Selecting fruit and nut producing plants for your landscape

There are many benefits to planting trees and shrubs in your landscape. Trees take in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen in a harmonious relationship with breathing animals and humans. “One acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and produces 4 tons of oxygen. Enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” (USDA) Trees improve soil and water quality, energy conservation by providing summer shade and winter wind protection, wildlife habitat, sources for food, and increased aesthetic and economic value to home properties. There are trees and shrubs in Minnesota that produce edible fruits and nuts that people can harvest and use from the wild and in their backyard.

Many Minnesotans hike forests and woodlands for wild edible fruits and nuts. An excellent wild gatherers resource is the Minnesota Harvester Handbook which addresses sustainable natural resource harvest practices and uses. This resource was developed by the University of Minnesota Extension with many contributors. It demonstrates the breadth and diversity of natural resources found in and around the state’s woodlands. Copies can be purchased at the Minnesota Bookstore.

Homeowners who would like to plant trees and/or shrubs that produce edible fruits and nuts from their backyard have many plant options to choose from. The University of Minnesota Extension has an excellent web site that reviews many possible plants that can produce delicious nutritious foods. Categories on this web site include: apples, pears, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, melons and other fruits. Under the “Other Fruits” is a section on “Gathering and Growing Edible Fruits and Nuts”. This publication lists many fruit and nut plants that can be grown in home landscapes.

Resources to select landscape trees include:
Recommended trees for specific regions of Minnesota
UM Arboretum publication “The Value of Trees”
Mn/DOT Plant Selection program
North Dakota Tree Book
Crabapples – Select Apple Scab resistant varieties

If you have disease or insect problems this summer look at the UMN Extension diagnostic web site.

Remember, landscape diversity! Plant several different species of trees, shrubs and plants in your landscape. No one species should represent more than 15% of your landscape.

Gary Wyatt
Gary Wyatt is an Extension educator with a focus on agroforestry and bio-energy. Gary works with federal and state agency partners in promoting conservation and agroforestry practices in rural landscapes. Other topics of expertise include invasive species, tree selection, living snow fences, nontimber forest products, riparian buffers, windbreaks and ecosystem services. Gary is based at the Mankato Regional Office.

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