Planning and picking the right fruit trees for a homestead orchard is a great way to grow more food with less work!
Our family has a simple yet complex goal for our homestead – we want to grow as much food for our family as possible. That tends to be the goal for most homesteaders, and one way to increase your food production is to find the best fruit trees for a homestead orchard.
My husband and I purchased his childhood home less than a year ago, and since we are finally in our permanent location, we are focusing more on growing perennials and fruit trees. Not all fruit trees grow well in our part of Ohio, so we have to pick the best fruit trees for our region.
Fruit trees are an investment; they’re more expensive than adding vegetable plants. An average fruit tree ranges from $30-60, depending on what you want to grow and where you purchase your fruit trees. Planning a homestead orchard takes time, and since it is a larger upfront cost, I suggest you take time to pick the fruits tree for a homestead that you really want to grow.
Let’s take a look at the fruit trees that I think are the best choices for a homestead.
9 Best Fruit Trees for a Homestead Orchard
1. Apple Trees
Apple trees are a must-have fruit tree for a homestead. Dozens of apple tree varieties exist; you can grow multiple varieties depending on what you want to make with the apples.
Some apples are tart; these are best for cider, cider vinegar, and baking. Most tart apples have a firm texture that will keep a bit of a crunch when you make apple pie.
Other apples are known for being juicy and firm with a sweeter flavor. These are great for making homemade apple juice, apple sauce, or apple butter.
Then, you have the classic snacking apples that are large with delicate flesh and a mild, crisp flavor. Snacking apples tend to have less juice and, since they’re so delicate, they typically aren’t ideal for baking.
Apples have a great shelf life; they store well in root cellars without canning or preserving the fruits. All they need is the right temperature, and these fruits store well.
The Best Apple Trees for a Homestead
You’ll find so many different apple trees to plant on a homestead, but some favorites are:
- Golden Delicious
- Red Delicious
2. Mulberry Trees
We have a huge mulberry tree in our backyard that I use to make mulberry jelly every spring for my children. They love mulberries.
Most berries grow on bushes or small plants, like strawberries or raspberries. Mulberries grow on trees, and they produce more fruit than any other fruit tree. That’s a great reason to add one to your homestead.
I can confirm that mulberry trees are FULL of berries; we could never use them all, even if we try. Plus, birds eat the berries, and volunteer mulberry trees pop up everywhere.
The Best Mulberry Trees for a Homestead
- Black Mulberries – Morus nigra
- Red Mulberries – Morus rubra
- White Mulberries – Morus albą
3. Pear Trees
Pears are even easier to grow than apple trees. These fruits are delicate and delicious, perfect for fresh eating and desserts. We like to can fresh pears and make preserves – pear butter is similar to apple butter, and it’s just as yummy.
If you’ve never grown fruit trees before, pears are easy to cultivate. They’re productive and produce high yields of fruits. Some pear trees reach up to 30 feet tall, but there are plenty of dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties of trees that fit well even on small homesteads.
The Best Pear Trees for a Homestead
4. Fig Trees
Fig trees are easy to grow; they’re great fruit trees for a homestead. Beginners rarely struggle with growing figs, as long as the fruits work well in your climate. If they don’t, fig trees grow well in containers. You’ll have to bring the tree inside if your region receives frosts.
If you’re new to growing fruit trees, figs start to bear fruits one year after planting. You don’t have to wait forever to enjoy homegrown fruits.
The Best Fig Trees for a Homestead
- Brown Turkey
5. Peach Trees
Peaches are one of the fastest growing fruit trees, so if you don’t want to wait a decade for homegrown fruits, this is a great choice. Most peach trees will bear fruits within 5 years, but they don’t like the cold. If these trees experience temperatures that dig down into the negatives, you’ll lose your harvest or the entire tree.
When grown from a young tree and in the right region, peaches appear on the tree one to two years after planting. After five years, you’ll receive the full harvest compared to 8-10 years for other trees!
The Best Peach Trees for a Homestead
- Arctic Supreme
- Dessert Gold
6. Nectarine Trees
Another fast growing fruit tree for your homestead are nectarine trees. These grow as fast peaches, but the problem with nectarine trees is that they’re high maintenance. You have to trim and prune on a regular basis.
From what I’ve heard, growing nectarines isn’t for the new fruit tree grower. These require a bit of experience and knowledge, but once you figure them out, harvests arrive two to three years after planting. Each tree produces 30-40 pounds of fruit for 20 years or longer.
The Best Nectarine Trees for a Homestead
- Diamond Ray
- Flaming Red
- Red Diamond
7. Cherry Trees
Cherry trees come in two varieties: sour cherries and sweet cherries. Most people use sour cherries for baking and juicing – you have to add sugar to make them enjoyable. Sweet cherries are ideal for fresh eating and juicing.
Surprisingly, you can plant both, but the varieties won’t cross-pollinate. So, you need to have two of each variety to produce fruits. Make sure you double-check that the cherry tree you select grows in your region; some only grow in USDA zones 5-9.
The Best Cherry Trees for a Homestead
8. Apricot Trees
If you’re planning to stay on your property forever, I highly recommend apricot fruit trees for a homestead. These trees have some of the longest lifespans out of any fruit tree, average up to 150 years.
That’s right; you’re great-great-grandkids will enjoy fruits from an apricot tree if you plant it today.
Apricot trees begin to produce fruits within three years of planting, reaching their maximum harvest around five to eight years after planting. They require moderate levels of maintenance, including thinning, weekly irrigation, and pruning.
The Best Apricot Trees for a Homestead
- Autumn Royal
- Gold Kist
- Golden Amber
9. Lemon Trees
Not all homesteaders can grow lemon trees because they’re citrus and prefer subtropical and tropical regions. Growing lemon trees in containers is highly popular right now, allowing them to move the tree inside when the temperatures are too low.
Lemon trees bear fruits within three to five years after planting. After the trees begin to produce. harvest, they’ll produce lemons once or twice per year, so long as it receives ample sunlight.
The Best Lemon Trees for a Homestead
How to Pick the Best Fruit Trees for Your Homestead Orchard
Needless to say, there are literally hundreds of fruit tree varieties that you could plant, depending on where you live. If you’re wondering how in the world you should make your selection, here are a few important considerations.
Know Your USDA Hardiness Zone
First, start by finding out your USDA hardiness zone where you live. You have to put fruit trees that grow well in your hardiness zone, or they won’t survive.
I suggest talking to other gardeners in your area as well and find out their experiences. For example, even though the maps say that peaches grow in my region, many local orchards and farmers struggle because my zone is prone to late frosts. A late frost will kill off a peach harvest in a second.
I personally don’t want to devote space or the time to a fruit tree on a homestead that might not survive our climate.
Do The Fruit Trees Need Chilling Hours?
Some fruit trees need a minimum chilling hours – temperatures between 32-45 degrees F – to produce harvest. If you live in a warm climate, you want to look for low chilling requirements. Some fruits trees, like citrus trees, don’t require any chilling hours and cannot survive low temperatures.
If you live in a cold region, pick varieties that need more chilling hours. This helps to prevent frost damage to the buds on your plants in the spring.
How Much Space The Fruit Trees Need
When picking the right fruit trees for a homestead, you need to consider the mature size of the tree to decide if it’s going to fit your property.
Semi-dwarf and dwarf trees are great if you don’t have a lot of space, and they will produce fruits faster than standard trees. Most of these trees reach 8-18 feet wide. The downside is that they won’t produce fruits as long.
Standard fruit trees are larger and require more space, and they take longer to produce fruits. These trees reach 20-30 feet tall and wide; some are larger. The benefit is that they’ll produce fruits for decades to come. Most will live for 20-40 years.
Pollination Needs of the Fruit Trees
Some varieties of fruit trees need other trees to grow nearby to cross-pollinate each other. They need to bloom at the same time or have overlapping blooming periods to cross-pollinate.
The good thing is that most nursery list the options for gardeners, so you don’t have to guess. The bad news is that, if you don’t plant another variety, you won’t receive fruits from that tree.
Understand Your Microclimates
You start by picking out fruits tree for a homestead by making sure it matches your USDA zone and chilling hours. Then, think about the microclimates on your property. Everyone has different growing conditions on their property, such as sun exposure, wind exposure, low-lying areas, etc.
Figure Out Your Soil Conditions
Your soil conditions matter as well. You want to make sure that the pH range of your soil matches what is needed for planting fruit trees. Ideally, you want your soil to have a neutral pH.
Then, figure out what type of soil you have. Do you have sandy, clay, or loamy soil? Sandy soil drains well, and it’s ideal for fruits tree for a homestead. If you have clay soil, you’ll need to amend it because it holds too much moisture.
Try Growing Fruit Trees This Year
Don’t wait around and delay planting fruit trees since they take years to produce a full-size harvest. Start by picking a few fruit trees for a homestead and planting them this year. Add more each year, and before you know it, you’ll have an amazing homestead orchard.