There Would Be Too Much to Harvest
This is an odd objection. As anxious as we might be to start getting fruit, we can also wonder if someday we might get buried in TOO MUCH fruit. That's understandable. Have you ever driven past a property that had a fruit tree in the front yard? I've seen many apple trees that were completely inundated with apples. The lawn was barely visible -just a pile of half-rotting fruit.
We don't want to be wasteful. And we don't want to be burdened with more produce than we can handle. But, I can assure you that this problem is easily avoidable. Think too about the instability of our changing climate. There may be a day that you desperately wish you had more fruit than you can handle. Even still, here are some strategies that can easily mitigate the "problem" of having plenty.
Managing Fruit Harvests
LIMIT FRUIT OUTPUT: If you fear having crates and crates of fruit from each tree, you could simply limit what each tree can produce. Selecting a dwarfing rootstock results in much smaller tree sizes. Smaller trees means less fruit. As an added bonus, the fruit is easier to harvest. Special pruning techniques can also be employed to forcibly dwarf your trees even further, making them very easy to manage.
As an additional technique, you could select partially self-fertile fruits. Often these produce larger crops with a 2nd pollinator. However, by limiting that variety to a single plant, you can avoid experiencing excess harvests in later years. For example, the hardy kiwi typically requires a male pollinator for the female fruit producing vines. But there is a variety called "Issai" which is self-fertile, requiring only one plant. It is also less vigorous than other hardy kiwis. So harvests can be plentiful but not overwhelming.
STAGGER HARVEST WINDOWS: You'd like a couple of peach trees. But you don't want to have 50 pounds of fruit that all ripens at once. No problem. Select different varieties that have unique harvest windows. Pick an "early", "mid-season" and "late" peach. Instead of getting all of your peaches in a single week. Each tree will ripen at a different time. You can also broaden your search. Consider fruit trees, vines and shrubs that ripen all throughout the season. Your first taste of fruit might be some honeyberries in the late Spring. And in the late Fall you could still be bringing in fruit as you pick your persimmons!
Preserving Your Fruit Crops
KNOW THE SHELF LIFE: The fear of excess fruit can be eased once you realize that you don't have to eat 50 pounds of fruit within 2 weeks. In the right conditions, some fruit will last for MONTHS before it must be consumed. Apples are a perfect example of this. They are great candidates for cold storage. On the other hand, paw paws must be eaten or frozen within a couple of days. So learn what the shelf life is for each fruit and how to best store it. This may take some pressure off of you.
FRUIT PRESERVATION: Beyond cold storage, there are plenty of food preservation methods that can allow you to enjoy your harvest throughout the entire year. Freezing works great for fruit that will be used in smoothies or mixed in with yogurt. Most of the nutritional value remains intact, as you can ration your fruit throughout the Winter months.
Dehydration, which includes fruit leather, is an excellent way to have some nutrient rich fruit snacks on the go. With a little extra effort, you might trying canning. Many people love making fruit preserves, jams or jellies. You can even try soaking some fruits in alcohol!
Sharing The Bounty
YOUR SURPLUS CAN HELP OTHERS: While you're busy stressing out over some rotting pears on your kitchen table, you may have neighbors who would love to have a few succulent pears. If we ever find ourselves with a bumper crop, that affords us the opportunity to share with family and friends. We could help those in need. In fact, why not ask others to help you? Grandchildren could be tasked with berry picking. In return, they get to keep half of what they pick!
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES: Excess fruit could be used as a bartering medium. Trade your surplus apples for some of your neighbor's pears. Sell a few baskets of plums at the local farmer's market. Make mulberry jam and sell some jars for a little extra cash.
IS THIS "FOR THE BIRDS"? Some people love wildlife so much that they plant trees and shrubs that serve as a food source. Many cultivated fruits and berries are appreciated by birds just as much as us. A massive mulberry or cherry tree might offer enough bounty for both us and our fine feathered friends. Or we may scoop up some fruit for our domesticated fowl. Our chickens wouldn't mind one bit!
Don't Miss This Opportunity!
You may be able to think of a few reasons to avoid starting your own backyard orchard. But there are too many reasons for why you should just do it. The biggest is yourself. Well, not "you" today. But the "you" in 5 years or 10 even. Do you want to look back and kick yourself for not doing it sooner? Whether it's for you or as a legacy to leave for others, it's ALWAYS worth planting edibles in your backyard!