Most food producing gardens are centered on annuals — the harvest and done vegetables of the summer season. It doesn't have to be that way. There are many varieties of perennial food-producing trees, shrubs and plants that can provide year-around fixtures in a garden. Central to these are fruit trees and berry producing shrubs. Here are two popular varieties to get you started in your own home orchard.
Few fruits are as strong a staple as apples. Full of nutrients, sweet and relatively easy to grow apple trees can grow for a century and bare fruit in as little as 3 years after planting.
Apple trees are best planted in the cool, dormant season but they can be grown during the summer when they are often on sale at nurseries. If planting in the summer, mulch heavily with woodchips and water twice a day, especially on hot, dry days. Wood chip mulch is especially important because it helps attract beneficial fungi that support tree growth.
There are dwarf and standard varieties of apple trees. The dwarf varieties do not live as long, but grow more quickly and bare fruit sooner whereas the standard varieties become larger trees and will survive longer. When planting apples you always need two trees. Most apples do not pollinate themselves and so they need to be cross-pollinated from another tree. This allows the possibility of growing two different apple varieties such as a Fuji and a Gala. Ask at your local nursery which varieties do best in your area.
There are a variety of blueberry plant types and your choice of which to grow will mostly depend on geography. Lowbush varieties are the typical species found on Maine roadsides. This variety can tolerate some shade and does well in cooler climates. The Northern Highbush variety is also a good pick for cool climates. Some cultivars can reach 6 feet high and produce heavily for several years.
For those in the South, there are two varieties available. The Southern Highbush, which is a slightly more heat tolerant version of the Northern Highbush, is a good choice down to Zone 10. Rabbiteye blueberries are cultivated from southern wild blueberries. They are not as productive as the highbush varieties but can handle heat and humidity.
Whatever variety you choose, you will need three complementary plants to pollinate one another. Blueberries like a slightly more acidic soil than most plants and so amending the soil with sulfur and mulching with pine needles is a good idea.