Friday, January 8, 2010

Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes

Fruit Trees that don’t need to be sprayed

You may have a friend who has a fruit tree or berry bush that they inherited with their house and they do not know what variety it is. Or maybe you just want to get some fruit trees and berry bushes for free. My goal is to find fruit trees that are not sprayed and still produce good fruit. I specifically look for neglected trees and grape vines that have decent looking fruit on them. If you want a beautiful glossy apple with no blemishes on it, you will have to spray gobs of pesticides on your trees, but if you want very tasty fruit that may not be as large or pretty as store bought fruit, keep your eyes open as you walk in your neighborhood or are driving around town. If you see a Pear tree in a neighbor’s yard that has nice fruit, ask them if you can take a cutting to attempt to grow yourself. It will do no damage to the tree and you can grow a free fruit tree. Not all trees, vines and shrubs are easily propagated by cuttings, but many are. Grapes, Elderberries and Blackberries are particularily easy. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

These apples may not have store quality fruit, but they produce well without the use of chemicals and they taste great.

Grape and Paw Paw cuttings in tall pots of perlite in a tub of water to keep moist.

Grapes growing in a mixture of perlite, peat moss and compost before being planted.

Some basic knowledge of plant propagation can help you turn one specimen tree, berry bush or grape vine into many for you to grow in your own yard. Here is a link to a good website to learn about propagating plants:

Here is a great article about grafting the fruit bearing top of a tree to hardy root stock:

The following is a list of some of the fruit trees we currently are growing. I hope to get more good photos up soon.

Crabapples with large tasty fruit. Many types of crabs do not require spraying and they have very tasty fruit, albeit smaller than full size apples. More on this later!

Plums: Native and varietal. I really like our native plum. The fruit is sour and about the size of a cherry, but it is very hardy and a reliable producer. More on this later!

Apricots: Manchurian and others. More on this later!

Pears: Asian Pears that do not require spraying and are sweet as can be. They taste like candy. More on this later!

Peaches: I got a great variety from an old timer at a seed festival in Mansfield, MO that he got from a farm in Dent Co. Not a great looking fruit, but reliable and does not require chemicals. More on this later!

Apples: Some require so many chemicals that they are not worth growing, I look for neglected looking trees on old farms and either collect some seeds or cuttings (with permission of course). Make sure they are not grafted by looking for a knobby growth near the base of the trunk. If there is a knobby growth just above the soil, it is probably grafted and you will not likely have success with a cutting. On grafted trees, often the fruit bearing portion is not very hardy and that is why it is grafted to a hardy root stock. You can take a cutting and graft it onto a hardy root source, but that is pretty advanced.

Cherries: Black (native) and Bush Cherries. More on this later!

Persimmon are native to Missouri and we happen to have some choice trees in our woods. Not only are they a beautiful tree, they taste good when ripe. they are almost mushy-soft when ripe. You have to be careful to make sure they are all the way ripe before picking or else one bad fruit can ruin a whole batch of jam. If you eat a bad one, it will make your mouth pucker up like nothing else in this world, but a good one is sweeter than molasses. There are some Asian varieties I want to try that have larger fruit and are less astringent than our native tree. The large fruit varieties can be dried like prunes as well.

A small harvest in October 2009.

Paw Paw: More on this later!

The following is a link to a great fruit growers guide from Missouri State U

Berry Bushes

We have had great success with blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. We are seeing a lot of promise with chokeberries, elderberries and our Concord Grapes (very reliable), but because we got them planted later than the other berries we will have to post more on them later. Raspberries are growing, but yet to produce much. Native gooseberries continue to be a favorite of my kids, but because they are so prevalent in the woods around our house, we do not have to plant them. If you have never had one, think of a sweet tart without the sweet. They make a great pie with plenty of sugar added.

Blackberry bushes are very hardy and reliable. They can be aggressive and send up shoots where you don't want them.

My son picking Blackberries.

Me planting blueberries and strawberries in our newly tilled garden in 2007. Almost all berries like acid so I planted grapes, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries around the perimeter of our entire garden (inside the fence to protect from critters). Grouping of plants with similar soil needs can greatly reduce the time it takes to care for your garden. Our soil is clay so I had to add a lot of peat, sand and compost prior to planting. My daughter picking blueberries!

We have had great strawberry production. There are several weeks in June where the kids come inside with multiple bowls of berries. We grow the strawberries under the blueberries and grapes in a 3-4' wide swath around the entire vegetable garden. See: Our Vegie/fruit garden 2009

My daughter helping me pick strawberries!


  1. Hi, great idea to grow the strawberries under the other berries. I have not had much luck with the strawberries so I might have to give this a try. Good luck with your garden this year.

  2. Very inspiring! I'm curious how you cope with chipmunks and birds who are also interested in your fruit. Any tips?

  3. Very informative blog .. I'm following now!

  4. Hi,
    For your cuttings is this pure perlite or with a mix of sand? When was this taken? Spring of after winter?