Late winter and early spring are prime time for planting most fruits—nurseries typically have a selection of “bare root" varieties on hand (i.e. without soil or pot) and transplant shock is minimized if you can get them in the ground before they break from winter dormancy. So the question is not if to plant, but what to plant? Some fruits are a challenge to grow—without pruning and training, fungal sprays and other pampering, that is—so here is a list of some of the most carefree, adaptable varieties.
Blueberries have one primary requirement—acidic soil, with a pH between 4 and 5.5. Given this and a sunny location, they require little else to produce loads of delicious fruit each year. Not every blueberry thrives in every region, however, so make sure you find one that is adapted to your climate zone. It also helps to plant two different varieties together for cross-pollination, which ensures a bumper crop. If your soil isn't acidic, you can mix peat moss or sulfur into the planting bed to lower the pH, or just plant them in containers using a potting mix made for other acid-loving plants, like hydrangeas, azaleas, and camellias.
In their native habitat, figs are found growing from rocky cliffs on Mediterranean mountainsides. They almost seem to thrive on neglect—give them too much water, compost and fertilizer and they produce lots of leaves, but little fruit. Figs are self-fertile, and a single bush—which can grow into a small tree if you live in California or the Deep South—can produce enough for the whole family. (And unlike most fruits, they even produce two crops each year, one in summer and one in fall). Their only drawback is that not everyone has the climate to grow them—figs are only hardy to about 10°F, though the roots will survive down to 0°F. However, a fig bush is small enough to be covered with a tarp on the coldest nights.
The strawberries that you buy in the store aren't terribly hard to grow at home, but they require frequent irrigation, excellent soil fertility, and lots of attention to thwart their many pests. Few North American gardeners realize, however, that Europeans have been growing another type of strawberry, commonly referred to as the alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca), for centuries. This is a cultivated form of the wild strawberry that has fruits up to 1" long and, arguably, better flavor than supermarket strawberries. Plus, they are much easier to grow—this spring scatter seed in any partly shaded, moist bed and you'll have a low maintenance fruiting groundcover by the end of summer. Alpine strawberries come up year after year and often seed themselves.
You've probably seen Asian persimmons in the grocery store—those big orange orbs that appear in fall and winter, often in the tropical fruit section with an outrageous price tag affixed to them. They are one of the most popular fruits in Asia, but have barely caught on in North America, which is a wonder since they are so easy to grow. Asian Persimmons are one of the few fruit trees that require no pruning and are almost always free of pests and disease. They grow to about 15' tall and wide and have stunning autumn foliage. When the leaves finally drop off, the orange fruit is revealed, which ripens in November and December. They are a bit hardier than figs, tolerating temperatures down to 0°F or slightly below.
Technically known as the 'Improved Meyer' lemon, this is perhaps the most cold hardy, disease-resistant and all-round easiest citrus to grow. The other 'improvement' is in the flavor department—Meyer lemons are known for their sour-sweet, ultra-aromatic pulp. They are hardy to 18°F, but Meyer lemons are easily grown in a pot and brought indoors for winter. They can grow to a 6' bush in the ground, but potted plants can be maintained for years at just 3-4' tall and wide. Fruit and flowers occur year round on the shrubs, so you'll always have fresh lemon juice on hand—and the heavenly fragrance of citrus blossoms to enjoy!