There’s nothing quite like being able to pick a fruit off a tree in your own garden. Even in these land-scarce times, a carefully planned home garden can always provide room for fruit plants. A garden that happily combines both fruit and flowers is, in my view, a ‘balanced garden’.
By their delicacy of colouring, fruits attract the eye. More importantly, fruits are there as a nutrient, while flowers are decorative. With modern living, and city dwelling, we have changed our eating habits and tend to depend on ready-cooked foods and fast foods, that are nutritionally imbalanced.
Fruits through their rich vitamin-C content may have a salutary effect in fighting simple infections like the common cold (as the saying goes, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’).
Fruit plants to select from
Believe me, you will never find such an assortment of fruit plants as that found in Sri Lanka when compared with most countries, so there’s no lack of choice for your own garden. Even large-growing fruit trees are available in dwarfed forms, suitable even as pot plants. Grafted and budded varieties of fruit plants are undersized, yet bear fruit early.
Those with medium and large gardens can go for large fruit trees.
Consider your own personal likes and dislikes when deciding which fruit plant to have so that you can ensure a steady supply of your favourite fruit fresh from your own garden. Of course, most fruits are seasonal. Your home garden may not be able to supply you with a supply of fresh ripe fruit daily. But a supply of fruit from your garden can lessen total dependency on the fruit seller.
Consider that you will not be worried that the fruit you are going to eat has some chemical coating (for long-term preservation) or that it has been ripened with artificial chemicals (often a commercial practice).
Years ago when I lived in the outskirts of Kandy, I had a 30 perch plot of land, nearly half of which was taken up by the house in the front and a curving driveway.
There was a lawn, ornamental plants, flowering plants and fruit plants planted strategically. I had enough space in my garden for a couple of coconut trees, jak (Artocarpus heterophylls), breadfruit or del (Artocarpus altilis), some banana trees (Musa paradisiaca), few varieties of guava (Psidium guyava), sweet orange or peni-dodam bush (Citrus aurantium), lime or dehi (Citrus aurantifolia), lemon bush (Citrus limonia), papaw (Carica papaya), cashew apple (Anacardium occidentale), mango (Mangifera indica) which gave refuge to a pepper creeper (Piper nigrum), jambu (Syzgium), nelli (Phyllanthus) a fruit rich in vitamin-C, an avocado (Persea americana), custard apple (Anona), beli or bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) whose ripe fruit has laxative effect, wood apple or divul (Feronia elephantum), rambutan and uguressa. Of course the trees were pruned and trimmed to prevent overgrowth and overcrowding.
I also had dwarf amberella (known to be beneficial in diabetes), star fruit (known be cardio-friendly), pineapple and strawberries in pots. Though fruiting of these plants occurred seasonally, I was sure of a serving of fresh fruit, any day of the year.
The perimeter barbwire fence supported a passion fruit creeper (Passiflora edulis) and a granadilla creeper. Both produced fruit throughout the year and in abundance.
Fruit plants for a mini- garden
Now I live in the city in a seven perch block of land, three-quarters of which is occupied by the house but still have managed to find space for a few of my favourite fruit plants. I planted a grafted mango tree (karthakolomban) in a spot where it does not cut off sunlight from reaching the house. It, of course, is not allowed to grow out of proportion. Soon it will have company in the form of a black pepper plantcreeping up.
Limes and lemons are my palate-demanding acidic (citric acid) additives to salads, gravies and other culinary preparations. A plant of lanka lime (heen dehi), which bears profusely and is exceptionally juicy –and the Phillipino lime (Kalamanzi) were easily obtained by planting their mature seed directly in the ground. These supply me with much of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA ~ 30 – 45 milligrams/day) of vitamin-C per day.
As a habit, when I purchase a pineapple (Ananas) fruit I select a fruit with a healthy pineapple cone. The cone with an inch of the fruit is cut away and planted directly on the ground or in a large tub. Pineapple plants are known to keep rats and shrews away (animals that transmit the killer disease leptospirosis).
I also have dwarf varieties of jambu , veralu, amberella, star fruit, a normal custard apple tree, lime trees and at ground level pineapples. I find that there is room for a few more varieties of fruit plants.
Try to find some room for fruits
in your garden too.
Good for seed propagation
One can obtain varieties of seeds to propagate, without effort, from a compost bin. If most of the kitchen waste is discarded into the compost bin, the ripe seeds remain viable. When the compost is used as manure, inadvertently saplings spring up. Plants that can be obtained through this recycling process are papaw, lime, custard apple, gourds (pumpkin, bitter gourd (karrawila), water melon, spinach, guava, tomato, varieties of chilli and capsicums, to name just a few.