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A sweet treat for your yard

KENNEWICK -- Every time I turn around it seems like a new seed or nursery catalog arrives in the mail.

Raintree Nursery's catalog arrived just the other day.

Raintree Nursery in Morton specializes in fruiting plants, although they do offer some ornamentals too. Thumbing through their catalog reminded me that one of the current gardening trends is edible landscaping.

The concept of edible landscaping is to have an attractive landscape where food producing plants are part of the landscape not placed in a separate garden space, such as an orchard or vegetable garden.

With a shift toward decreasing home and yard sizes, it makes sense to incorporate edibles -- fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetables, herbs and even edible flowers -- into an attractive home landscape.

Experienced local gardeners know that growing traditional tree fruit in our area is not as easy as planting a tree and letting it grow.

Multiple applications of insecticide are required to keep apples, pears and cherries from becoming wormy. Because we live in a commercial tree fruit producing region, we can more easily and more economically purchase fruit from local growers.

If you want to apply the edible landscaping concept in your yard, consider types of fruit that don't fall victim to these wormy pests.

One of these is jujube. These are not the colorful candies you ate as a kid in movie theaters. Jujube, also known as the Chinese date, is a fruit tree with Chinese origins. It has been cultivated in China for more than 4,000 years and there are more than 400 cultivars of jujube today. Raintree offers four cultivars.

What's the fruit like? The jujube resembles a small to large, round to oblong plum. The skin is thin and edible. The flesh is white and sweet, some saying it tastes like a very sweet apple.

While the skin turns dark red at maturity, many say the fruit tastes best when eaten while still somewhat yellowish and the flesh still is crisp. When mature, the fruit becomes soft and wrinkled (looking somewhat like a date) and the flesh becomes spongy.

Like a plum, the fruit contains a stony pit. Trees are partially self-fertile, but will be more productive if cross-pollination is provided by growing two different jujube cultivars.

The trees offered by Raintree are grafted, growing to 20 feet or more, but they note they can be maintained at lower heights. The Raintree cultivars are hardy from Zones 6-10, so they should be hardy in our region. Jujubes need a warm, full sun location and do best in well-drained sandy soils, but will tolerate other types of soil including alkaline soils.

Generally the jujube has a drooping or somewhat weeping habit, although this varies from tree to tree, with some cultivars having a more upright habit. The leaves are a glossy green, turning bright yellow in the fall before dropping. It also tends to drop small branchlets in the fall.

As good as this tree may sound, it does have two drawbacks. One is the thorns or spines at the base of each leaf.

However, there are some cultivars that are thornless or almost thornless. Another drawback is suckering. The cultivars are grafted onto thorny rootstocks that tend to produce many suckers. These would have to be cut off regularly to keep the thorny rootstock contained.

Considering an edible landscape?

Maybe you would like to include jujubes or other fruit-producing plants. Jujubes are available from Raintree at www.raintreenursery.com.

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