Growing your own fruit brings such sweetness
By Karol Kelly
Photos provided by the University of Georgia
Macon is a great place to live, gather, eat, and grow…grow your own food, that is. While I strive each year to be a successful vegetable gardener, it usually just doesn’t happen. One thing that I have found to be a little more achievable is growing fruit. While this typically requires a little more patience to taste the “fruits of your labor,” it can be quite rewarding.
One big difference between growing fruits and vegetables is that many of our fruits are perennials. Most of our vegetables are annuals, meaning you have to start from scratch with new plants each year. Perennial fruit is a little more hands-off.
Once the plant is off to a healthy start, with a little work, it will bear fruit for many years to come. Of course, there are exceptions. Our friends at Elliott Farms are planting their annual strawberries each year so we can the reap the harvest. When deciding what to plant, keep in mind that some of our favorites to eat, like apples and peaches, tend to be higher maintenance for backyard growers.
There are a number of fruits that do quite well in Central Georgia. These include some of our native favorites: muscadines, blackberries, blueberries, persimmons, mulberries, and even papaws. Because they are adapted to our hot, humid environment, they tend to have fewer pest problems. One non-native that also falls into the lower maintenance group is the fig. Fig trees require a large space but produce well without much care.
Of the fruits that do well in our area, blueberries are probably my favorite – both to grow and to eat. Aside from the typical plant care (watering, fertilizing, etc.), there are a couple of tips that will make your foray into blueberries successful.
Proper site selection and preparation is a must. Blueberries need acidic soils. The best way to determine soil acidity is to complete a soil test. If needed, sulfur can be added to lower the pH. Blueberry plants also struggle in heavy clay soils. Adding organic amendments can help overcome this challenge. Adjusting soil pH and adding amendments are much more easily done prior to planting.
Different varieties of rabbiteye blueberries, the ones best suited for our area, must be selected to allow for cross pollination. Be sure to pick two different varieties, like Alapaha and Climax, which have similar bloom times.
The Cooperative Extension office is happy to help get you started with fruit production. You can reach us at (478) 751-6338 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Bibb GA County Cooperative Extension on Facebook, or stop by to see us at the beautifully restored Robert Train Building at 715 Oglethorpe St.