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 Orchardist: Excerpt

Author: Stella Otto

Pages: 250
Size: 6x9. Trade paperback
Black & white line illustrations
Resource lists
Trouble shooting guide
Monthly almanac
Glossary. Index.
$16.95 USD

ISBN: 978-0-9634520-3-0

Pub Date: January 1, 1995

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

Excerpt from The Back­yard Orchardist

From Chap­ter 1. Enjoy­ing Fruit Trees In Your Landscape

The lore and love of fruit trees has been with us for many gen­er­a­tions. Johnny Apple­seed, pio­neer of apple orchards, has long been a folk hero and George Wash­ing­ton brought the cherry tree to fame with his famous “I can­not tell a lie” dec­la­ra­tion. For many gar­den­ers, the attrac­tion of grow­ing a fruit tree is as strong today as it was dur­ing the days of these well known fig­ures.
The won­der­ful thing about fruit trees is that they can be enjoyed by vir­tu­ally any­one will­ing to invest a lit­tle bit of energy and patience into grow­ing them and they can be enjoyed in so many dif­fer­ent ways. Whether you are a novice gar­dener who would like to start with some­thing unique or a sea­soned vet­eran look­ing for a new adven­ture, fruit trees are reward­ing, inter­est­ing and rel­a­tively sim­ple to main­tain once you under­stand some basics. Over my many years as an orchard owner and con­sul­tant, I have been asked many ques­tions; some sim­ple, some com­plex. From those ques­tions this book has grown. To intro­duce you to this excit­ing hobby, The Back­yard Orchardist will explore the basic con­cepts of fruit grow­ing and guide you through the skills needed to suc­cess­fully raise your own fruit trees.
One of the first things you will learn is that fruit grow­ing is an avo­ca­tion that takes patience and a lit­tle bit of fore­thought. For devel­op­ing these virtues, you will be well rewarded, how­ever. You will have the pride of say­ing “I grew it myself” and the oppor­tu­nity to enjoy the sweet­ness and fla­vor that only tree ripened fruit offers. You will also become privy to the under­stand­ing that is behind the mys­tique of fruit grow­ing. The Back­yard Orchardist is meant to be an encour­ag­ing hand and per­sonal con­sul­tant through­out the adven­tures of fruit grow­ing. You will soon find out that fruit grow­ing is both a sci­ence and an art.…You will also come to see that many of the things you do to your fruit tree are inter­re­lated and as you take one action you may save your­self another. So, explore, observe, keep a few notes and don’t be afraid to try some­thing dif­fer­ent if what you are cur­rently doing is not bring­ing the expected results. Above all relax, be patient and enjoy! Most fruit trees are quite resilient and will allow you to make a few “mis­takes” along the way. Con­sider them learn­ing expe­ri­ences and don’t worry; most fruit trees will bounce back. Although there is much to be learned, it cer­tainly doesn’t all need to be done at once. Start small with one or two of the eas­ily grown trees and by the time they are bear­ing fruit you may find that you have a much greener thumb than you ever envi­sioned. Yes, grow­ing fruit trees is fun and not all that difficult.

From Chap­ter 2. Select­ing the Right Site

When mak­ing deci­sions about what to plant and where, other items to keep in mind are mois­ture and the avail­abil­ity of water. Indeed, this should really be bro­ken down into these two cat­e­gories because the pres­ence of mois­ture does not address only the tree’s need for water. The pres­ence of con­stantly wet soil on a por­tion of your prop­erty may mean that you have a high water table or poor soil drainage that will make it more dif­fi­cult to prop­erly grow a fruit tree in that loca­tion. The roots of a fruit tree do need a cer­tain amount of water to keep from dry­ing out, but too much of a good thing can raise havoc, too.…so, it is impor­tant to know your soil type as it may have a bear­ing on how much mois­ture a cer­tain area will hold and its suit­abil­ity to grow­ing fruit trees.…
Obvi­ously your fruit tree will need a cer­tain amount of water to grow and prosper.…so for prac­ti­cal pur­poses you should think about how much water you will need to pro­vide to your tree and where it will come from. The aver­age size fruit tree needs about an inch of rain a week.…

From Chap­ter 3.  Plant­ing and Early Care

Select­ing the Tree

Next, select your tree. If you have ordered from a nurs­ery cat­a­log, you may not be able to eval­u­ate the qual­ity of the tree before it arrives. When pos­si­ble, order one-year-old trees with trunks of 1⁄2″ to 3⁄4″ in diam­e­ter.… Most nurs­eries will send the trees “bare root”, that is, with no soil or other grow­ing medium around the roots. Rep­utable nurs­eries will take care to pro­tect the roots from dry­ing out, often using damp sphag­num moss or a plas­tic wrap. Qual­ity trees should arrive dor­mant and with healthy, moist roots. If you are select­ing your tree from a local gar­den cen­ter, look for a tree with a straight trunk and well-spaced branches.… Trees four to five feet in height are good. Most likely the gar­den cen­ter will sell trees that have been pot­ted. Be sure that the tree is not root­bound in the pot or has many roots grow­ing out of the bot­tom of the pot. This may be a sign that the tree has actu­ally been grow­ing in the pot for an extra sea­son because it grew poorly in its first year.…