As you browse the produce section of your local grocery store, you’re faced with a decision: organic or inorganic. Commercially-produced and chemically-treated fruit is filled with preservatives to make it last longer and coated with a thin layer of wax to make it look nicer. Some consumers are turned off by the minor cosmetic flaws in organic fruit because they have become accustomed to their fruit resembling plastic table decor. But over the years, more consumers have been demanding organically grown fruit because it doesn’t contain unwanted chemical additives, it’s less harmful to the environment, and it simply tastes better.
One of the best ways to appreciate the difference between organic and inorganic fruit is by growing some yourself. Perhaps you’re interested in making your traditional fruit farm more sustainable or you just want to experiment with a small backyard garden. Either way, organic fruit has successful growth rates and produces high crop yields with proper management.
Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow organically, however, you will need to pay attention to the soil acidity. They require a soil pH below 5.0. Plant your blueberries in the late winter or early spring, either in the ground or in containers with a bark-based planting mix. Your plants will need lots of sun and good drainage. Provide your plants’ soil with plenty of organic matter in the shallowest areas.
When it comes to melons, you have plenty of options to choose from: honeydew, watermelons, muskmelons, and so on. But across the board, melons grow best in well-drained soil that has a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0. Muskmelons and honeydew melons fare best when planted right after the last frost has passed. Plant watermelon seeds in the late spring or early summer. Watermelons tend to be the best organic melon because of their natural disease and pest resistance. Make sure to space your melons out several feet apart so they have enough room to grow. Organic farmers often use cow or horse composted manure to fertilize melons.
Believe it or not, hardy grapes can even survive a Minnesota winter. Organic farmers typically have more success growing grapes in dry western regions than the humid eastern regions. However, it’s important that you choose grape varieties that are appropriate for your regional climate. For example, labrusca grapes have a good tolerance for cold temperatures, and muscadine grapes grow best in warm and humid climates. Begin to plant your grapes in the spring and place them in full sun to develop sweet, full flavors. Make sure to mulch beneath your plants with a few inches of organic mulch, like wood chips.
To read tips about growing even more types of organic fruits and vegetables, check out Mother Earth News‘ extensive Crop-by-Crop Guide. If you’re tech savvy, you can even download this organic fruit growing app from the iTunes store.