Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

The BackYard Berry Book: Excerpt

Author: Stella Otto

Pages: 288
Size: 6 x 9. Trade paperback
Black & white line illustrations
Resource lists
Trouble shooting guide
Monthly almanac
Glossary. Index.
$17.95 USD

ISBN: 978-0-9634520-6-1

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

Published by: OttoGraphics (Distributed by: Chelsea Green Publishing)

Excerpt from the Back­yard Berry Book

From Chap­ter 1. Suc­cess with Back­yard Berries

… For both the novice and the adven­ture­some, the fruit gar­den can yield many delights for the palate. With today’s “nou­velle” cui­sine, the enjoy­ment of small fruit is not lim­ited to the dessert course alone!

The Back­yard Berry Book will con­cen­trate on a por­tion of the fruit gar­den, namely the small fruit. Just what are the small fruit? Cer­tainly some kiwifruit grow larger than cher­ries and mul­ber­ries are smaller than straw­ber­ries. The small fruit we will be talk­ing about will be fruit that do not grow on trees. Also excluded is fruit that pri­mar­ily grows wild as an uncul­ti­vated crop. So, for the sake of def­i­n­i­tion, small fruit will be those grown as a cul­ti­vated, peren­nial crop, on small plants, canes, bushes, or vines — straw­ber­ries, rhubarb, bram­bles, blue­ber­ries, lin­gonber­ries, cur­rants, goose­ber­ries, grapes, and kiwifruit.

At the Root of It All

As with many skills, learn­ing the basics first will lead to greater suc­cess and sat­is­fac­tion. Many novice fruit grow­ers, in their haste to enjoy the “fruit of their labor”, over­look the most essen­tial ingre­di­ent to a suc­cess­ful fruit gar­den — prepa­ra­tion. As a hor­ti­cul­tur­ist, I receive many ques­tions from peo­ple who have already planted their fruit gar­den and now don’t under­stand why an abun­dant har­vest is not forth­com­ing. In talk­ing with them fur­ther, I learn that lit­tle thought was given to the plant’s require­ments, and in many cases the cho­sen fruit is mis­matched with the con­di­tions in which it is planted.

To avoid the frus­tra­tion of a mea­ger har­vest, The Back­yard Berry Book begins, if you will, at the roots. By under­stand­ing some basic botany, soil sci­ence, and hor­ti­cul­ture your chances of enjoy­ing many fruit­ful har­vests will be greatly increased. Should you have any doubts and think these sub­jects too com­plex, have faith and read on. First, I think you will find delight in sev­eral points to which you will say “Ah-ha!, so that’s it.” Sec­ond, know­ing and under­stand­ing the fun­da­men­tals behind small fruit grow­ing will also help you with other gar­dens you may grow — veg­eta­bles, herbs, flow­ers and more. So, before you buy a sin­gle fruit plant, do your home­work. Learn the fun­da­men­tals. Your effort will be repaid many times over.

From Chap­ter 3. Plant Selec­tion and Propagation

Select­ing Spe­cific Varieties

Once you have decided what type of fruit to grow, you will still need to decide what spe­cific vari­eties will best meet your needs and gar­den con­di­tions. When choos­ing spe­cific vari­eties, ask­ing your­self the fol­low­ing ques­tions may help you nar­row the choices:
1. Is the berry tasty? Some vari­eties have stronger fla­vor than oth­ers or are sweeter. Some vari­eties are more con­sis­tent in their fla­vor from year to year than oth­ers, as well.
2. How is the fruit’s over­all qual­ity? Is it soft or firm? Does it ripen quickly or will it hold on the plant for a day or two if I don’t get it picked right away?
3. How will I use my berries; eat them fresh, freeze them, or make jam or wine? For fresh eat­ing, you will undoubt­edly want a sweet juicy berry, while smaller, tarter berries often make bet­ter jam. For frozen berries, you will prob­a­bly want ones that are fairly firm and don’t just turn to mush when thawed.
4. How dis­ease resis­tant is the vari­ety I am con­sid­er­ing? This is espe­cially impor­tant if you want to grow your crop under strict organic meth­ods. In some cases, dis­ease or pest resis­tance is achieved by graft­ing a desir­able vari­ety to a par­tic­u­lar root­stock that is resis­tant to soil borne organ­isms for which there is no other cure.
5. Is the vari­ety I am con­sid­er­ing well suited to my cli­mate and my gar­den con­di­tions? If you are still not sure what vari­ety will be best for you, try a small plant­ing of sev­eral vari­eties that seem ini­tially suit­able. After eval­u­at­ing them for a few sea­sons, you can then plant more of the ones you liked best. Another way to get some vari­ety sug­ges­tions is by talk­ing to local exten­sion agents, mas­ter gar­den­ers, or a neigh­bor who has had suc­cess grow­ing fruit.

From Chap­ter 6. Pest Con­trol Strate­gies

Approaches to Pest Control

In the recent past, most gar­den­ers had the impres­sion that pest con­trol in the gar­den could only be accom­plished by spray­ing some sort of chem­i­cal. For­tu­nately, this is usu­ally not nec­es­sary in the back­yard small fruit plant­ing. In many cases, pest out­breaks in the well-cared-for small fruit plant­ing are not of major con­cern and only cause min­i­mal dam­age to the crop. With increas­ing aware­ness of organic gar­den­ing and new devel­op­ments in inte­grated pest man­age­ment, alter­na­tives to chem­i­cal con­trols are also becom­ing more avail­able. Indeed, for the home gar­dener non-chemical pest con­trols are often the only fea­si­ble option as the num­ber of allow­able pes­ti­cides has dwin­dled. Which method you should use is a choice you will have to make.

To begin, one should be aware of the dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of pest con­trol meth­ods avail­able. Basi­cally, approaches to pest con­trol can be bro­ken down into the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories:
1. Cul­tural Prac­tices
2. Chem­i­cal Con­trols
3. Organic Con­trols
4. Bio­log­i­cal Con­trols
5. Inte­grated Pest Man­age­ment Techniques

From Chap­ter 10. Strawberries

Growth Habits and Varieties

As with so many things today, a straw­berry is no longer just a straw­berry. The tra­di­tional vari­eties have nor­mally borne fruit in June or early July and are called June bear­ers. More recently, new vari­eties have been intro­duced to extend the fruit­ing sea­son. The first of these were called “ever­bear­ing” because they tended to pro­duce a crop dur­ing the nor­mal June har­vest period but also pro­duced another, smaller crop in late sum­mer or early fall. The newest group of straw­ber­ries intro­duced are the “day neu­tral” berries. These straw­ber­ries will pro­duce as long as tem­per­a­tures are mod­er­ate. This will typ­i­cally be from June to Octo­ber in north­ern areas and Jan­u­ary to August in mild coastal or south­ern cli­mates. By choos­ing vari­eties from sev­eral groups, you can now have fresh straw­ber­ries con­tin­u­ously through­out the grow­ing season.…