Before you jump in, a few points to consider:
Have you thought about pollination? Your fruit trees and many of your
vegetables need to be pollinated in order to bear crops. In many areas,
honey bees are in decline, and you may need to depend on wild and solitary
bees. A variety of flowering herbs and ornamentals provide much needed food
sources for these bees during the summer months.
Have you thought about pest control? Fruit trees, especially apples, are
magnets to a variety of pests that can cause a lot of damage to your crops.
There are small, beneficial wasps that are predators to these pests (and do
NOT sting humans). Again, they need nectar sources throughout the year.
For example, I grow aruncus (goatsbeard), that is not edible but attracts an
astonishing variety of these small wasps when it blooms. Dill, parsley, and
fennel are also good for this purpose, as well as providing food for humans
Birds eat a lot of insect pests, but they too need other food sources, such
as ornamental shrubs that produce berries, and they need cover in trees and
evergreens to nest in.
Have you thought about economy of scale? I don't grow corn, because the
farmer down the road from me does a great job of it, picks it fresh several
times a day, and in season I can buy if for $1.50 a dozen. Same thing with
potatoes--they are dirt cheap and quite good at the farmer's market. I do
grow peppers, even thought I can also buy them as well, because I like
varieties it's hard to find locally. Think about how you want to allocate
not just your money, but your time and efforts. I tried for years to grow
apples, with limited success. It takes a lot of time and attention to get
the disease and pest management scheduled properly. I now buy the bulk of
my apples, but my trees are still valuable in that they provide wormy apples
that keep the resident groundhog fat and satisfied and out of my vegetable
garden. The drops also feed a variety of large wasps in the fall that have
been patrolling my vegetables all summer. On the other hand, my Asian pears
are a great success. They take little care, the fruit is absolutely
delicious, and very expensive at the market.
Consider finding out what types of shrubs and flowers are either native or
easy care in your area, that are beneficial to wildlife, and planting some
even if they are not directly edible. Your goal should be to create a
micro-ecosystem that feeds you as well as the birds and the bees.
And it's ok to grow things just because they are beautiful. We need food
for the soul as well as the body.
Good luck with your endeavors,
Zone 6, South-central PA
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