Author: Stella Otto
Size: 6x9. Trade paperback
Black & white line art illustrations
Trouble shooting guide
Pub Date: January 18, 2016
Published by: Otto Graphics (Distributed by: Chelsea Green Publishing)
Excerpt from The Backyard Orchardist, 2nd edition
From the Foreword
…Until 1820, and to a lesser extent until 1860, horticulture meant fruit growing for most Americans. Most of the plants sold by commercial nurseries before1860 were fruit trees. Much of the garden literature before 1860 dealt with apples, peaches, pears, and grapes: eighty-nine pomological books were published in the United States before 1860, and about three hundred between then and 1920.
…the burgeoning farm to table movement, and a renewed interest in heirloom apples, edible landscapes, and self sufficiency are ideal trends that set a foundation for the revival of backyard orchard growing.
…Stella Otto’s The BackYard Orchardist is the answer for gardeners seeking a return to the enduring pleasures of harvesting these sweet, juicy gifts of nature, what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “precious refreshment.” Fruit growing is the crown jewel of horticultural pleasures, and only backyard harvests provide the complexity of flavor – fruit that is sugary, vinous, and tart at the same time – that one finds in a backyard fruitery.
From Chapter 1. Enjoying Fruit Trees in Your Landscape
… One of the first things you will learn is that fruit growing is an avocation that takes a little bit of forethought and patience. For practicing 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 art and science 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. As you begin your adventure with fruit trees, you may want to read through The Backyard Orchardist completely and then return to those chapters most pertinent to your current needs.
Taking a holistic view of growing fruit trees can save you time. Many of the things you do to your fruit garden are interrelated; as you take one action you may save yourself another. So, observe, explore, 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. 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. Let’s take a look now at the many ways that you can enjoy fruit trees in your landscape.
Fruit Trees for Self-sufficiency
With uncertainty and turmoil so often being the headline of the daily news, many people today are looking to their gardens for a sense of security and self-sufficiency. By producing, processing, and storing food from your home garden, you can reduce the effect of rising grocery store prices — much of which is driven by marketing and transportation costs rather than actual improvements in food quality.
Growing fruit trees brings a great deal of pride, along with feelings of success and self-sufficiency. Being able to share the fruits of your labor with friends and family while saying, “I grew it myself,” can be as rewarding as the joy of knowing that you have learned new skills in the process.
From Chapter 4. Apples
The apple is the tree fruit most widely adapted to growing in backyard orchards throughout the country. It has many varieties to choose from and is one of the most popular eating fruits.…
Flowering and Fruiting
Just as the apple tree has a certain habit of growing, it also has a certain way in which it produces its flower buds. Every type of fruiting tree must produce some buds that will produce new branches (or vegetative growth) and some buds that produce blossoms (and consequently fruit). Some types of fruit trees produce all of their flowering buds on wood that was produced during the preceding growing season, or said another way, on last year’s wood. Other types of trees produce flower buds on wood that is several seasons old and some produce flower buds on short, modified branches called spurs.
On apple trees most of the blossoms are borne on fruiting spurs. These spurs are generally short, compact growing branches less than four inches long. Most commonly, one year they will bear a fruit bud (or flower bud, the terms are used interchangeably) as their terminal bud. The following year a vegetative bud will be produced at the spur terminal but growth will be short and compact. Production of fruiting buds and vegetative buds will alternate in subsequent years. This alternating of fruit and vegetative production will give the spur a zigzag appearance to its growth. Illustrations of a Fruiting spur.) Of course, not all spurs are producing vegetative buds in the same year so there is normally an adequate supply of fruit buds to keep a crop growing every season.
Another factor to keep in mind is that, although it is not visible to you, the apple tree is already developing its fruit buds deep within its tissue the summer prior to the year in which the bloom becomes visible. Starting in about mid-June, the fruit bud tissue starts its development and differentiation. The process is completed by late March, shortly before bloom. Several factors, including the amount of light, water, and nutrients available can affect the development of the bud.
The production of flower buds alone is not enough to ensure production of a successful apple crop. It is really only the first step.…
Pressing cider is an excellent way to use surplus or blemished fruit, but it is also an art. Indeed, cider connoisseurs would argue that it warrants its own chapter (or even book) rather than a mere section. It is also worthwhile here to distinguish between “hard” cider—the fermented drink of our forefathers, that is making a resurgence today and “sweet” cider—the modern, unfermented beverage made possible by refrigeration or pasteurization. What follows will mainly be a discussion of sweet cider.
Much of what gives a really good apple cider its magic flavor comes from the fact that it is a subtle blend of several factors that affect our taste buds: sweetness, tartness, astringency, and aroma. Most of the best ciders will combine several apple varieties that bring together these factors. Through experimenting, you will come up with your own “secret recipe” that you enjoy most. For sweet (that is non-fermented) cider, try starting with a mix that is two parts sweet, two parts tart, one part aromatic, and one part astringent varieties.
Appreciate, too, that each growing season is unique and will influence the fruit somewhat differently from year to year. This helps give each new batch of cider its own distinctive flavor. Here are a few possibilities to get you started. Most are not strictly cider apples, but rather multi-purpose varieties that are worth planting in the home orchard for various reasons, cider production among them. Drink up and enjoy!
(A chart of sweet cider varieties follows at this point)
Chapter 14. Growing Fruit Trees in Containers
Are you worried that limited space or a challenging growing climate might make you forego your dream of enjoying your own tree-ripened fruit? Worry not! Container growing can put your dream within reach.
As an apartment or condominium dweller you can indeed enjoy the benefits of growing fruit trees. You will just need to select the proper dwarf or miniature fruit tree that is well adapted to growing in a suitable container.
Container growing is also useful in northern climates where you may want to push the boundaries of winter-hardiness. With moderate effort, it can allow you the pleasure of growing fruit such as figs or some citrus. In hot dessert climates, where you need to temporarily protect your tree from excessive heat and sunburn, movable containers can be your answer.
Keeping the Container-Grown Tree Healthy
Many of the activities involved in keeping a fruit tree healthy apply to a container-grown tree just as they do to a garden-planted one. Along with repotting, which was discussed earlier, modest pruning of the branches is also beneficial. Procedures are similar to those outlined in chapter XYZ. The amount of wood removed would be in proportion to the container-grown tree’s size. Buds can also be pinched off in the summer to further control the size of container-grown trees. In this procedure, the tips of vigorous-growing branches are simply pinched out by hand, much the way many house plants are occasionally “pinched.” The effect is much like a heading-back pruning cut.
Just as the field-grown tree can only support so many fruit, this holds true for a container-grown tree. The number of leaves that are needed to support each fruit is discussed earlier in the individual fruit chapters and remains an appropriate guide to calculating the crop load for a container-grown fruit tree.
Insect and disease control methods are also the same as for full-size trees, although more careful attention should be given to control of mites.