Sheri Ann Richerson's exotic gardening, elegant cooking, crafty creations, food preservation and animal husbandry... all on two and a half acres in Marion, Indiana!

Growing Fruit


Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ bloomed for the first time this year. I planted it outdoors in the spring of 2005.

I moved here to the farm in August 2004. My goal – even back then - was to fill the land with useful plants. I brought a number of plants with me from my old place and promptly began planting new ones. Fruiting plants was an area I focused on fairly heavily – as were herbs and medicinal plants. Of course, I wanted fragrance – and finally I have it all. Everywhere you go in the yard this year you are greated with something that produces food or medicine and you inhale a delightful fragrance. Of course the smell changes depending on where you are in the yard and what time of year it is.

Here are the fruit plants currently growing here. This list is more for me and not intended to make anyone jealous. You too can grow a wide variety of fruiting plants – indoors and out – if you have the space and set your mind to it.














Passion Fruit







Star Fruit



Sam Benowitz – Raintree Nursery

There are few pleasures in life that can compare to picking and eating fresh berries, apples and other fruit grown in your very own backyard orchard. While fruit trees and berry bushes may take longer to mature than fast-producing annuals, they will reward the patient gardener with loads of tasty fruit every season. Many trees and berry bushes bear so heavily, in fact, that you can’t eat all the fruit fresh—so canning and preserving is a great way to enjoy an orchard’s bounty all year long.

The stories below feature quality fruit-bearing trees and bushes ranging from fig trees and cherry trees to historical heirloom apples and improved berry varieties. Any of these productive trees and bushes can be great additions to the garden. Adding a new fruiting tree or bush will add beauty and structure to the landscape—and can feed you and your family for years to come.



Fig ‘Desert King’

Nature Hills offers hundreds of fruiting plants


Looking for a cold-hardy fig tree? Desert King Fig (Ficus carica ‘Desert King’) is a good choice for cooler climates because it’s hardy to USDA Zone 5 and produces large, sweet figs with strawberry-red flesh. How about an early-ripening cherry variety that’s perfect for pies? ‘Early Richmond’ Cherry (Prunus cerasus) ripens in late spring and the bright red fruits are excellent for cooking. Perhaps you’d rather grow raspberries. Raspberry ‘Brandywine’ (Rubus idaeus ‘Brandywine’) is cross of red and black raspberry plants, and it’s been called the best purple raspberry available.

Fig ‘Desert King’

All of these fruiting plants—and hundreds more—are available from Nature Hills Nursery. This online-only retailer offers more fruit trees, berry bushes and other edible-producing plants than any other website. Nature Hills Nursery proudly calls itself “America’s Online Garden Center” because it also offers a full line of shade trees, perennials, fertilizers, pest controls, tools and even gift items. Visit or call (888) 864-7663.



Tom Doyle among the blackberries.

Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry® out-produces traditional varieties


The typical blackberry bush produces 1-2 gallons of berries per plant each year. Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry® is variety that yields 10-20 gallons of sweet, vine-ripened berries every summer. That’s 10 times the production of a normal blackberry bush—plus there are no painful thorns. The fruit sets in bunches of 10 to 30 large, sweet berries that ripen over a 6-8 week season in the summer. Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry® is a trailing variety that grows best on a trellis. The plants need two years to establish and then the disease-resistant plants start producing sweet, delicious, healthful, antioxidant-rich berries that are great to eat fresh, as beverages and deserts, or frozen for later use. Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry® plants grow successfully throughout the USA and Canada in USDA hardiness zones 2-10. Potted plants sell for $20 each or $17.50 each in quantities of 10 or more. Call (812) 254-2654, see customers’ comments and pictures at, or visit the web site at


Apple ‘Esopus Spitzenburg’

Grow a Johnny Appleseed tree—or other famous varieties


Did you know that when Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity he was sitting under an apple tree? It was a variety named Flower of Kent. Thomas Jefferson had many dozens of apple trees at Monticello, but the very flavorful Esopus Spitzenburg was his favorite. And the most famous apple trees of all are those planted by Johnny Appleseed. All three of these special apple trees are available from Raintree Nursery—plus many old-time and new varieties of fruit trees and berry bushes.

“Growing great fruit and vegetables at home is a way for people to learn the self sufficiency that previous generations took for granted,” said Sam Benowitz, who has owned Raintree Nursery for 40 years.

Raintree Nursery offers more than 800 varieties of fruit trees, berries and vines, each selected for flavor and disease resistance with the home fruit grower in mind. Raintree Nursery offers the best new varieties from research stations from around the world as well as the best of the heirloom varieties. To place an order, request a catalog or get more information, visit or call (800) 391-8892.



Tomato Super Sauce – the world’s largest sauce tomato.


Every year, horticulture experts around the world cultivate new and exciting plant varieties to enhance the diversity and productivity of gardens everywhere. Not just for show, most new varieties of fruits and vegetables offer improved yields and hardiness, and they thrive right alongside the tried-and-true varieties.

Gardeners always love to grow the newest varieties of their favorite plants, and the ones listed below are sure to be crowd-pleasers. Resulting from years of experience from established companies and garden enthusiasts, each of these unique varieties has something special to add to the garden. Increased disease resistance, more compact growth habits and unusual-colored fruits are all reasons to consider adding one of these new varieties to your garden.


Burpee introduces “world’s largest sauce tomato” 


Burpee is known for bringing new vegetable varieties to American gardens for 136 years—including the first white sweet corn, the legendary ‘Big Boy’ tomato, and ‘Sweet Seedless,’ the first ever seedless tomato. For 2013, Burpee has introduced SuperSauce Hybrid Tomato, “the world’s largest sauce tomato.”

SuperSauce is the new superhero of tomatoes. The first ripe fruits tip the scale at up to 2 pounds, measuring a whopping 5.5 inches tall and 5 inches wide. SuperSauce produces gallons of luscious, seedless sauce from a single plant harvest—one tomato fills an entire sauce jar. The easy-to-grow, indeterminate, disease-free plants yield a summer-long supply of exquisitely flavored marinara, tomato gravy or meat sauce. But wait! It gets even better. With its large segments of meaty and delicious flesh, SuperSauce is the only paste tomato that doubles as a sandwich slicer. Try it on a hamburger or tomato sandwich and you won’t believe the taste bonus over a horizontal slice of beefsteak.

Tomatoes are the nations favorite backyard garden fruit because they are easy to grow, are prolific producers and have unrivaled summer flavor. SuperSauce Hybrid Sauce Tomato is already one of Burpee’s best-selling tomato introductions ever. A packet of SuperSauce Tomato seeds sells for $6.50 or 3 garden-ready plants sell for $14.95, exclusively from Burpee, (800) 888-1447 or



Mango ‘Cogshall’

Grow “Condo Mangos” on a porch or patio


Mangos are prized worldwide for their sweet, delicious fruit. Unfortunately, full-sized mango trees grow too large for small yards and containers. A new variety of mango called ‘Cogshall’ is nicknamed “condo mango” because of its dwarf growth habit and ease of growing in a pot. Known by the botanical name Mangifera indica, the tree matures to about 8 feet tall and will bear a crop of mangos every year once it reaches fruiting age (in 3-4 years). The sweet, fiberless fruit has a yellowish-orange skin with a red blush and ripens in mid-to-late summer. Mangos are self-fertile so a single plant will bear fruit. Allow the fruit to fully ripen on the tree for maximum sweetness. Grow in full sun in well-drained but evenly moist potting soil. This variety is cold hardy to USDA Zone 10, so bring it inside when the nighttime temperatures drop to the low 40s. Available in a 6-inch pot for $39.95 from Logee’s, (888) 330-8038 or


Tomato Rosella Purple

Rosella Purple Tomato is the perfect container variety


Rosella Purple is a new dwarf tomato variety that produces fruits similar to Cherokee Purple but on short plants, making this variety ideal for container gardening. Bred by the Dwarf Tomato Project, an international group of tomato enthusiasts devoted to breeding short tomato varieties with great flavor, Rosella Purple fruits weigh 6-10 ounces and feature a delightful deep purple color. The productive plants grow to about 36 inches tall and benefit from some staking to keep them upright and to protect the fruits from sunscald. These determinate plants produce fruit 65 days after transplanting.

Rosella Purple originated from a cross between Budai (a small red-fruited dwarf) and Stump of the World, made in 2006 by Patrina Nuske Small in Australia. A subsequent selection discovered by Craig LeHoullier led to Rosella Purple—after other members of the Dwarf Tomato Project ( made their own contributions. A packet of seeds sells for $3.25 from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, or (540) 894-9480.


Get kids growing in the garden by starting them off planting their own strawberries. You can let them plant and care for a whole patch, or just one or two plants, planted in a strawberry jar or garden container.  Be sure to engage your kids in the planting process and let them get their hands dirty. Then show them how to care for and water their home-grown tasty treats. You can make this more fun for children by buying them their very own watering can. Don’t forget to show kids how to pinch off plant runners to reap larger sized berries. And of course have them do the harvesting and enjoy the fruits of their labor!

You’ll find most kids enjoy helping in the garden, they’re allowed to get dirty, they get some good exercise, actually learn and understand, first hand, where their food comes from and they’ll gain a good sense of nurture, nature and responsibility within the process.

Children love watching strawberries grow, they’ll see flowers bloom, garden bees, and fruit develop and turn color. After developing a sense of ownership of their plants, they will especially love eating the sweet fruits they grew themselves.

Here’s some tips to ensure strawberry success:

*When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the upper most roots are 1/4 inch beneath soil level, buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out. Have kids  measure and then dig holes for placing plants, depending on space and quantity. Strawberry plants should be placed approximately 14 to 18 inches apart from each other in neat rows that are separated by 2-3 feet each.  Let runners fill in until plants are 7-10 inches apart.

*Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture and control weeds.

*If you want to keep it simple, plant strawberries in a container.  Just remember that container plantings need much more water than in-ground plantings, usually once a day; and if it’s hot, twice. Strawberry pots are the obvious, best container choice for growing strawberries. You can fit several plants in one pot; just make sure whatever type of garden pot you use has good drainage. Strawberries have a relatively small root ball and can be grown in containers as small as 10-12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more frequently you will need to water. Synthetic and light colored pots will keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat.

*Strawberries like well drained fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the pot or patch.

*They need full sun, and frequent, deep soakings. Be sure to give adequate water during bearing season. They will grow in all zones and should be fed twice a year — when growth begins and after the first crop. Use a complete fertilizer high in phosphorous for feedings.

Choosing Strawberry Plants

There are four different types of strawberry plants, June bearing, everbearing, day neutral and alpine. Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of veggies and herbs in the U.S., with 65 growing stations across the country, regionally serving 48 states, offers strawberry plants at your local garden retailer. Use  transplants- they’re easier than seed and the growing process will take less time. For more info and tips on growing strawberries please visit

Strawberries are one of the easiest and best home garden fruits for kids to grow. They’ll produce fruit throughout the summer and children will love to pluck them right off the plant, wash and eat! If your kids have yet to plant and care for a fruit or vegetable, strawberries are a perfect choice for their first gardening experience. Kick off this gardening season with your kids and get them growing strawberries!


A grove of banana trees.

Banana trees are really cool plants – not just because of their huge, exotic leaves or the tasty fruit they produce – but because of the many different colors or sizes of the fruit and the leaves. We are not talking about the same old yellow bananas you find on grocery store shelves either. No ma’am – bananas comes in pink, red and even purple! As for the leaves, there are banana trees with red leaves, ones that are red and green variegated as well as white and green variegated. In fact, the AE AE Banana, as the white and green variegated one is known, is highly sought after by banana plant collectors world-wide.

Of course, not all bananas are suitable for eating because of the massive amounts of seed the fruit contains, although some prefer to simply remove the seeds and eat the bananas anyway – and this is fine.

If you’ve not grown a banana tree in the past, they are easy to grow – and in the event you do not live in a tropical climate, you can find varieties that are a mere 3 to 4 feet tall at maturity. These are ideal for growing in containers and they do produce fruit within two to three years as long as they are well cared for. While you are not likely to end up with a banana tree grove – such as the one in the picture above, unless you have lots of containers filled with banana trees – you can still enjoy growing them year-round in your home or office. Here is what you need to know to get started growing your own banana trees.

The botanical name of the banana tree is Musa and there are many varieties that are easy to obtain.  Florists, grocery stores and discount stores often carry banana plants in addition to many mail order and Internet vendors.

Bananas require lots of water and light to thrive. Brown leaves usually indicate that the plant is in low humidity or not receiving enough water. It is a good idea if you are growing this plant indoors is to provide frequent misting.  If this is difficult for you to do, keep a humidifier close to the plant.  A natural method for humidity is to cluster plants together although this can lead to other problems, such as powdery mildew, if you are not careful.

Growing Bananas inside presents a special challenge to the grower because supplemental light must be provided. Bananas require two years of being in the exact same spot, grown under the exact same conditions before they begin to flower.

Once you decide to try your hand at any of the Musa family purchase a very large pot.  Bananas grow quickly.  I have found that using a large pot to start with eliminates the constant need for repotting.  The longer the time between moves the better chance you have of getting fruit. Set the plant in a warm spot with plenty of room overhead so it can reach its mature height unhindered.

I prefer to use a combination of compost, peat moss, vermiculite and perlite as the growing medium for my banana trees.  I feel that this combination is a better growing medium than most commercial potting soils.   I do add a handful of compost or kelp from time to time so the plants have access to the nutrients they need to thrive.

Never prune a banana tree. Allow the dead leaves to fall off naturally. Separating the banana pups from the mother plant is the best method of propagating of this plant, although you can grow banana trees from seeds.  When you separate the pups be sure to break the soil away from the roots and trim about an inch off the roots.  Root trimming removes the dead roots and encourages the plants roots to grow.  When you repot the plants water the soil with vitamin B-1 or a starter solution fertilizer.  This will help to minimize transplant shock.

Frequent fertilization is recommended and you should increase your fertilizer during the summer months since this is the period of active growth for banana trees.

If you have access to horse manure, add some composted manure to the bottom of your pot.  Your banana tree will reward you with faster growth once the roots begin to take up the nutrients in the compost.  Make sure the manure is composted, because fresh manure can kill your plant.

Bananas dislike drafts and cold weather, however there are varieties that can withstand temperatures of 30 degrees F. with wind – but not frost – and still survive. One such variety that can withstand these extreme temperatures is the Orinoco that grows wild in the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Other varieties, such as Rajapuri, might experience leaf damage or some other type of physical damage but still survive. Musa basjoo is winter hardy in United States Department of Agricultural hardiness zone 5, but must be mulched over the winter months.

The best way to know what your particular variety of Musa can withstand is to research it. You can always separate a “pup” from the mother plant to test the hardiness of your plant. After all, you never really know what will happen until you try it for yourself. Different areas of your yard receive different degrees of wind, rain and cold temperatures depending on your sheltering conditions – these areas are known as microclimates.  The only drawback of this is that most likely these varieties will never produce fruit under these conditions.

In the event that you cannot grow your Banana in your house over winter you can dig it up in the fall and store it once frost blackens the leaves. Keep the banana tree bulbs in a cool, dark place over the winter the same as your other bulbs.

When spring arrives replant your Banana in the ground outside once the ground temperature is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit and all chance of frost is over. Allow only one plant per hole. The ideal banana grove consists of one plant that is fruiting, one that is half-grown, one that is a quarter grown with the final plant just emerging.  Make sure the banana trees are at least a foot away from the main plant once they are old enough to remove from the mother plant so they do not drain energy and prevent her from flowering. The “pups,” as the young banana trees are called, can be divided to produce more plants or cut-off and tossed into the compost pile.


There is a wide variety of berries that will thrive in clay soil as long as you take the time to amend it. From your typical berries such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries and raspberries to berries that are less common such as honeyberry or service berry, there is sure to be a variety that is ideal for every garden. Understanding the correct way to prepare and amend the soil before planting your berries is the key to success.

Step 1: Select a site in full sun that has good air circulation. Prepare the soil by digging a hole by hand that is twice as deep as the head of the shovel and approximately 4 feet in diameter. This technique is known as double-digging. Break up any clumps. Remove roots, rocks or other foreign material from the soil.

Step 2: Add compost or other organic matter such as leaf mould. The appropriate amount of organic matter to add to each hole is 3%, or 3 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet. Mix the soil and the organic matter well and then fill the hole back with the amended soil.

Step 3: Get a soil test at this point so you know if you need to add any other nutrients or adjust the pH of the soil. If the test shows that other amendments are necessary, add them according to the instructions on the package label of your chosen amendments, making sure to thoroughly mix them into the soil. For example, blueberries perform better in soil that ranges between 4.5 to 5.2. If the natural pH of your soil does not fall in this range, it will be necessary to add finely ground sulfur or aluminum sulfate to the soil to adjust the pH of the soil before planting the blueberries.

Step 4: Allow the amended soil to sit in the hole over winter. This will give the amendments a chance to fully integrate themselves into the clay soil. Once spring arrives, plant the berry plants in the amended soil. Mulch the top of the soil, water the berry plants in well and prepare for your first harvest.


We are finally getting some much needed rain. The garden is beginning to look like a garden again. I have posted a bunch of new pictures in the photo gallery at .

We have had a busy week. Jerry laid a new flagstone walkway, moved one of my greenhouses and did more work on the vegetable garden so we can plant our summer crops.

We have added a ton of new plants to our gardens this year. To name a few, we have recently added a Semi-Dwarf Santa Rosa Plum, a Red Bartlett Pear, a Methley Plum, a Dwarf Black Tartarian Cherry, Salix integra ‘Hakura Nishiki,’ Dogwood ‘Cream Cracker,’ a Golden Curls Willow, Rosa ‘Golden Celebration,’ a Pink Dogwood, Rhododendron ‘Purpureum Elegans,’ Rhododendrum ‘Roseum Pink,’ Rose ‘Pat Austin,’ Rose ‘Baby Love,’ Phlox ‘Blue Magic,’ Magnolia grandiflora ‘Edith Bogue,’ Akebia quinata and Rose ‘Abraham Darby.’