I Dream Of Tropical Fruit

By Laura Miller | March 6, 2022
Image by Khonte Abejuela
by Laura Miller
March 6, 2022

I’ve always lived and gardened in Northern Ohio where we have four distinct seasons. I enjoy watching the apple and cherry trees bloom in the spring. I love cooking with the abundance of vegetables from my summer garden. I relish the final harvest in the fall. Even in the winter, the beauty of fresh snow on the garden stirs excitement for the upcoming growing season.  

Yet, if there were one thing I wish I could grow in my Northern Ohio yard, it would be tropical fruit. I can only imagine what it must be like to walk out into the garden and pick pineapple, mangos, bananas and citrus. To make this dream a reality, I’d have to garden in another climate. But which one would it be?

Where Can I Grow Tropical Fruit? 

While tropical fruit can be grown in a number of climates, the only place I could reliably grow all four of my choices would be USDA zone 11. And if I want to stay in the United States, this means the very southernmost tip of Florida or parts of Hawaii. Compared to Northern Ohio, these places have a much higher cost of living. But hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Unlike Northern Ohio, these two places also don’t have four distinct seasons. I would be giving up fall foliage, and winters would be much milder, so no more snow. Yet, I would be able to do something that I can’t do where I currently live and that’s garden outdoors in the winter. 

The average low winter temperatures in zone 11 range between 40 and 50 degrees F. (4.5-10 C.). Cool-weather crops like celery, carrots, cauliflower and lettuce would flourish in those temps. In exchange for gaining winter gardening, one thing I’d be giving up would be the ease of growing warm-season crops. These include bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn and green beans. While these crops can be grown in zone 11, they often require afternoon shade and irrigation to prevent heat damage. Of course, I could always grow warm season crops in containers and move them into the house for protection during the summer months. 

Potted Citrus Trees

I find this last option a bit humorous as I now grow citrus in containers and move them outdoors in the summer. Bottom line, there’s no perfect place to garden. No matter what the climate, we all have limitations on what we can plant directly in the ground. 

So for now, I’ll stay in my economically-priced Northern Ohio climate and enjoy the four seasons it offers. And maybe someday, I’ll be able to walk outdoors and pick a pineapple, mango, banana or citrus from my (potted) plants. Because if nothing else, a girl can dream.

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