Notable Edibles Fall 2012 Issue

Backyard Fruits Without Harmful Chemicals

By Wendy Allen | Photo By Jim Klousia 0

Keeping your homegrown fruit chemical-free might take a little extra effort, but it is effort well-spent for worryfree sticky fingers and watching the biodiversity in your front- or backyard thrive.

Good fences make good neighbors, they say, and what better fence than one that gives both neighbors food while keeping Nosy Norma on her side of the thorns. Raspberries and blackberries are attractive to birds, so either drape the bushes with fine netting or plant enough for fingers and beaks alike. Be sure to cut and burn the old canes each year before the new growth to prevent diseases.

Apples are highly susceptible to pests, but pears, plums, cherries and peaches are good alternatives. Pheromone traps help control bugs, but if you have a lot of trees, consider introducing beneficial bugs that prey on the pests. Small fruits and young trees may benefit from a tent of PVC and fine netting to discourage birds. Keep an eye on those cherries— once you see the birds swooping in, drop everything and grab the ladder.

Currant bushes are an easy-to-care-for, disease-resistant fruit often overlooked by gardeners. When ripe, shake the bushes gently before picking to drop any berries containing bugs. Control the occasional pest by pruning and burning infested stems or spraying with simple dish soap or vegetable oil solutions. Rovada Red, Red Lake or Tatiana are varieties that blend disease-resistance and climate hardiness with prolific fruiting.

Once established, grapes will thrive whether pampered or neglected; all they need is full sun and good drainage. The University of Minnesota Extension has a list of varieties that are cold hardy. Backyard grapes tend to have few pests, but bugs will move into the fruit if allowed to over ripen.

Growing fruits at home can be quite fun for both adults and kids. Just do a bit of research on the fruit you want to grow and talk to local experts like Community GroundWorks or Madison Fruits & Nuts for other chemical-free techniques. An important thing to remember is it’s not the end of the world if you end up sharing a crop with the worms, bugs and birds. There’s always next year.


These fruit varieties are well-suited for our region’s climate, easy to grow and less susceptible to insects and disease. Equally important, they are delicious!

  • Currants: red, pink & black
  • Wineberries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Strawberries: alpine, everbearing and June-bearing
  • Sweet cherries
  • Grapes
  • Rhubarb
  • Black and red raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Elderberries
  • Plums
  • Saskatoons (a.k.a. Juneberry or serviceberry)
  • Apples are difficult, but look for “scab-resistant” varieties

Our thanks to Madison Fruits & Nuts for compiling this list. 

Wendy Allen is digital editor, copy editor, and a writer for Edible Madison She reads style guides for fun, believes stories have power, and is fascinated by the evolution of the English languageā€”for better or worse. Her mission: to wrestle the wily comma into submission.

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