Whether you’ve been living on your property for quite a few years or you just moved there, you might want to consider planting a few trees.
Trees not only provide shade and ornamental value but many can be used for other purposes. From fruit to nuts, heating to construction, trees are invaluable assets that should be considered regardless of where you live.
However, if you’re new to homesteading, you might not be sure which trees will give you the best return on your investment. Saplings can be expensive, so it’s important to make sure you’re choosing the right kind of tree for your farm.
Here are some of the best trees to plant on your homestead – consider picking up a few to plant this spring!
Best Fruit Trees
When it comes to growing trees on the homestead, many homesteaders think automatically of fruit trees. Here are some of the best options to consider.
The plum, particularly the American plum, is a great tree to consider growing on the homestead. It won’t grow very tall, meaning it won’t block out other trees you might have planted. However, it produces delicious fruits that can be eaten raw or made into wines, juices, jellies, jams, or prunes (the dried version we all know and love).
Another interesting use of the plum tree is for protection. These trees grow in complex brambles, producing suckers and long branches that intertwine with each other to help keep out unwanted invaders.
Apple trees are a must-have on the homestead. There are dozens of varieties to choose from, so it should be easy for you to find the one that’s right for you.
Not only are apples great for eating fresh – and they can easily be stored in a root cellar – but they are also wonderful in apple butter, apple sauce, apple juice, and more.
Some good varieties to consider include McIntosh, Honeycrisp, and Red Delicious.
Mulberry is another fruit tree to consider growing. There are all kinds of foods you can make from the fruits this tree produces – including tasty mulberry wine!
A fast-growing tree, the mulberry tree also produces wood that can be used for firewood. It is said that this tree produces more wood per acre than most other trees.
The only thing to note when growing mulberry trees is that they can cause asthma and other breathing problems. The pollen tends to be highly allergenic for some people – but the good news is that you can always choose to grow just female trees, which are considered allergy-free since they don’t have the pollen.
Pear trees are often overlooked but they’re even easier to grow than apples. Pear butter is just like apple butter and even sweeter.
The trees are not difficult to cultivate, with some reaching up to 30-feet tall. Of course, there are dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties you can grow, too. Bartlett and Anjou pears are both popular varieties for homesteads.
Although apple trees are wonderful assets to have on the homestead, the downside to growing these fruit trees is that they take quite a while to mature. That’s not the case with peach trees. They can bear fruits in just 5 years!
Although figs probably aren’t the first fruits you think of when it comes to your homestead fruit supply, they should be at the top of your list. Fig trees are easy to grow, even for beginners, and they can even be grown in containers if you don’t live in a frost-free zone.
You can grow either sweet or sour cherry trees on your homestead (or why not both?). They are great for baking, juicing, and eating fresh.
Like peaches, nectarine trees also grow fast. They do need to be pruned regularly, but from just one tree, you’ll get up to 40lbs of fruit each year – for up to 20 years or more!
Apricot trees take just 3 years to produce fruit after you’ve planted but can live for an average of 150 years – that’s quite the return on your investment! They don’t require that much maintenance, either.
Best Nut Trees
Although fruit trees are wonderful to have on the farm, growing nut trees is a wonderful way to offset your grocery bill, too.
Almond trees are small and hardy in zones 5-9. They are not self-fertile, however, so you will need two for pollination.
When it comes to growing trees for wood, walnut is a top contender – but of course, many homesteaders will grow this leading species for nuts, too.
You’ll eat the nut center of the fruit, either fresh out of the shell or in your favorite baked goods. Walnuts can also be used to make ink and dyes while the wood is great for flooring, furniture, gun stocks, and more.
Chestnut trees are hardy in zones 4-8. Although the wood can be used for building and firewood, it’s worth keeping a few chestnuts around for the delicious and versatile nuts alone.
Pecan pie, anyone? These trees are staples in the north – they are hardy in zones 4-8. Although the trees grow to be quite large, it’s worth having a few pecan trees around for snacking purposes.
Last but not least, hazelnuts are also good trees to consider growing, especially if you live in the north. They can survive in zones as cold as zone 2 and are small trees that are easy to care for.
Best Trees for Firewood
Wood heat is one of the most sustainable sources of heat for your homestead, especially if you want to be self-sufficient. Here are some good trees to consider planting if that’s your ultimate goal.
Out of all the trees you might use for firewood, cedar is one of the best. It’s great for making furniture, cooking food, and building fence posts, too. Anything that needs to be constructed should be made with cedarwood since it is one of the most rot-resistant woods out there.
It can also be used for animal bedding when it’s processed into wood shavings.
Pine burns quickly since it is a softwood, but it ignites fast, too – meaning it’s a great way to get a fire started.
These trees are also beneficial when it comes to building. Pine has a resin that can be used for glue, medicinal needs, roofing, and other tasks as well.
Oak trees can be grown for their acorns, but hardwood is also one of the best types of firewood you can produce. It produces a fire that burns long and hot.
Hickory is another hardwood tree species that works wonderfully as a source of heat.
Other Trees to Consider
In addition to being used for firewood and food, trees can even be used for protection, syrup-making, and other applications. Here are some great trees to consider planting.
When planted close together, hawthorn trees can serve as an excellent line of defense. That’s because hawthorn trees have lots of thorns – trespassers beware!
Train the limbs of young trees to grow in long lines, rather than allowing them to grow upward. If you do this, it will create a natural fence that maintains itself over time (without needing pruning).
Of course, hawthorn can be grown for many other purposes as well. It can be used as a herbal remedy that tastes delicious in tea.
While black locust and honey locust trees both have their uses on a farm, honey locust is excellent for security purposes. These naturally thorny trees also grow edible pods and can fix nitrogen into hash oil.
3. Osage Orange
Osage orange is often grown as a natural fence, helping to deter humans and even larger animals, like cattle.
Because it grows so densely and puts down such strong roots, osage orange is also wonderful at preventing soil erosion. If you have a slope in need of stabilization, planting some osage orange trees is the way to go.
Not only that but the wood from this tree can be used for firewood as well as to make fence posts and other supplies.
Many of the trees mentioned above are best for temperate areas, but if you live in a hot climate you’ll tend to consider the JuJube tree. This one can easily handle sub-zero temperatures as well as those that climb close to 100° or more.
JuJube fruits can be made into vinegar or wine, but they can also be eaten fresh. Not only that, but the JuJube tree produces thorns, too, so it’s an excellent natural fence.
Many people grow maple trees for wood – it is beautiful when used in furniture – but maple can, of course, also be used for the production of maple syrup. An all-natural sweetener, maple syrup is easy to make for yourself at home and can help offset some of your home’s sugar needs.
This is one of the few trees out there that offers health benefits. If you consume the leaves or essential oils, you’ll have access to a rich variety of minerals and vitamins.
Basswood has many uses – among them, its wood is great for making all kinds of crafts and projects. Not only that, but the inner bark fibers can be used to make baskets, ropes, and nets. The leaves can even be eaten like salad greens!
Growing Trees on the Homestead – Smart Choice
To decide which of these homestead trees you should grow, it’s wise to consider your climate, microclimate, and soil conditions.
Contact your local cooperative extension to get more information about which trees grow best in your area. They may also be able to give you some suggestions on which pests and diseases are around and that your trees might be most vulnerable to.
With that information in mind, get planting! Growing trees is a smart choice to help become more self-sufficient on your homestead.