Just like a vegetable garden, a small orchard or vineyard can lead to a well stocked pantry!
Fruit trees can offer a great deal of self-reliance to an urban or country homestead. Fruit trees are relatively cheap to purchase, and will produce a great amount of food for years to come. One tree could produce anywhere from 150 to 300 apples if well maintained. Same with peaches. Fruit from trees of course can be eaten fresh, canned for food storage and even dried for longer term food storage. Fruit can be juiced and then the juice can be canned for food storage. The left over peels, cores and scraps can be fed to farm animals, chickens especially like these tasty little treats or they can go into the compost bin, either way everything is being used.
Other fruits that are especially good on the self-reliant homestead are: grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. They take minimal space to grow and can be canned, frozen, eaten fresh, or used for juicing. You can use them to make wines, jellies, and jams.
Like any other plant they will need a bit of maintenance. They will need to be pruned, thinned, watered, and treated for insects.
One of the downsides with fruit bearing plants, is that typically you buy them when they are still young, therefore you will not begin to see the ‘fruits of your labor’ for
a couple of years, maybe longer depending on how old the tree was when you planted it. They do require a bit of attention when you first plant them. They will need to be watered regularly so they can establish a good root base. They do well with a bit of fertilizer. We use goat manure and find it works well, but there are also chemical fertilizers that are good as well.
Vines will need something to help ‘support’ them so they do not fall over and become a tangled mess. We are training our grapes as well as blackberries to grow on a trellis we made from fencing. This makes it much easier to maintain the vines and keep them looking nice and not like an overgrown eyesore.
For the small urban homestead, you can buy dwarf varieties of popular fruit trees. Dwarfs are just that, smaller versions of the original tree. You can also purchase self-pollinating trees. Trees that self pollinate do not require a 2nd tree in order to get a good yield of fruit.
Be sure to think through where you plant your trees once you get them home, as they are not easily moved. Be sure to pay attention to what they will shade as they grow larger. You do not want to plant your apple tree next to the tomatoes if as that tree as it grows it will cast shade over the tomatoes a large part of the day. That will make it counter productive. Whatever you purchase and plant, have fun and make it a family day.