Trees offer shade and can be gorgeous to look at, but wouldn’t it be great if you could also grow food from them?
You don’t always need to plant a vegetable garden. It’s as easy as picking a few plant types that will provide what you want to eat, without any more effort than you’d take to care for your plants normally. These plants are called edibles.
We’re seeing a “growing” interest in edible landscaping in North Florida and some of our clients would like to incorporate edibles that are well-suited for their properties. Today we’d like to zero in on fruit trees.
Here are five of the best fruit trees in North Florida for your Panhandle landscape.
The Meyer lemon is the best lemon variety to grow in Northern Florida, as it’s a cross between a lemon and a sweet orange. The greatest number of ripened lemons will be ready for picking from November to March, though you can get fruit year-round.
Meyer lemon trees are a little sensitive to the cold, and should be planted in a full sun spot. It’s probably best to plant them in the late winter or early spring. They’ll start producing lemons in about two or three years.
Some dwarf trees are planted and kept in containers, as they’re not large trees, though the trees max out at 12 feet, and usually aren’t higher than 10 feet. The trees are not picky about soil type as long as it drains well. Similar to other citrus trees, the Meyer lemon tree needs more watering in its early years than later.
Persian limes can be picked any time of the year. Like other citrus trees, Persian lime trees like full sun, and can tolerate a variety of soil types, though the soil should drain well. Keep space between trees, and between trees and buildings, so the tree has room to grow and get light on its lower branches.
Your Persian lime tree will need plenty of water when it’s newly planted, with lower water needs as time passes. The soil shouldn’t remain continually wet, or the tree can get root rot.
Persian lime trees are relatively cold-hardy, and produce a lot of limes. You can expect up to 30 pounds by the tree’s third year. More mature trees can grow more than 10 times that amount. When fully grown, the tree can be about 20 feet high.
If you want an orange tree, a Hamlin orange is the best one to plant in Northern Florida, as it’s more cold tolerant. Hamlin oranges tend to have mature fruit earlier in the season, starting in October or November, to January. Of course you don’t have to pick them then – they’ll stay fresh on the tree for awhile.
They’re highly productive, though the first three years, you won’t receive much fruit. In later years, you can get up to 500 pounds of fruit on one tree.
While an orange tree can handle some shade, it does best in 10-12 hours of sunlight daily. You can plant a container-grown tree at any time during the year. You don’t need to worry about pruning an orange tree, aside from removing dead branches.
Before planting, you’ll want to check your soil to make sure the acidity is around 6-8 pH, and that it’s well-draining. Expect to water your newly planted orange tree a few times a week for the first month, making sure it gets a good soaking each time. After that, you can water it less, but keep an eye on the leaves to make sure they’re still perky.
While fig trees grow well in dry climates, they do well in Northern Florida and can tolerate the sometime cooler winter temperatures (some of the “chill” time actually helps them grow fruit). Fig trees grow best in full sun.
If purchased in containers, you can plant them any time of the year, but bare-rooted plants should be planted in from December to February. They need well-draining soil that’s around 6-6.5 pH.
As for watering needs, fig trees need a good soaking several times a week for the first year. While they get larger elsewhere, fig trees in Florida generally don’t grow higher than 25 feet, affected by winter temperatures.
These trees usually have two crops per year, usually in early and late summer. You’ll start getting fruit within a year or two of planting, and your yield can vary from a few pints upwards of 100 pints a tree.
While most commercial grapefruit in the state is grown in Southern and Central Florida, grapefruit grows well in Northern Florida too. They grow best in hot days and warm night climates. You’ll want to give them space to grow, leaving at least 12 feet between the tree and buildings or walkways, and space between other fruit trees so they don’t block sunlight to the lower branches.
The grapefruit tree can grow as high as 30 feet and doesn’t need much pruning. Grapefruit trees prefer full sun. You might need to wait until the tree’s third year to enjoy its fruit, which can yield 25 pounds that year, and up to 250 pounds within a decade. You’ll get your mature grapefruits starting late fall and early winter, running through May.
Like the other citrus trees, the soil should be between 6-7 pH for grapefruit, and should be well-draining. Newly planted young trees need watering a few times a week, and after that you should pay attention to whether any leaves and buds are wilting. Beware, though, because if the soil is too wet, the roots can rot.
GreenEarth Can Help You Design A Delicious Edible Landscape
At GreenEarth, we can recommend many other edibles to add to your landscaping, depending on your preferences and your garden location. We can teach you how to care for the edibles, or make it part of routine professional landscape maintenance on your property.
We have the experience to help you find the best solutions for your landscaping needs and dinner plans.
If you’d like a consultation or want to know what we can do to help you, give us a call at our Panama City Beach office at (850) 236-1959, or call our Santa Rosa Beach office at (850) 267-0010 to set up an appointment. You can also fill out the online form on our website to schedule a consultation.