Deciding where to plant your fruits

Gardeners talk about three main factors that you should consider when finding a home in your landscape for fruit, nut, and berry plants. Ideally, you want to satisfy all these conditions so your crop doesn't struggle:

1 Sun: Plentiful sun is a requirement — I'm talking at least six to eight hours a day, or even more. Fruit simply doesn't develop or prosper in shady conditions (even plant foliage may suffer or be sparse). So choose a south-facing spot, or in a pinch, east or west-facing. (Morning sun — an east-facing exposure — is better because it dries morning dew; morning dew that hangs around too long can cause fruit to rot.)

1 Elbow room: Pick a site out in the open, well away from the shade cast by a house, other building, fence, or other obstruction. Prune back any nearby shrub or tree branches that may be encroaching.

Planting distances vary for type of fruit and the rootstock it's on. Read the planting distance guidelines in the catalog or on the plant label.

1 Drainage: You want a spot with decent soil and good drainage. No berry-producing plants or fruit trees like wet feet (naturally damp spots or ones that hold rainwater for more than 12 hours). This waterlogging deprives the roots of needed oxygen and may actually inhibit the uptake of some soil nutrients.

If drainage is iffy in your yard, favor an upland spot or slope. In any event, planting fruits in the lowest part is never advisable. Heavy clay soil is a problem — though improving drainage by digging in lots of organic matter is possible. Alternatively, you can go to the trouble of creating a broad and deep (up to a foot, depending on what you plan to grow) raised bed. See Chapter 13 for more info on raised beds.

's where not to plant and why:

Low, boggy areas: These spots have poor drainage. 1 Steep slopes: Slopes are hard to plant, and the plants are hard to care for. 1 Shade: Fruit doesn't develop without days in the sun. 1 Lousy soil: Plants struggle in poor soil.

1 The middle of a pampered lawn: Lawn fertilizer is too nitrogen-heavy for fruit plants to tolerate, and mowers and string trimmers can be a hazard.

1 Against a wall or fence: Barriers crowd a plant, and poor air circulation is not good for its health (the exception is an espaliered fruit tree — see the upcoming section titled "Supporting and training your fruit").

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