Fruit for the Shade

captainargoJuly 2, 2010

Hey folks :)

I'm a gardening newbie, but I've got some space in the fenced-in back yard of a condo and I've become excited about the prospect of growing a garden. Since there is nothing quite like ripe fruit, I would very much like to grow a couple of small fruit trees. However, I'm not quite sure what I can do with my growing conditions.

My situation is thus:

- I live in coastal SoCal (San Diego, specifically -- Zone 10b, I believe)

- I likely have room for only 2 small trees.

- My yard gets shade (a bit dappled) through most of the mid-day from some large deciduous trees, though some parts of it get direct sun in the morning and afternoon.

I had planned to get a dwarf Eureka lemon tree (all-year fruiting!) and give it the sunniest spot in the yard, but I would also like to grow something that I can pick and eat. Are there any such warm-weather fruits I can grow in partial sun, or should I go another direction?

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alan haigh

In your climate you can probably get excellent Japanese plums in the location you describe. The best Elephant Heart plums I've ever tasted were from a tree I had in about 80% shade here in southeastern NY. Liked them so much I put a tree in full sun and it's never done nearly as well (too many pitch pockets).

I have no idea what variety would do best in San Diego, although Satsuma is one that would do well. There are so many new ones bred for high sugar including the Zeiger pluots that might do nicely. Some are self-fertile or at least self fruiting.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 5:49AM
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In your climate (and I used to live in So Cal), part sun is easily equivalent to full sun for many plants. Even citrus can do fine with some shade; it loves the So Cal climate.

Peach or nectarine is another option besides plums, also apricots, persimmons and pomegranates. All of those will need training and pruning to stay under about 8' tall -- I'm not sure what you are thinking when you say "small." Figs are another good option for So Cal, but they can get pretty big over time if you aren't ruthless with the pruning and they spread out pretty far horizontally.

Do you have other gardening space? Would you consider a small fruit like strawberries instead of a tree?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 11:25AM
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Gooseberries, I think, do quite well in shade. Blueberries and cane fruits can also handle less sunlight.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 12:43AM
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You're lucky, you get to do some homework and plan things out the right way from the start. The fact that you're asking questions before you make purchases puts you at the head of the class. The notion that backyard gardens and orchards require lots of room and full sun is basically a myth -- at least here in So Cal. Here is your homework assignment:
* Read about Square Foot Gardening
* Read about Backyard Orchard Culture

Sometimes folks tend to forget that plants/trees are adaptable and actually have a will to live -- in spite of our best efforts to try and kill them with kindness. My standard suburban lot has food plants all over the place. Some plants get morning sun, some get afternoon sun and some get a mix. Still I bring in a large colander full of fruits and veggies every day. So read up, and start planning for the foods that you and your family likes to eat.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 4:07PM
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Thanks, everyone, for the replies and the good ideas. I'm happy to hear that I'll still be able to grow some great fruits -- plums, peaches, nectarines, and apricots are exactly what I'd have hoped for!

@alabamanicole: The trees don't have to be tiny, 8-10' is fine. I do have a little bit of space to work with, so I was considering some smaller stuff like strawberry or especially blackberry. Blueberries, like Brook mentioned, seem like a good idea too. From what I understand they do well in shade and are relatively easy to care for.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 4:14PM
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Thanks for the reading material mrclint. Very encouraging and helpful, especially the backyard orchard info :)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 4:49PM
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gawdzilla some of the recommendations posted by others are not self-fruitful. I would hate to see you plant trees and get no fruit from them.

Dave Wilson Nursery has a list of all the trees they sell with a short description that includes whether they are self-fruitful and if not what pollinizers are required.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dave Wilson nursery

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 6:58PM
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Case in point regarding Backyard Orchard Culture:
My standard suburban lot has 25 trees and counting. You have to landscape with some kind of greenery, right? I could of planted any number of the shopworn bushes and trees on sale at the garden centers, but I opted to plant edibles instead. The goal was simple -- to just walk out my back door any day of the year and bring in high quality fresh fruit and vegetables. Little did I know that these fruit trees are down right gorgeous when in bloom and equally stunning when bearing fruit. The plan has exceeded my wildest expectations.

Now for some of the finer points of my fruit tree plan:
Dwarf citrus is planted on 8' centers and peaches/plums/nectarines/pluots/apples are in hedgerows on 3' centers or planted 3 to a hole on 18" centers. Figs, a pomegranate and an Asian pear are scattered here and there. The trees are planted along the property lines or in various planters and have adapted to morning, evening or partial sun as required. No tree is ever allowed to grow higher than I can reach -- ladders are never used for pruning or harvesting. I still have grass areas, patios, concrete/stone paths and a pool. The yard is still useful for playing with the dog or kids and for entertaining. :)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 9:46PM
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Sounds lovely, MrClint. I'm working toward a full edible landscape myself -- other than some large trees I have a blank slate to deal with. The former owners weren't much into gardening.

But you are missing an avocado tree! :)

ONE Asian pear?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 8:31AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I'm in Southern California too, but avocado trees do not grow in my climate! I'm very jealous! I discovered the hard way that raspberries don't grow in my climate either, so I opted for a fig variety, Violet du Bordeaux, which tastes like raspberry jam, and another fig, Panache, which tastes like strawberries. They are all in half sun and half shade, and doing just fine! Same with my vineyard. Part morning sun, and the other part afternoon sun. Even my hot jalapeno pepper plant which is now 4' tall, loves the north side of the house and is almost always in shade.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 9:41AM
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You are so right, alabamanicole. I do have a few open slots for a dwarf avocado or two. There is still a bit more homework I need to do on them. Likewise for Asian pears. I planted a 20th Century this year but may add a Shinseiki and perhaps a later variety such as Shinko to the mix. But then I still have pomegranate and persimmon needs as well. :)

Desertdance, Violette de Bordeaux is one of my favorite trees. It sits in full southern sun exposure with the house to its back. It is a hotter than hot spot that would fry most things, it is doing really well, and is staying small. The VdB figs are truly something special -- best I've ever tasted. There's also a newly planted Black Jack nearby, so the verdict is still out on it.

So many trees, so little time & space. :)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 1:35PM
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alan haigh

Desertdance, you may also be able to grow apricots which I believe take as much sun as any stonefruit. I've seen healthy trees near the Rio Grande in New Mexico in high desert.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 2:07PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

harvestman, I don't know this for a fact, but I THINK apricots need a certain amount of freeze days, and they get none here! Well, maybe one!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 8:05PM
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I'm new to this site and not sure whether I'm supposed to find a discussion that is similar to my situation, or start a new topic... So far I've done both but not found someone with my situation or who can give me a confident answer about it, so am reposting here; I hope it won't mean a duplicate message to people! So here is my question:

I'd like to grow Thimbleberries, blackberries, Golden Kiwi, and a delicious edible rose --the most; I'd also like to grow raspberries, strawberries. All in pots. I *have* had definite confirmation that these can flourish and fruit in pots. But I'm not sure I have enough sunlight and I've been told all the blackberries and raspberries are full sun plants requiring 5 hours of light( I don't know yet about the Kiwi, Rose and strawberry; and have had mixed response re Thimbleberry). I'd also like to know where I can get these plants, now( preferably in person near me in LA, but also interested in online options): I have an east facing balcony less than 3 miles from coast( West LA/ Santa Monica border) that gets early morning light til 10:45am(there may be less light in winter), then indirect rest of the day; and I can easily put a plant on the balcony where it will get almost entirely shade except maybe a small patter of earliest morning sunlight on part of plant. This means my situation is not ideal for any full sun plant.

I have seen Thimbleberries them grow in park 1/2 mile from coast when I was a child; and I am within 3 miles of the coast so have the coastal mistiness... I've been told blackberries are full sun, but its seems to me though that blackberries are so hardy and invasive and I have regularly seen them grow profusely in areas that seemed pretty shaded to me... So I'm wondering if blackberries still might grow in my situation.

Re getting plants: Thimbleberry & Golden Kiwi(don't have to be organic because harder to find), + Blackberry and the Rose I would like to get organic. I would love to be able to get 1 in person somewhere near me in LA; my impression is one can usually only buy small plants online, and I'd prefer something larger and more mature, but am still interested in any online leads. I'd also like to get something now and plant now. I am happy to exchange plant cuttings if someone would like to do that as well.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 2:59PM
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The smaller less complex fruit will usually produce decently in shade. Fruits mentioned above like; Figs, raspberries, blueberries, etc. fit this criteria. Also fruits which have a native environment in a mostly shaded area from the forest canopy.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 6:03PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

San Diego? Any citrus (tangerines, oranges, to pick and eat right off the tree), loquat, fig, fuyu persimmon, avocado, macadamia nuts, pomegranites.

A few varieties of apple will fruit, if you choose carefully. I think Pink Lady will fruit for you, and it's a goody.

As for peach and apricot, I have my doubts. They have chill hour requirements.

You might be able to grow bananas. I've seen them fruit as far north as Santa Barbara.

Strawberries do extremely well in San Diego County. Plus, you can grow all sorts of veggies and most kinds of melons.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 6:06PM
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I had a large apricot tree 1/2 mile from the beach in Cardiff. It produced just fine, no cold temps beyond typical SD winter needed. Also had a cherimoya, a wonderful plum, 3 avocados, a loquat, and my neighbor had a fabulous clementine. All mature producing trees. Ages ago I believe it had been surrounded by an avocado grove.

The people who bought my house cut down all the fruit trees in order to fill the lot with more house.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 9:25PM
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I'm in Santa Monica/ West LA( not san diego); I don't have enough space for a tree unfortunately. I also really wanted to grow the berries; but the nursery store people tell me that even hardy blackberries probably would only produce a negligible crop in partial shade( I could swear I've seen them fruit in shade...but maybe was standing in places that had sun another part of the day). They said blueberries would do better, but still have a smaller crop; someone also recommended boysenberries as being better... I want my plant to be happy though, so unless I get a definitive consensus, I'm sticking to the thimbleberry; paw paw apparently loves shade but has too bid a taproot I think for fruiting generously in a pot...

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 1:32PM
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