Of all the things you can plant in your yard, it’s hard to beat fruit trees. Why? Because fruit trees bear fruit! Yum. Just like veggies and berries straight from your garden, tree-ripened fruit is an entirely different edible experience than store-bought. Sometimes, though, homeowners who have opted for artificial grass fear their lawn and fruit trees may not mingle nicely. Is that really a problem?
Worry not. You can have your grass and eat fruit, too.
All those myths about trees and artificial turf that keep cropping up? You’ve heard them: “Tree roots wreck the turf.” “The turf will kill your trees.” Bunk, we say! Not only can artificial grass and trees coexist just fine, you can combine them anywhere in your yard. Where natural grass can get downright grumpy if trees cast too much shade, artificial grass couldn’t care less. It doesn’t grow, so it doesn’t sunlight. That said, your fruit tree itself will want full sun.
So what fruit should you get?
Not every type of fruit tree will thrive in our Bay Area climate. For example, you can try peaches, but know that you will probably be fighting peach leaf curl. It won’t kill the tree, but it might kill your zeal for peach cobbler. Other types of fruit, such as most cherries, require colder winters than we can offer them. So, to improve your chances of enjoyment instead of disappointment, consider some of the following:
- Citrus -- lemons, limes, oranges (and their smaller cousins), grapefruit, kumquats. Citrus trees have stunningly fragrant flowers as well as pretty, tasty fruit. If you go for a Meyer lemon (which is really a shrub, not a tree), you’ll have flowers and fruit at the same time instead of in series.
- Loquats – unusual, eye-catching leaves in addition to their other attributes
- Persimmons, which offer orange leaves as a fall bonus
- Pomegranates (also a shrub, it can make a lovely hedge with its orange flowers and red fruits)
The disclaimer “depending on the variety” applies to most all of these, and this isn’t a complete list. The best plan is to consult your favorite local nursery or garden center for advice on what will work in your yard. Make the right choice, and you’ll have beautiful blossoms to enjoy as well as your very own crop to eat.
Decisions, decisions . . .
There’s more to choosing a fruit tree than deciding what type of fruit you want to eat. For a home yard, semi-dwarf and dwarf varieties are best because they will remain a sensible size. Apples and some other fruits can be espaliered on a trellis, along a wall or as a two-sided divider within your garden. Other factors to consider include:
- How many chill hours does the tree require to fruit (remember our note about cherries)
- How much fruit the tree will produce (enough is enough, too much becomes problematic)
- Is the tree self-fruitful, or will you need two trees to get the cross-pollination that produces fruit
- Who will prune your tree (proper pruning is essential for fruit tree health and maximum fruit production)
Where to plant your fruit tree?
You can plant just one fruit tree as a specimen in the center of your artificial grass lawn, or create a mini-orchard around the perimeter or off to the side, if you have the space. While you could run the artificial turf right up to the trunk, leaving a “well” around the base of the tree is more practical. (This isn’t a sunken space, just a non-grassy area that will make it easier to pick up fruit, rake leaves, and water or fertilize your tree. You can plant groundcover or mulch the area so it looks prettiest.
Like all deciduous trees, your fruit tree will shed its leaves in the fall and you’ll have to rake them up. Fruit trees also shed fruit. They drop tiny fruits just forming, a self-thinning activity that (hopefully) results in the right balance between amount of fruit and the tree’s ability to provide enough nutrition. They also drop ripening (or over-ripe) fruit. So there’s a little more maintenance involved.
But you’ll have plenty of time for fruit tree care and fruit consumption, thanks to all the time you’re saving on lawn maintenance. And as your fruit tree grows, it will look ever more beautiful surrounded by your artificial grass.