For someone new to the world of homesteading, there’s the looming question of where on earth do you start? Now, to clarify, I don’t have unlimited funds and I’m willing to bet you don’t either. Starting from scratch means there’s a lot to do and a lot to pay for. Part of the allure of this lifestyle for many people is not just the peace of mind about knowing where your food comes from, but the money saved down the road. But that does mean that in the meanwhile you need to prioritize how much you can do and afford at a time. So when you need to pick and choose, knowing where to start becomes all the more imperative.
So what’s the answer? For me, it seemed perfectly logical to start with the things that take the longest to come to fruition. Think to yourself, what produce do I eat a lot of that will successfully grow where I live? This is where I landed on fruit trees. My husband loves apples and I’m a big fan of pears, both of which have varieties that grow well here in Wisconsin.
To find out what will grow well where you live you need to find out what hardiness zone you’re in. This is determined by how cold it gets at your location. So while many apples and pears do well where I live (specifically zone 5b), avocados do not because they don’t like the cold weather as indicated by the fact that their hardiness zones are 8-11. When looking up the hardiness zone for a plant be as specific as possible. Different types of the same plant may flourish in different zones. For example, an Asian pear tree will grow well in zones 5-9, but an Early Gold pear tree can thrive in zones 2-7. Take into consideration that, under the right conditions, you may be able to grow your fruit (or other produce) indoors.
Another important consideration with fruit trees is pollination. If pollination does not occur your tree will not produce fruit, so it’s important to know the details on what type of tree you’re getting before investing your money. There are self-pollinating trees (only one tree required to grow fruit), but most require cross-pollination (at least two trees required). Some trees are technically self-pollinating, but have superior performance with cross-pollination. If space is a factor, you may want to consider a dwarf tree. They grow to only be 8-10 feet tall compared to a normal tree which can be closer to 30 feet tall. They certainly aren’t as grandiose as a full sized colossus and won’t provide you an abundance of shade on a hot summer day like you’re re-enacting a scene from ‘The Giving Tree’, but they’re easier to take care of and still provide you full-sized fruit. Plus, you’ll start seeing that fruit in 3-4 years instead of 5-8 years.
Lastly, before you get to the actual planting of the tree make a plan. This is an investment and wise investments require careful consideration and planning. You don’t want to find out the hard way that you accidentally planted your full grown tree too close to a power line or left the root system directly on top of pipes. You know what they say, “if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” I thought that saying was from the hive mind of a myriad of schoolteachers, but according to Google it was John Wooden. Either way it definitely applies here.
I have plans to plant four trees in my backyard this spring, so we’ll definitely be getting more in depth on this subject in the near future.
Find out what hardiness zone you’re in- https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
Growing fruit indoors- https://www.bhg.com/gardening/vegetable/fruit/grow-tropical-fruits-in-containers/
If you haven’t read ‘The Giving Tree’- http://www.shelsilverstein.com/books/book-title-giving-tree/