Food for community - newbie in New England

Hi! I’m new here and would love your expert thoughts. I am a newbie (but intrepidly so). I use she/her pronouns.

I am new to having an actual yard, and in my first year I focused first on bugs and bees and birds and critters. (Followed wildlife certification - brush piles in the woods in the backyard, bubbling water, native plants, so many native wildflowers, etc.)

I love the idea of edible landscaping that creates community - neighbors eating fruit or picking herbs as they walk by, and bonding over gardening. (I planted some native blueberry bushes, so far that’s my only fruit plant.) I also am hoping to make my oak-and-pine back woods a little more productive, either for humans or critters.

I had an arborist out for some dead trees, who when I mentioned my hope to plant fruit trees, was dubious about my ability to manage fruit trees as a beginner. I wanted to fact-check that here and learn from you.

My initial thoughts for my zone 6b yard, based on reading rather than doing - I freely admit my ignorance:

  • pawpaws (maybe Susquehanna & Sunflower),

  • saskatoon / juneberry (not sure what variety),

  • haskaps/honeyberry (maybe Aurora & honeybee),

  • blueberries (maybe add Chandler & O’Neal),

  • sweet cherries (maybe Stella & Lapins).

  • Black currants are my favorite, but illegal where I live due to pine blight

  • I love the idea of apples but they seem kind of intimidating. (I found some of these varieties that sounded like I might not kill them and they’d cross-pollinate? Honeycrisp or Granny Smith or Winecrisp; with Bonkers NY 73334-35 or Sweet Sixteen)

I’d love your thoughts, warnings on stumbling blocks, examples / photos from your own yards, or just attagirl you can do this!

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Welcome. Dont get too intimidated by an arborist casting doubt on you, if they don’t know you, how are they able to pass judgment.

I can assure you that apples are not that difficult to grow. It sounds like you have done research and decided on other fruits, and apples are not really hard. You mention Winecrisp, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. I grow all 3 and my honeycrisp is the most finicky. It just is a more stingy producer for me, but it produces nice apples. My granny Smith produces heavy crops of large fruit, and are delicious. I think Winecrisp is underrated, as it is a very good apple as well. I like it the best of the 3 for eating out of hand.
I grow 48 other varieties, but not Bonkers or Sweet 16 yet.
Apples aren’t difficult in the scope of disease pressures. I feel as if stone fruit is much more difficult, at least for me.

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I’d recommend some cane fruits like raspberries and blackberries. For the community aspect you’ll probably want to go thornless. They’re generally low to no maintenance, and a fast return.

Saskatoon’s aren’t something most people are used to eating I think, so I’m not sure how well it would support the community aspect. And they can get large without pruning I think. But I think they’re low to no maintenance. And birds like them.

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Sounds like you’ve done some research…and have found some ideas to implement that probably will work for you.

Cranberry viburnum is one to consider adding to the list. And, you just might find a gooseberry or currant growing in your woods even if they are illegal…for they are native to many pine forests of North America and never got eradicated during the nationwide ban.

Antique apples on standard full-sized roots probably are your best bet for a food forest situation. (The dwarf apple trees don’t have much root system…nor are they tall enough to compete for the needed sunlight).
Pears probably compete better in a woodsy situation than many fruits.

Some nuts, including beech and acorns and hickory and chestnut and hazels could be considered.

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Have you tried pawpaws before, wild or cultivars?

FloraMaxx has some great choices here. I ordered from them last year and will order more this year. I’d suggest Aurora, Indigo gem, Beauty, Beast, and Blizzard based on my research.

I am adding Chandler, Toro, Hannah’s Choice, Cara’s Choice (if trades work out), and a few others this year. There are a lot of good options depending on your soil and growing conditions.

There are countless threads on lower maintenance apples. I’d start with Scott’s 2019 list (unless updated more recently) and just search for low spray or no spray apple threads. It also depends on what your objective is, fresh eating? Sauce? Cider?

Are you able to grow gooseberries or red/white/pink currants with your regulations? It’s my understanding they do not harbor wpbr

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I am in Worcester County. You are 6 b so you are probably closer to Boston and the ocean. Can you be a bit more specific about your location i.e. north shore, south shore, middlesex county,etc. We have many growers on the forum from MA.

@HollyGates , @SMC_zone6 , @Colleen7 , @galinas , @Vlad , @Johnthecook , @JinMA , to name a few.

I have grown a little bit of many fruit trees. I started out being organic and over the years, I have realized that it is very challenging and time consuming. I have used more synthetic these days.

The fruit trees that are trouble -free for me are jujubes, pawpaws and persimmons. Not even apples could be trouble free if certain leaf fungus find your trees. Stone fruit like peaches, cherries, plums need synthetic sprays to get decent fruit.

You may like Chinese jujubes. Grow varieties for fresh eating. Varieties like Honey Jar, Sugar Cane, Massandra, Black Sea are tasty. It is best you you can try them first. Chinese and Indian markets carry them in season (late summer, early fall)

Persimmons, the one surviving our zone tends to American and hybrids. @SMC_zone6 is very knowledgeable. Hope he can give you his suggestions.

Pawpaws, Shanandoah and Sunflowers are good choices. You want to look for varieties that ripen early. Susquehanna ripens late. Although you are in 6b, it is safer to plant early rieping varieties.

I don’t grow berries any more. I used to grow blueberries but my soil is neutral and my water is alkaline. It was an uphill battle that I was not interested to engage in anymore after 5 years of trying. I do still like Chandler. If you can find a blueberry farm, go try them there. Sometimes, what others here like, may not want you like. Taste is subjective.

I ate haskap/honeyberries this summer, thanks to @galinas . They tasted fine but I have a small yard so they don’t make a cut in my yard.

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Good list…

And we were all newbies once. Heck I’ve been gardening like this for 20+ years and every year is something new.

Good choices. Black currants are great, but maligned by municipalities. Look into whether Clove currants are restricted for you. Good flavor profile (similar but different from black currants).

Surprised mulberry isn’t on your list. They are an easy, generally no spray, fruit tree and produce abundantly enough that after a year or two you won’t mind losing some to passersby.

I love Saskatoons (also called June berries, and Serviceberries) more than blueberries, and they don’t require quite as much care. (be aware though that if you have cedars nearby, you may have to contend with rust and other issues). I’ve gotten good crops with little care, though.

@mamuang 's suggestions about persimmons and jujubes should be seriously considered. Both are pretty carefree and easy fruit plants.

Scott

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I have found sour cherries an easy one to deal with. They are self fertile, so you only need one. I’ve heard good things here about the shrub ones, and they would be easy to harvest.
For sharing, an great place to start is herbs. People may be more willing to start with just taking a few leaves or clippings. Most herbs have an insane retail-cost vs. cost/work-input-to-grow-yourself so they are very attractive to the general population.
Sage, mint, oregano, lovage, thyme, chives and bee balm are all very easy and hardy.
Rhubarb, walking onion and lavender are also great ones to establish and then harvest as needed. ( I have found rhubarb a great “gateway” for getting people to take some. They have fond memories of it, it is hard to find to buy and expensive and many remember that their granny grew it and it was hardy so they feel comfortable accepting some) None of them are difficult to grow! ( but you might want to cage the mint a bit since they can overrun)
I do rosemary, lemongrass and parsley as annuals and they are also very low effort.

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Don’t listen to that naysayer. Neither I nor my thoughts are “expert,” but of this I’m certain: you can learn to manage fruit trees. Will you make mistakes? Sure! I make them constantly. But if you apply yourself—and start out with species and varieties that are durable, disease-resistant and adapted to your region—you’ll learn from your mistakes; you’ll also find that, more often than not, your plants will forgive your errors. The keys are: 1.) careful plant selection; 2.) study; and 3.) application and observation. You’ll probably learn more from carefully watching what your plants do when you cut them in a certain way at a certain time or fertilize them with a certain material, etc. than you will from all the books and articles you read. Consider keeping a garden/orchard diary in which you can note bloom times, ripening times, successes, failures and many other interesting data for future reference.

Pawpaws are a good starter fruit. They require minimal pruning; you could probably get away without pruning them at all. Juneberries, haskaps would be good choices. More blueberries only if your soil is already suitably acidic; otherwise, too much trouble for a beginner. Gooseberries (if legal in your area) and brambles are good ideas. I second @Viridian’s suggestion of rhubarb, the vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit; it is a handsome, easy perennial. While you’re at it, plant some well-behaved alpine strawberries around your rhubarb patch; folks will love finding—and eating!—those.

I like @BlueBerry 's suggestion of pears. If you pick some good, disease-resistant varieties—Asians, Europeans or both—you’ll find them very forgiving and surprisingly easy to grow. A pear is a good tree on which to learn the art and mystery of training and pruning. My pears would likely call me a “heartless butcher” and a “fumbler,” but (when the mercurial Kentucky weather cooperates) they’ll still bear fruit.

Have you acquired any good books to study this winter? A great, no-nonsense book I recommend is Backyard Fruit Production: An Ilustrated Growing Guide, by David R. Schlabach.

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Between your fruit trees consider adding nitrogen fixers that also bear fruit… goumi berries for example.

I started 3 new apple trees a couple years ago… and planted a red gem goumi and a sweet scarlet goumi in the mix. Mine are planted in a row raised bed… apple - goumi - apple - goumi - apple like…

The one in the middle is a Hudson golden gem apple and it has a goumi on each side… and it has grown exceptionally well… a very healthy stout thriving tree.

Goumis to consider … the two I mentioned… and carmine… and rain tree select.

Goumi produce fruit early… for me here in southern TN… sweet scarlet fruit ripens May 10-20… and then red gem ripens May 20-30.

Ideal… I plan to add carmine and raintree select soon.

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For a ladies point if view on permaculture gardening… this lady has her entire yard growing something…

This one tooooo !!

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Oh thank you! That’s really helpful. I had heard that honeycrisp is very hard to grow, so I’m glad you think winecrisp is delicious. What’s your recommendation for pollinating pairs?

Eat Your Yard mentions crabapples for both pollination and jelly - it talks about sweet varieties for fresh eating, Callaway Crab and Native American sweet crabapple. Thoughts on those?

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Oh do you think I could grow pears in my woods? It’s oaks and a few pines.

Gooseberries are prohibited in my area too. Pink currants only with a special license.

FloraMaxx, thanks! I’ll check them out.

Fresh eating apples.

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Thank you! I really appreciate the local info. I’m south a Woostah, Bristol Country.

I saw about the haskap expedition in the archives. I think that’s how I found this board actually. Seemed like a really nice group.

Thanks, I’ll consider them closely. James Prigioni on YouTube talks about persimmon, and he’s in New Jersey. Glad to hear it’s a real option.

Jujube wasn’t on my radar at all!

Thanks, I saw a mention of Goumi in an old thread someone pointed me toward. I checked it out and it’s intriguing! What does it taste like?

Thanks for the herb recommendations. Have you ever tried French sorrel?

Sour cherries - hmm interesting. I’m never going to bake pies. I’ll plan to bake pies, I’ll make a Pinterest page to bake pies, I’ll want to bake pies… but I’m never going to do it. Are sour cherries good for something else like jam, or fruit curd…?

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Thanks for the encouragement, and for the book recommendation.

Here’re the books I’m working through.

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