My fruity front yard

Nan Chase’s house in Asheville, NC, where she grows vegetables and fruit in her front yard too.

When we were in Asheville, we visited a lot of beautiful, creative and interesting gardens. The last one I saw was Nan Chase’s front yard where she grows lots of food mixed in with her ornamental plants. She has fruit trees and artichokes–Bill now wants one, dang it! She also grows other edibles. As we strolled through the garden, Carolyn Choi of Sweet Home and Garden Carolina asked me if I had fruit trees in my front yard.

One of our apple trees. Due to late freezes, we often don’t see any fruit, but this year was different.

Surprised, because I hadn’t thought about it for awhile, I said, “Actually, yes, I do.”

I have three apple trees, a semi-dwarf ‘Enterprise,’ a dwarf ‘Gala’ and another dwarf one. I can’t recall the name right now. I thought the last was a goner when Bill dropped a large branch on it and broke the leader, but it recovered. It was planted much later than the other two.

At nearly the same time as the apples, I also planted two peach trees and one tart cherry, ‘Montmerency.’ There was also a sweet cherry I planted when I didn’t know any better. It subsequently died a horrible death one summer. These were all chosen about fifteen or seventeen years ago when I thought I was going to be a farmer. I also got goats, but that’s a whole other story.

Here’s the funny part. I studied fruit trees, and since I didn’t want to spray, I looked into all the organic methods of care. I decided pretty quickly that all this trouble wasn’t worth it because, in Oklahoma, with our late freezes, we sometimes get cherries, apples, peaches, plums, pears, etc., but often we do not. I still do everything organically so occasionally we get an apple with a worm.

The lesson is if you want to plant fruit trees just be aware of a few variables you can’t control. Read along with me as I discuss the woes of fruit production in my part of my state.

Cedar apple rust is a huge problem in Oklahoma due to the overwhelming shadow of my nemesis, Juniperus virginiana, called the Eastern redcedar here. I hate ERC more than most things in Oklahoma because it is invasive, lights up like a Roman candle in fires, and causes cedar apple rust.

The peach trees next to our driveway. You really shouldn’t plant them this close, but our driveway came after the trees.

Deer, yes, Bambi and her ilk are a huge problem with all fruit trees. I’ve tried everything, but I’ve found that a rescue dog like my Maddie is my best protection. That, and water sprayers to keep deer away. I also spray the trees with one of the many repellents redolent of rotten eggs. No, I don’t mix my own. I could, but ‘er, no.

Our rescue dog, Maddie, and part of the vegetable garden. You can see she’s on high alert.

I already mentioned late freezes. Each spring when the trees bloom, I don’t pay them much mind until we get through the late freeze. If we make it, I breathe a sigh of relief for overcoming one hurdle. I also have my trees planted in the front yard for two reasons: spring blooms, it’s high on a hill where they won’t be hurt so much by late frosts.

Borers. I hate them. I believe both of my old peach trees have borers, and I won’t spray, so there’s not too much to do. I will just enjoy them until they finish fruiting and eventually die.

We had peaches for nearly a month because the two trees are different varieties and ripen about three weeks apart. If we have peaches again next year, I’ll thin them even more.

The most successful fruit tree to grow in Oklahoma is the pear. Not Bradford pears which are horrible trees, but fruiting pears. Try to get a dwarf variety because you don’t want to be on a ladder picking pears when the wasps come by. Yes, wasps love pears. My neighbor’s huge tree is often covered in pears and wasps. Pick up any fallen fruit as quickly as possible.

I also grow blackberries. I like the thornless varieties, and I talked about mine here in an article for Lowe’s. They are super easy to grow in Oklahoma and much of the world for that matter. Birds and insects also love blackberries. I didn’t have much luck with blueberries in the ground. I could never keep the soil acidic enough. However, a company just sent me two blueberries and a raspberry to plant in a container. I’m pretty excited, and I’ll let you know how they do. I love containers for dwarf plants.

So, yes, I can eat my yard too, but Nan’s yard is a testament to what you can do with a small, urban yard. Vegetables and fruits don’t mind growing next to other flowering plants. They’ll happily share the space.



  1. Yes, Nan’s garden was a great small garden full of so many edibles. I love your variety of fruit trees. We have a sour cherry tree in Germany and one year we had a bumper crop….made the BEST EVER cherry jam and cherry pies. Miss having a tree like that. My grandmother had a pear tree and as a kid I was afraid of her yard because of the wasps. Peaches are the best!!!

  2. I have berries relegated to the back where the veggies grow…I have to protect everything from the critters so better to not spread it all out…but fruit trees I do not do because of our unpredictable weather…I am trying to grow native black cherry and crab apple for the critters though.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Donna, my blackberries are down in the lower garden at the end where they can take over the fence and not cause too much trouble so I hear ya. Cool about the black cherry and crabapple. Are black cherries what people made black cherry wine out of? I’m not familiar with the plant.

  3. Hey my dear friend,
    The fruiting peaches along the drive was so inspiring. On the 3 acre property here, I’ve been making plans to start my own arboretum. Not kidding, it’s very real. The director says if it doesn’t cost him a cent, I can do what ever I want. Getting donated trees is not a problem but mulch and manpower. Anyway, I’m considering putting a few fruit trees in the lawn by the kitchen window. I remember reading about a pear that’s often recommended for espalier. Is it crazy to think about fruit trees. Your thoughts?

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Patrick,

      How cool! To get free labor, try contacting any local volunteer agencies like Boys and Girls Club, churches, neighborhood associations, city beautiful groups, etc. As for espalier, yes pear and apple trees are often used. Contact Peter A Thevenot’s company for espaliered in the classic tradition. They will ship to you, and I can attest their trees are wonderful. I interviewed Peter for an article once. He is very nice and so knowledgeable. Some of his trees are here in the city, and P. Allen Smith uses them in his landscape. Here’s the link:

      I don’t think it’s crazy at all to think about fruit trees. We just need to remember they are prone to lots of problems. However, there is something very special about growing your own fruit and vegetables. BTW, I wrote an article about horticultural therapy for Fiskars. Here’s the link to it: That’s my mom in the first photo. Glad you’re feeling so much better.

  4. We had a fruit tree program at my master gardener meeting one time, and the only thing I came away with was that I have no idea how anyone makes a living growing fruit trees — organically that is — because it is so stickin’ difficult! So hats off to anyone who can literally eat the fruits of their labors!!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Toni,

      I know what you mean. I feel for the organic farmers. That’s one of the reasons why I try to buy organic wherever I can find it. That, and the health issues. Thanks for visiting and commenting.~~Dee

  5. Melanie says:

    Enjoyed your post! We have a peach tree that is now fruiting for the second year. I’m not sure the tree will survive many more years. .it seems to have a sapping problem and is slowly dying off over the last 2 years. Initially it seemed because of the tremendous weight of the first fruit crop, but now I’m not so sure! I also planted two raspberry and two blackberry bushes this spring. Sometime I would love to know about your sweet cherry disaster. .we planted one this spring, before we knew that one should have 2 varieties for it to fruit!! Enjoy your week!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Melanie, that sap you’re seeing is probably peach borers. They are dreadful creatures when they attract your tree. You might check into organic controls for these pests. About my sweet cherry tree, I planted it now knowing sweet cherries don’t perform well in hot and sunny Oklahoma. Why I didn’t think about this I don’t know. Cherries grow in places like Washington. However, I also planted the sour cherry to pollinate the sweet cherry tree. The sweet cherry died one especially hot year, and I never replaced it. However, the sour cherry tree has created several pies over the years. If you’re trying to keep your sweet cherry, try planting a sour cherry to go with it.~~Dee

  6. Frances says:

    Thanks for this wonderful information about have a front yard you can eat. I missed Nan’s home and garden but loved your photos and description.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Frances, Nan’s home and garden were pretty cool. I like her philosophy. Thanks for hosting us in Asheville. You, Christopher and Helen Yoest worked very, very hard.~~Dee

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I like fruits and veggies any place they can survive and thrive.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Me too Lisa. Me too. :)~~Dee

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