Greenhouse Fruit Growing

Fresh fruit, beneficial in so many ways, is widely regarded as essential to a healthy diet. Knowing that many fruits reach peak flavor and sweetness only when fully ripe and fresh-picked, many folks are motivated to frequent farmers markets and fruit stands, and to grow their own. In certain climates, however, home fruit growing is limited by prevailing weather conditions - spring rain, hail and hard frost, short and/or cool growing season, severe (or lack of) winter cold. In many such non-Mediterranean climates, greenhouses have long been used to overcome these limitations.

To be economically feasible, commercial greenhouse growing is done on a large scale. For home growing, however, where fruit quality, convenience and perhaps experimentation are the objectives, a small greenhouse is viable.

In a greenhouse, fruiting trees, shrubs and vines may be grown in the ground or in containers. Containerized stone fruits may be kept year-round in the greenhouse, or moved into it for a little as a few weeks to protect blossoms from killing frosts in spring or to extend the growing season for late-ripening varieties. Maintaining humidity as low as the plants will tolerate can minimize pest and disease problems. Many growing styles and techniques as well as a great diversity of fruit are possible in the controlled or semi-controlled environment of a greenhouse.

In Alpine, Texas (4,500 ft., USDA Zone 7a), over a number of years, one fruit hobbyist has developed methods for high-Brix (high sugar) greenhouse fruit growing. For a summary of his methodology and observations, see Greenhouse Fruit Production in West Texas.

For information about keeping home fruit trees small by summer pruning, see Backyard Orchard Culture.

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