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: Reviews

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)

Reviews for The Back­yard Orchardist


“…The thing I use this book for the most is the prun­ing infor­ma­tion; I carry it out with me every early spring into the orchard while I prune just to make sure I’m get­ting it right. The book com­forts me and tells me I’m doing alright, just like a fairy tree mother would. My trees are about twenty years old and weren’t kept on top of by the pre­vi­ous own­ers; noth­ing ter­ri­ble, just gen­er­ally messy. Plus, some fruit trees (peaches, you know I’m talk­ing about you) need a lot of hair­cuts to per­form well. I love that I can shove this book in the pocket of my apron and go out ready to face the frost and the dead wood.…”

– The Home­stead Lady   [ link ]


“If you want to add fruit to your edi­ble land­scape, the Back­yard Berry Book and the Back­yard Orchardist are excel­lent primers.

Stella Otto cer­tainly knows fruit. A pro­fes­sional hor­ti­cul­tur­ist and for­mer orchard and farm mar­ket owner for 25 years, she’s grown just about every fruit that’s pos­si­ble to grow in Michi­gan. In the Back­yard Berry Book and the Back­yard Orchardist she shares her exper­tise in sim­ple, clear terms that the novice gar­dener will under­stand, and the inter­me­di­ate gar­dener will appre­ci­ate. Each book is full of illus­tra­tions, charts and spe­cific instruc­tions for grow­ing the most com­mon fruits in North America.

…I sure wish I’d read the Back­yard Orchardist when I was hav­ing prob­lems with infec­tions in my pear trees, because I may not have had to cut them down. Oh well.”

– Todd Heft,   [ link ]


“I had never really con­sid­ered fruit trees before open­ingThe Back­yard Orchardist. I guess I thought that was only for other states and not NJ. (Funny we go to apple farms to pick apples but it never crossed my mind.) I believe this book will be espe­cially use­ful when we have a bit of land to take on this adven­ture. It is lit­er­ally filled with infor­ma­tion from start­ing out to deal­ing with prob­lems.

– Lisa Ruper­tus,   [ link ]


“…Some of the best dia­grams and charts in the book show what pears and apple trees can be cross pol­li­nated and are dis­ease free. Both of these are really great to help you make the RIGHT (and bud­get con­scious) deci­sion on what trees to plant! She also has a whole chap­ter for con­tainer gar­den­ing for those that don’t have large back yards. If you want to grow fruit trees, THIS is the book to get!”

– Nicole Henke, Bless Their Hearts Mom   [ link ]


“How to Select Healthy Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes for Your Fruit Gar­den arti­cle by Stella Otto posted 6/7/13.”

– Nicole Henke, Bless­Their­HeartsMom   [ link ]


“Select­ing Healthy Fruit Trees & Berry Bushes arti­cle by Stella Otto posted.”

– Gar­dens West Mag­a­zine   [ link ]


“How to Select Healthy Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes for Your Fruit Gar­den Guest Post by Stella Otto posted.”

–   [ link ]


“World Wis­dom: Healthy Fruit Trees and Bushes for Your Gar­den arti­cle by Stella Otto posted.”

– Moth­er­hood Moment   [ link ]


“…This easy-to-read book is a use­ful edu­ca­tional tool that gives one the con­fi­dence and knowl­edge to actu­ally attempt to grow a fruit bear­ing tree in their yard that they can enjoy and eat for years to come.”

– Conny Crisalli,   [ link ]


“From an arti­cle, Quirky, Per­haps, But Easy to Grow (and Fun to Eat)…STELLA OTTO, a Michi­gan hor­ti­cul­tur­ist, wrote The Back­yard Orchardist: A Com­plete Guide to Grow­ing Fruit Trees in the Home Gar­den. With more than 25 years of expe­ri­ence grow­ing fruit, she’s been an orchard man­ager and a farming-workshop leader. ‘Hardy kiwifruit are novel but easy. The smooth-skinned fruit tastes both sweet and tangy.…’”

– Avi­tal Bin­sh­tock, Sierra   [ link ]


“While it’s dif­fi­cult to do a lot out­doors in your gar­den dur­ing the win­ter, time can be spent with some good books that will get you ready for spring. Here are some of my rec­om­men­da­tions.…The Back­yard Orchardistby Stella Otto (Otto­Graph­ics). Thor­ough but non-technical, this easy-to-read and well-illustrated hand­book cov­ers all aspects of home orchard selec­tion, plant­ing and main­te­nance. A Ben­jamin Franklin Award win­ner, this book is so help­ful to begin­ning orchard own­ers that we sell it at our nursery.”

– Steve Boehme, owner of Good­Seed Nurs­ery & Land­scape, The Chill­i­cothe Gazette and The Cler­mont Sun   [ link ]


“Trend #1 Grow Your Own
With the ever-increasing empha­sis on healthy eat­ing, organic pro­duce and sus­tain­able liv­ing, gar­den­ers every­where are try­ing their hand at pro­duc­ing their own fruits and veg­eta­bles. Stella Otto, the ‘Back­yard Fruit Gar­dener’, says the trend is really tak­ing off with younger gardeners.

‘As the gen­er­a­tion of mid 20s to early 30s grows up, they are com­ing full cir­cle and embrac­ing the roots of their post-hippie gen­er­a­tion par­ents. They are return­ing to the home­stead con­cept, but with a decid­edly urban flair of their own. Many are dig­ging into the urban home­steading and farm­ing move­ment with the intent to become food self-sufficient and eco­log­i­cally sustainable.’

Otto is par­tic­u­larly excited about grow­ing unusual berries not com­monly found in the super­mar­ket, such as:
Yel­low rasp­ber­ries
Other less-common fruit suit­able for the back­yard gar­dener are blue­ber­ries, kiwi, grapes and cur­rants. Of course, every gar­dener needs to choose vari­eties suit­able to his or her own cli­mate and lifestyle. ”

– Michelle Ull­man,   [ link ]


“Berry good reads
Have you col­lected a bunch of tiny hotel soaps? Put them to work keep­ing deer away from your berries. Drill a hole in them and twist tie them to gar­den stakes. Or, spread lit­tle bags of human hair around. Stella Otto calls this ‘tank­age’ in The Back­yard Berry Book. She cau­tions that trail­ing or semi-erect black­berry roots must be kept in the dark before plant­ing, even on cloudy days, to keep yields high. But she sheds light on bram­ble pro­duc­tion that will keep you in cob­bler. You’ll love her easy trel­lis designs.”

– Dar­ragh Doiron, Port Arthur News   [ link ]


“Stella Otto is quoted exten­sively in the arti­cle, ‘Grow­ing Edi­ble Vines: Beau­ti­ful is boun­ti­ful when you blend form and func­tion in your gar­den­scape with fruit­ing vines’.”

– Jes­sica Wal­liser, Hobby Farm Homes   [ link ]


“‘Beauty & the Feast: Dis­cover 8 eye-catching vines for your gar­den and back­yard that are as deli­ciously fruit­ful as they are beau­ti­ful’ by Jes­sica Wal­liser appears in the March/April 2012 issue of Hobby Farm Home. Stella Otto is quoted sev­eral times, along with men­tion of her books–Back­yard Orchardist and Back­yard Berry Book.”

– Hobby Farm Home


“Stella Otto was inter­viewed 5/12/11 by Martha Stew­art Liv­ing gar­den edi­tors Tony Bielaczy­con theHome­grown radio show. Home­grown is live every Tues­day at 9 a.m. ET and Thurs­day at 1 p.m. ET on on Sir­ius 112.”

–, Home­grown   [ link ]


The Bacy­Yard Orchardist is thor­ough but non-technical. This easy-to-read and well-illustrated hand­book cov­ers all aspects of home orchard selec­tion, plant­ing and mantainance…this book is so help­ful to begin­ner orchardists that we sell it at our nursery.”

– Steve Boehme, Chill­i­cothe Gazette


“For every gar­dener desir­ing to add apples, pears, cher­ries, and other tree fruit to their land­scape here are hints and solid infor­ma­tion from a pro­fes­sional hor­ti­cul­tur­ist and expe­ri­enced fruit grower. The Back­yard Orchardist includes help on select­ing the best fruit trees and infor­ma­tion about each stage of growth and devel­op­ment, along with tips on har­vest and stor­age of the fruit. Those with lim­ited space will learn about grow­ing dwarf fruit trees in containers.

Appen­dices include a fruit-growers monthly cal­en­dar, a trouble-shooting guide for reviv­ing ail­ing trees, and a resource list of nurs­eries sell­ing fruit trees.

User Rat­ings and Reviews

5 Stars: Extremely help­ful! Just moved to a new home and wanted to start my plants off right. This book helped me not only in the selec­tion of my plants, but where on my prop­erty it is best to plant them, and how to prop­erly plant them. I also learned the cor­rect ways of prun­ing and fer­til­iz­ing each plant. I have found this book to be an invalu­able tool to a begin­ning back­yard gardener.

5 Stars: I found this book very thor­ough and infor­ma­tive for some­one just learn­ing about grow­ing fruit and nut trees at home. It answered very nearly every one of my questions.”

–   [ link ]


“Beau­ti­ful white apri­cot blos­soms are a shim­mer­ing sight of early spring, and I think it’s a shame to miss out on the deli­cious sum­mer fruit. But all fruit trees undergo a period of nat­ural thin­ning, said Stella Otto, author ofThe Back­yard Orchardist.…Otto sug­gested pes­ti­cides con­tain­ing Imi­dan, although Ortho’s home orchard spray is also use­ful. Fol­low direc­tions precisely. ”

– Linda Yang, Gar­den Q&A, The New York Times   [ link ]


“…In The Back­yard Orchardist, Otto treats fruit trees in a sim­i­lar, com­pre­hen­sive man­ner. This award-winning book won the cov­eted Ben­jamin Franklin Award. She has a won­der­ful chap­ter on grow­ing fruit trees in con­tain­ers. Do you have ques­tions about har­vest and stor­age? She answers that and much more.”

– Con­nie Krochmal, A FRUIT GARDENER’S BOOKSHELF,   [ link ]


“If you are an avid flower or veg­etable grower, but miss­ing out on the joys of fruit gar­den­ing, The Back­yard Orchardist and The Back­Yard Berry Bookare for you. With more than 16 years of hands-on expe­ri­ence, Stella Otto presents the meth­ods and tech­niques to grow fruits and berries suc­cess­fully. The Back­Yard Orchardist includes infor­ma­tion on site selec­tion, prop­a­ga­tion, soil nutri­tion, pest con­trol strate­gies and dis­ease iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as well as spe­cific infor­ma­tion on apples, pears, cher­ries, apri­cots and more. It is one of the finest sources of fruit grow­ing infor­ma­tion avail­able. Well writ­ten and bulging with infor­ma­tion, it will fill a con­spic­u­ous void on any homestead. ”

– Coun­try­side mag­a­zine   [ link ]


“Also praised by Book­list, The New York Times, Chicago Tri­bune, Mid­west Gar­den­ing, Fruit Gar­dener, Coun­try Liv­ing Gar­dener, The Gar­den Gate: Newslet­ter for New Eng­land Gar­den­ers, Rural Her­itage, From the Ground Up, Small Scale Agri­cul­ture Today, and other news­pa­pers, radio, and TV nationwide.”


“With author Otto as your guide, you might find your­self lit­er­ally enjoy­ing the fruits of your labors in a few short seasons.”

– The Blooms­bury Review


“Otto’s years of expe­ri­ence lends to a prac­ti­cal guide to grow­ing fruit trees on a small scale.…one of the few (titles) to not only nar­row the focus, but to address the spe­cial prob­lems and suc­cesses of home cultivation.…”

– The Bookwatch


“A handy compendium.…”

– Small Press


“…fills a void in a area where there are few good books available…well worth its mod­est price…extremely help­ful for any­one inter­ested in grow­ing fruit trees.”

– Choice


“A good down-to-earth–no pun intended–guide.…”

– Sacra­mento (CA) Bee


“.…per­ti­nent chap­ters give detailed answers to a lot of questions…”

– Mil­wau­kee (WI) Jour­nal reprinted in The Ottawa Citizen


“…espe­cially handy.…well-illustrated information.”

– Healthy News Newsletter


“Otto is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense author, and full of information.”

– Rich­mond (VA) Times-Dispatch


The Back­yard Orchardist is a first rate effort and will fill a con­spic­u­ous void on the bookshelf.”

– Hor­ti­cul­ture


“A fan­tas­tic book. It will really fill an infor­ma­tional void on this topic.”

– Julie Francke, Mas­ter Gar­dener Coor­di­na­tor, Lee­lanau County (MI) Coop­er­a­tive Extension


“…the finest ref­er­ence (by far) for the beginner!”

– Ed Fack­ler, Rocky Meadow Orchard & Nursery


“…packed with down-to-earth infor­ma­tion that the home gar­dener and mas­ter gar­dener crave.”

– Jour­nal of Small Fruit and Viticulture


“If you’re even con­sid­er­ing grow­ing fruit, you’ll find Otto’s two books price­less resources. They con­tain every­thing you need to get started.…except the plants.”

– Lynn Byczyn­ski, Edi­tor, Grow­ing for Mar­ket   [ link ]


“…If you’re still day­dream­ing about that back­yard orchard, there are plenty of trees to pick from out there in gar­den land. But you’d be wise to buy a copy of The Back­yard Orchardist and get smart first.”

– Huntsville (AL) Times


“This lit­tle gem is the finest sin­gle source of fruit grow­ing infor­ma­tion pub­lished to date.…very comprehensive.”

– Pomona, newslet­ter of the North Amer­i­can Fruit Explorers


“What we like most about this book is it isn’t intimidating.…Otto gen­tly and con­vinc­ingly enables us to real­ize that, yes, we can grow fruit successfully.…bulging with facts which can be put to work by both novice and expe­ri­enced ama­teur fruit growers.”

– Hor­tIdeas


Rodale Organic Gar­den­ing Book Club Alter­nate Selection”


Gar­den Book Club Alter­nate Selection”


Final­ist for Best Gar­den Book, Ben­jamin Franklin Award”


Win­ner of the Ben­jamin Franklin Award for Best First Book”