Here I want to compare the cost / benefits of fruit and vegetable gardening. Methods to garden more compactly and save time are for another page. But then, if you haven't got enough garden space or time for fruit and
veg, check below.
The Veg Garden
PREPARING THE GROUND
In relative terms vegetables are definitely more time consuming and require more effort. Most vegetables are grown afresh each year. Cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts, carrots, lettuce, onions, celery, potatoes, beetroot, chard... you name it. They all have to be sown and planted every year. Before that the ground has to be properly prepared.
During growth vegetables have to be weeded, protected from a wide range of pests attacking above and below ground, and kept nourished with additional fertilizer top-ups. Vegetable crops are rotated year on year between different plots. So your veg garden never looks the same for long and of course these important changes require some effort.
Many vegetables are harvested just once per plant. So you get just one carrot, one cabbage, one cauliflower, one beetroot, one leek, one lettuce, one onion etc... from one plant of each. Some veg are better. You get a basket full of sprouts per plant and there are methods to make these vegetables grow again from the stock.
Now you can see why cut-and-cum vegetables are popular. Sprouting broccolli, cut-and-cum salad leaves, a potato row harvested little and often etc... Add to that the small 'catch crop' veg like raddish, and small early harvested carrots (allowing the remainder to grow bigger). These and similar techniques are very important for making vegetable growing worthwhile. So will you want a fruit and veg garden?
The Fruit Garden
Gardening fruit is very different. Fruit used for desert dishes, blackcurrants, raspberries, redcurrants, plums, apples, cherries, gooseberries, etc... are planted once. After that they crop year after year. Strawberries are sometimes reinvigorated by rooting runners, but they do this so naturally the problem is how to stop them.
PREPARING THE GROUND
Initial ground preparation is very important, but it only has to be done once. Thereafter it is a matter of keeping the soil mulched and topped occasionally with nutritious organic material and watered if necessary. Mulching will control weeds and help conserve moisture.
FEWER PEST AND DISEASE PROBLEMS
In my experience the problems caused by pest attack are fewer and easier to manage on fruit. Pest attacks on fruit are much less wide ranging which means that the problem is easier and simpler to tackle. I can't think of any relevant soil pests.
Gardening is made much easier when a technique is readily available to prevent a predictable problem. Bird attack can be a major problem to fruit, but easily solved by netting.
Diseases such as botrytis, mildew, etc... has been a problem to fruit growers, but resistant varieties have made big inroads to reduce this. Again good techniques in spacing, pruning and nutrition, will largely control this problem in all but the worst weather.
Unlike vegetables that are often exposed to a wide range of pest attack from all quarters sometimes involving a wide range of as-and-when counter measures, fruit gardening is that much simpler.
Perhaps the biggest problem with fruit is virus attack, but here the remedy is simple if somewhat sad. It involves burning the affected material and giving yourself a reminder to buy certified virus-free stock.
There is one extra job for fruit growers just once of twice a year - pruning. It isn't difficult when you know how.
Let me add one cautionary note about prevailing weather conditions. Most fruit won't do well in exposed conditions, or frost hollows, and some kinds require warmer climates to do well. But other than that, I'm saving the best to the last... ...
Because in fact, the pleasure of a fruit garden is in many many months of harvesting a rich bounty of juicy sweet and sharp, and health enhancing fruit.
The fruit garden of yesteryear gave a short burst of produce. But nowadays, by choosing early, mid and late fruiting varieties the harvesting season is indeed a very long one.
With several varieties of several kinds of fruit the season starts early and goes on and on and on until halloween and beyond. Even then some of the apples, medelars and others are only just ripening.
In fact the main problem in a good fruit garden is the harvesting itself. Remember, each plant produces not one raspberry, one apple or one tomato, but in most kinds goes on producing a bounty of many fruit over some time.
You will probably have a deep freeze, the skill to turn your produce into jams, preserves, and chuknies etc... and friends to share with. Pure heaven, indeed the garden of Eden couldn't have been better - perhaps that was a fruit and veg garden.
So there it is. If you're lacking time and space for fruit and veg gardening, then fruit wins by miles. Just imagine a garden without crop rotation, without the planting out, but instead a long harvesting season that you can't keep up with. That's fruit gardening for the specialist.
Even so, mine is a fruit and veg garden because I enjoy gardening and don't want to miss my onions, carrots, kale, sprouts etc... I actually get the best of both.
More about Fruit and Veg in the U.K.
Find more about Organic Fertilizer here and Organic Pest Control here.
Home of the Organic Gardener