegranates – have the most beautiful red showy flowers. I planted the “wonderful” variety and have been very unimpressed. The tree is only in the ground 4 years so it’s possible it needs longer to produce than that. So far last year we got two extremely tiny and under-ripe pomegranates. I only see 3 flowers this year so even if they all pollinated I’m certain it will be about the same. Plant in full sun.
Pears – be very choosy what variety you pick for this. Mine hasn’t even flowered yet. I’ve seen nothing. My neighbor however gets tons of fruit every few years. Full sun.
Figs – are suited well to the area. This is the first year I’ve gotten any figs about 3 handfuls. Plant in full sun.