In the low desert of Arizona, creating a fruitful food forest all year round is possible with the right knowledge and plant selection. Imagine stepping into your backyard to find a variety of ready-to-pick fruits each season. This guide will help you learn what to plant for year-round fruit tree harvests in Arizona.
Ideally, a food forest provides an abundance of fresh produce, with the possibility of picking fruit every day of the year. Here’s how to achieve a year-round fruit tree harvest in climates with milder winters, such as the low desert of Arizona.
Food Forest Benefits
A food forest is more than just a garden; it’s a thriving ecosystem that offers a sustainable approach to agriculture. Unlike traditional orchards, food forests layer plants in a way that maximizes space and encourages symbiotic relationships. From the canopy to the herbaceous layer, every square inch is designed for productivity and health.
The benefits of growing a food forest are immense – increased biodiversity, improved soil fertility, and a daily supply of fresh produce from your backyard. This blog post explains how to start a food forest.
Choosing the Right Perennial Fruit Trees to Plant for Year-Round Harvests
Understanding Chill Hours:
To begin, select fruit trees suitable for your climate. An important consideration is ‘chill hours.’ Chill hours are the cumulative number of hours that temperatures remain between 32-45°F (0-7°C) during a tree’s dormant winter period. This chilling period is critical for many fruit trees, as it influences blossom and fruit development.
In the low desert areas of Arizona, where winters are mild, making the right choice based on chill hours can make or break your harvest. Aim for trees requiring no more than 400 chill hours, but to play it safe, I often go for those in the 250 to 300 range. If you live in the low desert of Arizona, this fruit planting guide lists several options that grow well.
You can find chill hours information through your local agricultural extension office or online chill hours calculators specific to your region.
Once you’ve got those numbers, pick fruit tree varieties that match your chill hours. Buy trees from local, reputable growers. The growers often have years of experience and can point you toward the trees that will do best in your backyard.
Understanding USDA Hardiness Zones
When deciding what to plant for year-round fruit tree harvests, knowing your USDA Hardiness Zone is key—it is a guide to knowing which trees will survive winter temperatures in your area. For instance, if you’re in a zone with mild winters like Zone 9 or 10, you’re in luck for growing a citrus grove. Learn more about how to grow citrus in this blog post.
Food Forest Design for Year-Round Harvests
Similar to designing a raised bed garden, strategic planning is essential for designing your food forest for year-round productivity. Aim to plant trees that fruit at different times, ensuring a continuous yield. Knowing when each plant produces fruit helps you plan and enjoy your garden. Learn how to plant fruit trees in this blog post.
Harvest Times for Various Perennial Fruit Trees in the Low Desert of Arizona
- Navel Orange
- Cara Cara Red Navel
- Minneola Tangelo
- Blood Oranges
- Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon
- Most varieties of Grapefruits
- Valencia Oranges (through May)
- Katy Apricot
- Gold Kist Apricot
- Bonanza Miniature Peach
- Earligrande Peach
- Desert Gold Peach
- Tropical Beauty Peach
- Eva’s Pride Peach
- Methley Plum
- Dwarf Mulberry
- White Pakistan Mulberry
- Everbearing Mulberry
- Guava Kilo
- Thai White Guava
- Dwarf Black Mulberry (also fruits in fall)
- Wolfberry (also fruits in fall)
- Anna Apple
- Early Amber Peach
- Mid-Pride Peach
- Donut Peach
- Janice Seedless Kadota Fig
- Desert King Fig
- Red Flame Seedless Grape
- Mexican Lime (can fruit all year)
- Biew Kiew Longan
- Banana (also fruits in fall)
- Dorsett Golden Apple
- Flordahome Pear
- Kieffer Pear
- Contorted Jujube
- Li Jujube
- Parfianka Pomegranate
- Wonderful Pomegranate
- Koroneiki Olive
- Manzanillo Olive
- Sugar Cane (also harvested in early winter)
- Passion Fruit (also fruits at the end of summer)
- Possum Purple Passion Fruit (also fruits at the end of summer)
- Fwang Tung Carambola (also fruits at the end of summer)
- Kumquats (through March)
- Mandarins & Tangerines (November – January)
- Eureka Lemon
- Lisbon Lemon
- Bearss Lime
- Most Sweet Oranges (December – February)
These are general timeframes, and microclimate conditions may influence actual harvest times.
Maintenance and Care of Perennial Fruit Trees
Caring for your food forest requires knowledge of pruning, soil management, and natural pest control.
- Prune and thin trees for health and productivity.
- Maintain soil fertility using organic compost and mulches. Learn how to organically feed fruit trees in this post.
- Use organic approaches to pest and disease management to keep your ecosystem balanced.
Enjoy the Process of Creating Your Food Forest
When you create a food forest and plan for a never-ending harvest, remember that the journey can be as fulfilling as the fruits of your labor. Whether you love gardening or are interested in permaculture, a food forest represents nature’s resilience and abundance.
This article was specifically crafted for those living in mild winter climates like the low desert of Arizona, focusing on plants that thrive there. For tailored advice for different climates, adjusting your plant choices accordingly would be essential.
Reliable Sources for Your Food Forest Journey
When venturing into the creation of a food forest, it’s crucial to arm yourself with knowledge from trustworthy sources. Here are a few to consider:
- Local Agricultural Extension Office: These folks are a goldmine of knowledge on regional-specific planting.
- Native Plant Societies: Join your local chapter to learn which indigenous plants can be incorporated into your food forest while supporting local ecology.
- Local Nurseries and Growers: Local growers know plants in your area better than anyone. Their insight is indispensable for choosing the right trees.
- “Gaia’s Garden“ by Toby Hemenway – This book changed how I think about gardening harmoniously with nature.
- “Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community and the Whole Earth” – Jessi Bloom & Dave Boehnlein. A comprehensive guide to creating your own home ecosystem.
Remember, don’t just rely on one source; tap into several to get a well-rounded view.