Plums sound good, I like the idea of an apple tree but is it hard work to keep them small? Or can you get ones that don't grow too big?
How do you grow good strawberries? My sister once grew some outside and she got plenty of strawberries but they were the size of blueberries, haha.
Same as pp said, if you want smaller trees, get the dwarf varieties. We planted pear, apple, and cherry trees last year. Still a few years away from having fruit, but so far they have been fairly easy to care for. Just fertilize, mulch, water, and prune. We have major japanese beetle issues where I live, too, so I have several traps around the trees to keep them from destroying the trees.
I think I'm trying to grow an orchard. I've a few apple trees, a plum tree, a couple of pear trees, a cherry tree and dozens of soft fruit bushes. I think I have a slight addiction - I'm always looking for new trees or soft fruit bushes to buy!
The tress are the easiest to maintain. The plum tree has probably been the easiest, though they grow huge (I think about 30ft) if you don't prune them - I just cut it back every autumn. Its self fertile, too, which means you only need one. The apple trees are dwarf varieties, they spent about 5 years in a pot and never gave me more than a couple of apples each. I planted them in the ground last year and got more apples. One of them has blossomed this year, one hasn't (I think it was cos I pruned the one heavily). I wouldn't recommend growing them in pots. The third one is a really old apple tree that has been cut right back several times and always re-grows and produces masses of apples. They're not always self fertile - the old tree didn't produce a single apple until I got the two other apple trees. The pear trees grow well but are not self fertile so, if there are no others nearby, you need two. You also have to keep an eye on the fruit and pick it before it is ripe and falls from the tree - it needs to ripen off the tree (which sounds bizarre!). The cherry tree was only planted last summer so I'm yet too see how it does. It's just blossoming now, so fingers crossed it pollinates and produces lots of fruit. Not all are suitable to eat straight from the tree, though - some are for cooking so be careful which you buy. All the trees are really easy to maintain, though. If you want fast growing with lots of fruit, I'd probably suggest a plum tree.
You can also look in to grafting on trees - basically growing different fruits on the same tree by 'transplanting' branches. I've never done it but am considering it.
Fruit bushes are an easy option. I have lots of different ones, and they're quite hardly little things. They tend to die off each autumn and it looks like they've had it, and then they spring back in to life about March time. There's lots of choice from the standard blackberries (you can get thornless ones) to specially bred ones like tayberries.
Strawberries are easy to grow. There are lots of varieties, some are tiny, some are huge. I've grown big and little ones. They produce runners (little off shoots which take root and which you can then cut from the main plant) - the fruits from these are meant to be smaller but I can't say I've noticed a difference. Strawberry plants are only meant to last about three years before they need to be dug up and burnt. You can plant them in the ground (I've heard that you should place them on a mat of straw to stop the strawberries rotting) or in hanging baskets or pots (which is what I do).
Grapes and kiwi are good plants, too. They are both a vine so are good for growing up a trellis or wall (go south facing for warmth). I've had huge bunches of grapes but never had any success with kiwis (the dogs have chewed the stems each time).
Some veg comes back each year - I know asparagus does and rhubarb (though I'm not sure if that is a vegetable or fruit?). I've never grown asparagus but rhubarb is very low maintenance. I put a plant in last year or the year before and so far this year it's producing masses of rhubarb.
A lot of herbs come back each year, too. I've got a bay tree (only got it last autumn so not sure how it'll turn out) but that's survived the winter and is currently living in a pot, and then other standard herbs like rosemary, thyme and chives which seem to be evergreens and are very easy to maintain.
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