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It’s a great idea for anyone with a backyard to look into growing a backyard orchard of some sort. It may be that only one full-sized tree can fit in the space. It may be that several trees can work.

In all likelihood, there is more potential than most beginning growers think. Trees can be espalier onto brick walls or wooden fences. Most fruit trees have dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties.

The other worry is that perennial trees, unlike annual vegetable plants, take much longer to become productive. A full-sized apple tree might take 10 years before it yields an apple. Who has time for that?

It’s important to realize that, once it does yield, one fruit tree provides pounds and pounds of food each year with very little maintenance.

Plus, speed doesn’t necessarily have to be an issue either. Lots of fruit trees can provide harvests in one or two years, and many others can do it within three years. These might be the perfect trees for starting a quick-reward backyard orchard.

1. Peach/Nectarine

Peaches and nectarines are basically the same fruit, one with fuzzy skin and the other with smooth skin. They are summertime treats that can be really easy to grow.

They are best grown in warm, temperate environments. When they grow, they generally do it very well. They sprout up quickly and can produce peaches—sometimes significant harvests—within three years.

2. Mulberry

Mulberry trees come in many shapes and sizes, and most can be pruned to fit into a small space. They are delicious berries that are, because of easily bruising, only available to those who grow them. There are several species of mulberry: red, black, white, and more.

Cold-hardy varieties survive well to 25 degrees F or lower. Often, even if the tree above ground dies, new sprouts will emerge in spring and grow several feet in a year.

3. Lemon

For growers outside of the Gulf Coast and California, growing a lemon tree outside might not be in the cards. Luckily, they are small and grow well in pots, so they can be moved indoors during the winter. Dwarf lemon trees provide fruits very quickly, often the first or second year after they are bought.

4. Mandarin

Much like lemon trees, mandarin trees are small and agreeable to growing in pots, moving inside during the winter. They produce fruits quickly, and they are a lot of fun to grow. They can be part of the orchard from the patio as potted plants.

5. Fig

Fresh figs are delightful and too often overlooked by US home growers. They are easy to cultivate and propagate, and with a little winter mulch program, they can survive well into Zone 5. Figs can be produced in year one or two.

6. Jujube

Though they can be a little difficult to find, jujube trees are great fun to grow, and they produce unique fruits that, when dried, are similar to palm dates. However, jujube trees tolerate very cold winters (-20 F). They like sandy, well-drained soil though water will help fruit yields.

7. Apricot

Very similar to peaches and nectarines, apricots are stone fruits that require a certain number of chill hours under 45 F to produce. Some varieties work as cold as USDA Zone 4, but for warmer regions varieties with less chill hours are better. Be aware. Look for fast-yielding types like Moorpark.

8. Apple

Most apple trees take a few years to provide fruit, but some varieties will do it a little more quickly. Gravenstein apples and Early Harvest apples are two worth trying for a speedier planting-to-harvesting return.

9. Cherry

Yet another stone fruit, cherry trees run the gamut on size and speed. Some trees can get to be massive and will take much longer to produce. However, there are natural dwarf varieties like North Star or dwarf cultivars like Sweetheart, Bing, and Black Tartarian.

10. Moringa

A last fun tree to add to the orchard, though it might be short-lived, is the moringa tree. It has incredibly nutritious leaves and beans. It can grow up to ten feet in a year, depending on the climate and planting. However, it is not frost-tolerant. It can be grown in a pot or started anew from seed each year.

Putting together a collection of food-producing trees in the yard is well worth the effort. For one, fruit trees are very attractive, providing colorful flowers and fruits through the growing season, and often nice foliage in the autumn. Most importantly, though, they provide lots of food with very little maintenance.

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