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Your top ten fruit trees for urban spaces?

We’re really excited to have recently been asked to write a guide to growing food in urban areas (backyards, schools, community gardens and apartment gardens) in the Illawarra. The guide will be published as part of the Illawarra Biodiversity and Local Food Strategy for Climate Change project, a joint sustainability project involving Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Councils working together with funding from the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust.

It will have sections on designing and maintaining veggie gardens and food forests, as well as lots of gardening hints and tips, and lovely stories and photos of people growing food locally in all sorts of different places.  

As part of the guide we’re creating a ‘top ten’ list of fruit trees, herbs and veggies to grow in urban environments. And we’d love you’re help! If you had to recommend ten fruit trees for growing on the coast in a subtropical/temperate climate, what would they be? So far our top ten, based on being relatively easy to grow and producing abundant harvests would probably be:

  1. Citrus (all types!)
  2. Banana (Williams Cavendish)
  3. Pawpaw
  4. Peach
  5. Hawaiian Guava
  6. Cherimoya
  7. Jaboticaba
  8. Persimmon
  9. Mulberry
  10. Olive

Looking forward to hearing what your top ten would be!

UPDATE - trying to take into account everyone's super helpful comments, and realising that it's probably a bit cheeky to include the whole citrus family as one fruit tree (though that certainly helped us fit more in our top ten!), our revised top ten list is, in no particular order:

  1. Orange
  2. Mandarin
  3. Banana (Williams Cavendish)
  4. Pawpaw
  5. Macadamia
  6. Hawaiian Guava
  7. Cherimoya
  8. Passionfruit
  9. Persimmon
  10. Mulberry


Thanks so much for your help everyone!

Reader Comments (20)

The guide sounds like an exciting project. Enjoy!

I agree with banana and citrus being the top two. I've been amazed by how many bananas we get from our few plants.

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

I've just put in/have yet to plant 7 apples, 2 plums, a nectarine, a lemon, lime.mandarine, cherry and a pomegranate. We already have an ancient fig that covers most of the back fence. Now you've got me thinking about a mulberry and a peach....

July 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrogdancer

Oops! Forgot the olive!!!

July 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrogdancer

What a fantastic idea to help the community to go green & reduce food miles!! You two are so inspiring!
I live in a temperate climate (Geelong, Victoria) and have a different (and much smaller) range to choose from when selecting varieties.
The top 10 in our garden would be:
1. Nectarine (so much better than the shops!)
2. Apple
3. Avocado (Bacon for us)
4. Cherry
5. Pear
6. Plum (Blood!)
7. Mandarin
8. Persimmon
9. Pomegranate
10. Mulberry

I also recommend pepino & passionfruit for anyone in an apartment- they are so easy to ...well... keep alive for starting off gardening!

July 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda F

What about white sapote?
Have you had success with them?

July 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I'm further north than you, in subtropical northern NSW, but my top 10 here are:
1. citrus (definitely! Specially mandarins, tangelos, and lemons, but also Tahitian limes, naval and valencia oranges, grapefruit and pomelo - is it cheating to count them all as one?).
2. Bananas - I go for ladyfingers because, since I am not growing commercially I don't need the top yield, and I love the flavour. The palms also make a good wind and fire break round the south western side of the house. (The bush turkeys get way more than their share though).
3. Macadamia nuts - really hardy and productive, and such a good source of protein, good oils, and deliciousness.
4. Mangos - only a huge yield every second year, but in that year we feast!.
5. Grapes, as much for the leaves for dolmades and the shade on the pagola as for the fruit.
6. Passionfruit (Hawaiian Yellow is my favourite) - so productive, and again the attractiveness of the vine with its shade and flowers is a fantastic by-product.
7. Avocado (can I do the citrus trick again and say three or four varieties, to extend the season through from March to October).
8. Paw paw (along with strawberries, fills in the early spring spot when there are not many fruits in season).
9. Olives.
10. Shall I give the last spot to blueberries or pomegranites, or carambolas or tamarillos or loquats or kiwi fruit or pomegranate or mulberry or nashi or fejoa or fig or jaboticaba or .... it's too hard, I give up!

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Woodrow

Wow thats awesome guys well done!!! I just noticed your lovely pic on the yellow pages too!! yay!!
I would love to have a look when your finished it!! Be great reading and i'm only 15min south of u

I think thats a great top ten i have 7 of them the only thing missing i think is the Passion fruit?
we get so many and have to do nothing to it to get a great harvest.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkaz

Hmmm...sounding like a Top 20 with X-Factor points to the citrus family...

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNess

Thanks for all your lists and suggestions fellow fruit tree growers! I know its so hard to pick a top ten! We could add a completely different ten with your suggestions and still be happy with the list! White sapote has not fruited yet for us, so it has not been included...I have heard a lot of good things about this fruit tree though. Its hardy, very productive and the fruits are delicious. Has anyone here grown them and would you included them in a top ten list?

July 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

Where I live in Melbourne, almost every second garden has a lemon (Meyer or Eureka), a feijoa or five and a loquat. The loquats are especially excellent because they supply a non-citrus fruit in Winter, before the stone fruit and the apples and the berries are even blossoming. There are a lot of persimmons and pomegranates round here too. And olives, apples, stone fruit of the nectarine/peach/apricot/plum persuasion, grapes. Tamarillos do well, but have to be coddled a bit in heat waves. And the whole motley clan of brambly berries and currants.

Have fun writing your guide! This is such an excellent blog you've got here.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis

Berries (raspberries 'Heritage', thornless blackberry and thornless loganberry, blueberries, plus strawberries) and passionfruit because of the speed with which they fruit - encouraging for impatient children (and grownups). Quince because the trees are so tough and drought tolerant, and the fruit is so expensive in the shops, and the kids think it's cool that it goes pink when you cook it. Bananas, so expensive! and we love the free baby banana plants to spread around the garden. Almond tree because it is tough, beautiful (spring blossom) and productive in its first season. Babaco, because what is not to love about a plant that fizzes like champagne.
How on earth are you supposed to limit this list to ten? Stopping now!

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiesel

A big congrats on the book project! I can't wait to see it.

Apples and pears are good (appropriate low-chill varieties, of course), simply because everybody probably already eats them. Peaches, like nectarines, are really nice when home-grown but not easy - you've got to protect them from leaf curl, fruit fly, wild birds, possums, etc.

I'd broaden the Hawaiian guava to all guavas (strawberry, pineapple, etc) and feijoas.

I need to get more of the trees on your list, and in the comments above!

I live in Edmonton, Canada, so my list would be a bit different - so jealous of the great stuff you can grow there! I have items 1 - 4.
1) apple
2) cherry
3) blueberry
4) raspberry
5) blackberry
6) saskatoon berry
7) haskap berry
8) plum
9) pear
10) that is about it, can't think of anything else that grows here!

We visited Wollongong in 2005 and thought it was really beautiful, we also have friends that live there. Great blog, very inspiring, I love the transformative pictures. I am at the beginning of my journey, just started my first vegetable garden this year, hope to add on to it next year. What you are doing is so important and awesome!

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSheryGreens

Great to hear what grows well for you in Alexis, we have some family that's just moved down there, so we will pass on your recommendations!

It is impossible to stop at ten isn't it Liesel Totally agree with you on berries being right up there - how are they escaping the list!?

Darren you're right about the peaches - they are hard work, and really we'd recommend a dwarf peach, that is easier to manage from fruit fly as you can individually bag the fruits....but in reflection we've cut it from our top ten, as our criteria for the top ten are not only providing delicious, abundant harvests, but being easy to manage and hardy - and the peach doesn't cut it on the easy to manage! What varieties of apple and pear do you grow?

Wow we really enjoyed hearing about what you can grow in Canada Sherrygreen, we've never tried the berries you mentioned! Best of luck with your veggie garden this year! trying to take into account everyone's super helpful comments, and in realising that it is a bit rich to include the whole citrus family as one fruit tree (though that certainly helped us fit more in our top ten!), our revised top ten list is, in no particular order:

Banana (Williams Cavendish)
Hawaiian Guava

At least that is until we change our minds again! Aren't we lucky to be able to grow so much fabulous food that limiting it to the top ten is such a challenge!

July 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

I can't remember right now the apple varieties we planted, but they were chosen for low chill requirements. We haven't had any fruit yet, they're still getting established. I think one was a granny smith.

For pears, Buerre Busch (not sure how to spell it!) is good for our climate, and Williams is another decent one.

Also, I've heard that nashi pears grow well in our climate, which is a nice half-way point between pears and apples.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarren (Green Change)

Oh please give the humble lemon it's due!
I know they grow like hairs on a cat's back, but in the shops they want $7 to $8 kilo for them!
Without lemons there would be no jam, lemonade or lemon cordial.
They are for cleaning, lemon cake, lemon curd, lemon pudding, cough remedies, hand cleaning after hard day in garden,
cleaning the microwave etc etc...the list goes on and on...I always give a lemon tree for a house warming!
Love my lemons.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNorma
Thanks for the details about the varieties of pear and apple you're growing Darren, hope they turn out well for you! At the old orchard in Mt Kembla, they have stacks of nashi pears, and they thrive up there. Lovely crisp juicy fruit!

Norma the humble lemon indeed does deserve a listing doesn't it! We love our lemon tree too, and freeze any excess juice so we have lemon juice all year round. Your friends are lucky they get a lemon tree as a house warming gift, what a great start to a new garden!
July 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth
Which varieties of Cherimoya and Mulberry are you growing? I think it's time to replace the seedling Cherimoya I put in a year ago (found out it requires hand pollination). I've also got a beautiful big old black mulberry, but I think it's near the end of it's life, and I want to get one or two replacements in before the end comes :p I find the white ones I've had a bit too sweet (to eat too many), but never tasted a red. And the black range from divine to ordinary in my book, but this is based on eating them wherever I find 'em, with no knowledge of variety I'm eating at any given time.
February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess
Hi Jess ... we grow one grafted mulberry we bought from daleys called Beenleigh Black, and two cherimoyas, one which is from daleys called 'white' and another forbidden fruits nursery that is their own variety. Highly recommended!
February 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth
Love reading all of your Top tens!
I live in subtropical QLD, and as hard as it is to choose only 10, here goes;

Custard Apple
Dragon fruit
White shahtoot mulberry (or Red, as they are a smaller tree)
Atherton raspberry

Closely followed by; Mangosteen, Papaya, Japanese raisin, Blueberries, Blood orange, Red Dacca banana, Finger lime, Macadamia, Sapote, Guava etc etc However, my yard is not big enough for all of these, so I am coercing friends and neighbors into letting me plant fruit trees on their blocks.

So far I have;
Custard Apple, 3 varieties of banana, avocado, mango, fig (oh, I forgot to add fig to my list!), atherton raspberry, finger lime, midyim berry, native ginger, lime, lemon and pomelo (and several other small bush foods).

I have just ordered (from Daley's fruit); white shahtoot & red shahtoot mulberries, subtropical-adapted blueberry, and a Japanese raisin, and I will be purchasing from the markets this weekend; dragon fruit and lychee!!!!! yum I can't wait till they are producing!

At the moment we have eaten (from our garden) figs, bananas, Atherton raspberries, midyim berries, native passionfruit (Passiflora foetida), mangoes and other bush foods like native ginger, scrambling lily etc. This year the lime is fruiting for the first time, and the Custard apple has flowers on it!
December 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwallum

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