Monday, June 29, 2015

Fruits for ( and some not for) North Georgia Yards

New isn't always better, especially when it comes to choosing reliably productive perennial fruits for our yards and gardens, but "the new" certainly is appealing. Here in North Georgia, we are able to grow many kinds of fruits, and some of those need very little care, but the list can feel limiting to the more adventuresome gardener.

Our little-care list of reliably productive fruits includes blackberries of many varieties, Heritage red raspberries (and Dormanred, but those are not great to eat), Rabbiteye-type blueberries, mulberries, June berries (aka: service berries), muscadine & scuppernong grapes, some varieties of plums (Methley is an old-reliable, and Auburn has developed several good varieties for the South), some pears (the old "sand pears" and a few others are quite hardy), persimmons (both American and Asian), the tart cherries like Northstar (sweet cherries don't do as well here), strawberries, and probably a few more (pawpaws, for example, would make the list if I knew of any that were very productive).

Prior to 2014, I would have added figs (brown turkey, Celeste) to the little-care list, but many fig trees in our area have been hammered by two very cold winters, then attacked by borers, and we will not be harvesting an abundance of figs any time soon. However, even without figs, there's a lot to choose from!

This list, as long as it is, still does not satisfy some gardeners, and I have to say that I am among the many who have tried growing other fruits in their yards, with varying degrees of success.

The Concord grape vine that I planted a decade or more ago produces pretty well some years, but not every year. The "hardy kiwi" planted 6-7 years ago, and that is supposed to be self-fertile, produces 3 to 5 kiwis each year. I planted lingonberries one year, since they are supposed to be okay down to zone 7 and prefer acid soils (which we have), but they died in less than a year. My Jewel black raspberry plants are doing great, and I love them. Wineberries also taste great and are very productive, but they tend to be invasive; keeping them out of the lawn and other planting beds requires some work (important to know). My Jostaberries  (which are supposed to be good to zone 7) provide only a few berries each year, even though the plants are several years old and pretty large.

One of my friends is having good success with jujubes, and I have some little plants on my front porch started from seeds he gave me. I know people who love their Meyer lemons and other citrus and assorted tropical fruits, but those all need protection from our winter cold. I count that protection as enough work to keep them off the little-care list.

I don't know anyone locally who is getting much fruit from their pomegranates, and the one guy I know who is trying goji berries (he bought plants grown from 5-year-old roots, to speed fruit production) is not having much success with those, even though he checked his soil pH and nutrient levels and matched them to the plant requirements listed on several websites. Just to find out what he might expect from his plants, we checked with someone a little further north who is growing goji berries as part of a permaculture project, and she reported a harvest of "a few berries at a time" from her plants that have been in the ground for three years. Since, along with the jujubes, I have started some goji berry plants from seed, this was not great news for me.

The basic point of this list-plus-commentary is that, for anyone looking for a new fruit (or any other plant!) to grow, checking around with other gardeners to find out whether anyone locally has had a good experience in terms of plant care and productivity might help keep harvest-expectations on a realistic level. Checking around might also turn up an unexpected treasure (like jujubes!)!


  1. My pomegranate produced quite a few fruit until I had to cut it down because of Ambrosia beetles. One fruit weighed 2 pounds. One problem is 'Wonderful' is the most likely variety to be sold here and it doesn't do well here. A better choice would be Parfianka which has edible seeds. By the way, scuppernong is a muscadine same as red delicious is an apple.
    For more exotic fruits that can be grown in North Georgis visit my website at and look for the page on fruit recommendations.
    Thanks, Eddie Rhoades

    1. Hi Eddie,

      Sorry to hear about the ambrosia beetles, but thanks for the information about Parfianka. I had already heard that "wonderful" was not the best choice for us, and it is good to know a variety that might work. I had heard that the best way to get a great/productive pomegranate is to find one growing in someone's yard that is loaded with good fruit (taste-testing required), then to ask if you can take a cutting from the plant to take home for rooting.

      For the grapes - locally, even though both are actually muscadines, as you point out, the bronze muscadines are all called scuppernongs, even when they are some other bronze-colored variety.

      I don't know why, but there it is. Thanks for stopping by to leave the note! -Amy


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