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Starting a Virginia Fruit Farm
Growing Fruit in Virginia
Given its mild seasons and fertile soil, all sorts of fruits can grow in Virginia, though the easiest fruits to grow vary in each of the state’s five climate regions.
For those looking to grow fruit commercially or just add a few berry bushes or fruit trees to their backyard, Virginia has been favored by farmers for hundreds of years because of the ease with which crops flourish in its nutrient-rich soil.
Fruit Trees in Virginia
Growing fruit trees is a favorite of Virginia landowners due to their relative low maintenance and the promise of delicious, organic fruit right in the backyard. The state’s weather and soil conditions complement the growth of fruit trees very well, particularly in the northern Virginia climate region.
When choosing which fruit to grow, knowing your area’s climate and which trees flourish in such an environment will help to ensure optimal growth patterns and will increase the odds of a plentiful bounty within the first few years.
It’s important not to plant more trees that can grow comfortably as most standard size trees need about 20 to 30 feet between them. For those with less acreage, many trees that flourish in Virginia are available in dwarf sizes.
Experts recommend planting multiple dwarf trees in a small area rather than one standard size tree to ensure cross-pollination. Those new to growing fruit trees should remember the two most frequently made mistakes, over-fertilizing and over-pruning the trees.
These trees are the most popular and fruitful given Virginia growing conditions:
- Pear trees grow extremely well in Virginia climate zones, including Orient, Early Golden, Harrow Delight, and Seckel varieties. Both European and Asian pears have been known to flourish in the state. Those planting pear trees will need to plant at least two different varieties for cross-pollination to be effective.
- Apple trees can be found across the state as Virginia’s crisp fall weather means optimal growing conditions for apple orchards. These trees are especially popular as they can be grown in standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf sizes, depending on how much acreage you’re working with. Most varieties of apples grow well in Virginia, though the most popular types are Gala, Winesap, Golden Delicious, and Fuji. Like with pears, selections should be mixed for optimal pollination conditions.
- Cherry trees are great matches for Virginia weather and soil conditions. Both sweet and sour cherries flourish in Virginia, though the area provides the ideal conditions for a wider variety of sweet cherries including Hudson, Windsor, and Napoleon. Montmorency sour cherries are known to thrive in most Virginia climate zones and are especially convenient for many new fruit farmers as they can typically self-pollinate and do not need a variety of cherries to be planted in order to bear fruit like most apple and pear trees.
- Nectarine trees, like sour cherries, are incredibly popular with new farmers as they also self-pollinate. The most commonly grown varieties are Redgold, Fantasia, and Flavortop.
- Peach trees are often thought of as Georgia’s gift to the rest of the country, but the most delicious, juicy peaches come out of Virginia. As yet another type of self-fertilizing plant, farmers need only plant one variety of peach, but given the wide range of peaches the flourish in the Virginia soil it would be a shame not to try more. The most popular peach trees with Virginia farmers are Morton, Contender, Earnie’s Choice, Redkist, and White Lady.
- Fig trees or bushes are exceptionally hardy and trouble-free, though they aren’t very tolerant of the cold. There are a few varieties of fig that grow extremely well in Virginia’s temperate zone, including Brown Turkey, Celeste, Chicago Hardy, and LSU Purple.
- Plum trees thrive in the Virginia soil, and a wide variety of plums can be grown across the state. The most popular varieties are Burbank, a Japanese-type plum that is large, firm, and sweet; Green Gage, a mildly sweet golden yellow plum; Methley, a large, sweet, juicy plum; Santa Rosa, a good eating plum that is partially self-pollinating; and Stanley, a sweet and juicy, self-fertilizing plum.
Berries and Vine Fruits in Virginia
While tree fruits are immensely popular in Virginia—particularly for those looking to grow fruit commercially—the high yield of and demand for berries and vine fruits in the area make growing other kinds of fruit attractive as well, especially for those with less acreage.
Next to fruit trees, berries are the most profitable fruit to grow in Virginia. Though they flourish across the state, the yield is highest in the warmer areas of central, southern, and southeastern Virginia.
These fruits flourish in Virginia’s climate zones:
- Blackberries abound in antioxidants and are self-fertilizing. Several varieties of thornless blackberries grow well in Virginia, including Apache, Arapaho, Chester, Navaho, Triple Crown, and Ouachita. Kiowa is a thorned variety of blackberry that grows incredibly large fruit.
- Blueberries are increasing in popularity because of their recently discovered health benefits, and fortunately, many types of blueberries can be grown in Virginia. Because of varying soil types in the different climate zones, some varieties grow better in northern Virginia and some in the southern regions. There are almost a dozen varieties that thrive in the northern climate zone, including Duke, Bluecrop, Jersey, and Top Hat. Varieties that grow well in the southern region include O’Neal, Misty, Blueridge, Jubilee, and Sunshine Blue. There are also several varieties of blueberry known as Rabbiteye Blueberries, which are hardy native varieties that easily grow extremely large.
- Raspberries, like blueberries, have many health benefits, and the sweet flavor of the plump berries grown in Virginia make them extremely profitable. The most popular varieties of red raspberries in Virginia are Caroline, Killarney, Latham, and Heritage. Jewel, Anne, and Royalty are varieties of colorful raspberries that grow well in Virginia conditions.
- Strawberries grow well in Virginia’s warmer climate regions, though certain varieties like spring-bearing Allstar and Earliglow consistently produce berries year after year even after exposure to frost. Sweet Charlie is a variety of strawberry that grows well in Virginia and is disease-resistant, while Eversweet produces berries all summer and tolerates temperatures over 1oo degrees Fahrenheit.
- Boysenberries are a cross between raspberries and blackberries. They grow well in Virginia and can be eaten fresh or used in jams, preserves, and syrups.
- Gogi berries have garnered media attention in the last few years because they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They usually produce berries the first year in Virginia.
- Gooseberries are wonderful fresh or in pies and preserves, and some varieties that grow in Virginia can even be used in wine-making.
- Jostaberries are a cross between the black currant and the gooseberry, but are hardier than either parent species. Like Gooseberries, they can be eaten fresh or in preserves, juice, or wine.
- Melons, most commonly muskmelons, cantaloupe, and watermelons in Virginia, have a relatively long growing season and aren’t well suited to small gardens, but are incredibly hardy and low maintenance.
- Grapes grow well in a variety of soils and can, therefore, be planted in each of Virginia’s climate zones, though some types are more productive in certain regions than others. As can be seen by the state’s many vineyards and wineries, grapes thrive in the Virginia mountains and are known to last more than 100 years if a minimum of care is given to them and they are given a viable place to grow.