What To Plant in a Florida Orchard
|Luscious purple Florida-grown figs.|
Last night I noticed this comment on the high-density orchard post over at The Brilliant Homestead:
Most people think “apples” when they hear orchard. What would I plant in a Florida front-yard orchard? –Phyllis Franklin
Thou art in luck: trees are one of my favorite topics!
For those of you who don’t know Phyllis, she is a writer with her own homesteading blog “Evolution of a Farm Girl.”
Even better, she’s a homeschooling mom. (Since I was raised by a homeschooling mom, I’m rather partial to that rare and wonderful breed of lady.)
The question, “What would I plant in a Florida front-yard orchard?” is not easy to answer without knowing a location.
The one thing I wouldn’t plant anywhere in the state is citrus. Just don’t do it – you’ll lose the tree.
That aside, here are my recommendations.
Trees for a South Florida Orchard
|A fragrant lychee.|
In south Florida and large parts of coastal Florida, your options are incredible. My in-laws, for example, bought a house that had a small mango orchard planted in the front yard. The trees are now gigantic and bear incredible quantities of mangoes which bring them a decent side income during mango season.
My parents have a tamarind, a canistel, an acerola cherry and a jabuticaba tree in their front yard in Ft. Lauderdale. In the side yard they have a fig and a tropical almond. Out back there’s a chocolate pudding fruit, a mango, a Key Lime, a coconut palm, multiple bananas, cattley guavas, Surinam cherries, dragon fruit cactus, a Grumichama, a starfruit, plantains, papayas and probably a few more trees I can’t remember (they’re all parts of The Great South Florida Food Forest Project).
If you wanted an orchard in South Florida, all of those trees would be excellent choices.
I’d also add:
Jackfruit (Largest fruit in the world)
Longan (high market value)
Lychee (high market value)
Cashew (a fruit AND a nut!)
Macadamia (Awesome nut, nice big tree)
Ackee (poisonous unless harvested at the right time)
Loquat (grows in north and south Florida)
Jamaican cherry (delicious)
Cinnamon (large tree and very beautiful)
Peruvian apple cactus
Coffee (Yep, it grows into a small tree)
Nutmeg (probably marginal)
…and probably a hundred more tropical trees.
The quantity of fruit you can grow down there is astounding. I’d bet on at least a 1,000 species since the Tropics are BY FAR a much more productive region than the world’s temperate zones.
Trees for a Central/North Florida Orchard
|A tangy loquat.|
The further north you move in the state, the more your options dwindle.
That said, you do pick up a few new species that cannot be grown in the southern tip of the state, such as plums, peaches and pears.
The transition isn’t immediate, but basically once you have overnight lows that go below the upper 20s, your tropical trees become a hard-to-grow liability rather than good orchard fodder.
My favorite three N/C Florida fruit trees are mulberries (white, black, Persian and Pakistan), Japanese persimmons (be sure to get both astringent and non-astringent types – they both have their uses on the homestead) and loquats. Finding improved loquat varieties isn’t easy but they’re worth buying since they bear larger and sweeter fruit than the landscaping seedling trees usually found for sale.
After those, I would add these trees to my North Florida orchard:
Pears (“Pineapple” is my favorite – tough and disease-resistant. Orient is a good pollinator.)
Plums (UF varieties)
Peaches (UF varieties or seedlings from locally-picked fruit)
Apples (Anna, Dorsett, Tropic Sweet, Ein Shemer. None are particularly easy to grow here)
Pecan (gets big, but has high market value)
Chestnut (fast producer of sweet nuts – get two “Dunstan” types)
Nectarine (UF varieties)
Avocado (cold-hardy types such as Lila and Mexicola. Subject to early death via disease.)
Bananas (Raja Puri, Orinoco, Red Dwarf, Ice Cream all survive cold)
Pomegranates (Note: some spontaneously die. Don’t get attached!)
Black cherry (gets tall – hard to harvest – flavor is amazing)
Japanese raisin tree (rare)
Among these trees there are many cultivars and variations that should keep you quite contented as you plan. I currently prefer a food forest to an orchard; however, an orchard is better than having just a couple of trees… and a couple of trees are still better than lawn.
As you plant I would mix up the species rather than keeping them together in blocks of the same type. That makes it harder for pests to jump from tree to tree. Running chickens through the orchard on a regular basis also feeds the trees and knocks back potential pest problems.
Along with these trees, you can add a couple of wires for grapes as a nice upgrade. Or build an arbor.
Now go, Phyllis. Plant!