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


Product Description

Thank you for your sup­port of the updated and expanded edi­tion of the Back­Yard Orchardist, 2nd edi­tion. It has sold out. We still have a few back issues of this orig­i­nal edi­tion left. Get them before they are gone! Of course, the fun­da­men­tal infor­ma­tion is still as solid as it was when first pub­lished. Rather than rel­e­gat­ing our small quan­tity of remain­ing inven­tory to the com­post heap of old books, we’d like them to con­tinue to edu­cate would-be fruit gardeners. 

This Ben­jamin Franklin award win­ning book helps you har­vest bushels of hands-on advice from an expe­ri­enced grower and pro­fes­sional hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist. The Back­yard Orchardist pro­vides all the infor­ma­tion needed for any gar­dener to suc­cess­fully grow apples & pears; apri­cots, cher­ries, peaches and plums.

High­lights include detailed advice on:

  • select­ing the best vari­eties of fruit
  • proper site selec­tion and soil preparation
  • plant­ing and pruning
  • envi­ron­men­tally respon­si­ble pest and dis­ease control
  • har­vest and stor­age hints

The Back­yard Orchardist, was also an alter­nate selec­tion of both Gar­den Book Club and Rodale Organic Gar­den­ing Book Club.


The Back­yard Orchardist .… is easy to read and is packed with every­thing you need to know about rais­ing fruit trees in your back yard.  As I read the book I began to appre­ci­ate and respect not only the nature of fruit trees and how they grow and pro­duce, but also the peo­ple who grow fruit or man­age orchards for a living.….….Her easy going method of explain­ing the some­what com­pli­cated busi­ness of grow­ing your own fruit has given me new found confidence.

— blog post 3-24-2010


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


Author signed copies only avail­able here

See All Reviews & Men­tions for Stella’s Work

For many of the same rea­sons that I really enjoyed The Back­yard Berry Book, I enjoyed The Back­yard Orchardist as well.…  Otto once again sup­plies every last detail to suc­cess­fully plan­ning fruit trees.  I am a total “new­bie” at this but I feel very pre­pared to make choices after read­ing this book.…

I chose to review these two books together because, quite frankly, I think they are excel­lent com­pan­ion books and would make a won­der­ful addi­tion to your gar­den­ing library.  The pair would make a lovely house­warm­ing gift as well.…

- Reviewed by Mom blog [link]

For the best fla­vor, most fruit should not be picked until fully ripe, says Stella Otto, Michigan-based hor­ti­cul­tur­ist and author of “The Back­yard Berry Book.” When pick­ing your favorite fruit, Otto rec­om­mends han­dling with care.….…”

View more tips for the ins and outs of How to Pick and Prep Fruits on this great slide show.

- Mom.Me [ 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 open­ing The 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 Orchardist by 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
  • Goose­ber­ries
  • Lin­gonber­ries

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 ]

‘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 the Home­grown radio show. Home­grown is live every Tues­day at 9 a.m. ET and Thurs­day at 1 p.m. ET on on Sir­ius 112.”

–, Homegrown

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.”


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 of The 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.”


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 Book are 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

…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

Table of Con­tents from The Back­yard Orchardist

List of Illustrations

SECTION I. Introduction

Enjoy­ing Fruit Trees in the Land­scape
Select­ing the Right Site A Close Look at Your Site — Cli­mate — Aver­age Min­i­mum Tem­per­a­tures and Har­di­ness — Length of Grow­ing Sea­son — Micro­cli­mate — Soil — Soil pH — Mois­ture — Sun­light — Space require­ments — The Per­fect Site Plant­ing and Early Care — Prepar­ing the soil — Select­ing the tree — Plant­ing — What to Do the First Year

SECTION II. Fruit Fun­da­men­tals — Growth Habits of the Spe­cific Fruits

Pome Fruit
Growth Habit — Flow­er­ing & Fruit­ing — Root­stocks — Scion Vari­eties and their Uses — Dis­ease Resis­tant Vari­eties — Antique Vari­eties
Growth Habit — Pol­li­na­tion — Root­stocks — Vari­eties — Judg­ing Ripeness and Har­vest Time — Asian Pears
Stone Fruit
Sweet Cher­ries
Growth Habit & Train­ing — Flow­er­ing & Pol­li­na­tion — Root­stocks — Vari­eties
Tart Cher­ries
Growth Habit & Train­ing — Root­stocks — Vari­eties
Apri­cots, Plums and Plum­cots
Types of Plums — Pol­li­na­tion — Prun­ing –Root­stock Peaches & Nec­tarines
Growth Habit & Train­ing — Flow­er­ing & Pol­li­na­tion — Root­stocks — Vari­eties — White Fleshed Peaches — Fruit Thin­ning — Nectarines

SECTION III. Beyond the Basics — Car­ing for Your Fruit Trees

Feed­ing the Fruit Tree
Pho­to­syn­the­sis — Func­tion and Sources of Nutri­ents — Soil Test­ing — Types of Fer­til­iz­ers — Water­ing — Weed Con­trol — Mulches — Prun­ing Skills
The young tree — Dif­fer­ent sys­tems — The bear­ing trees — Time of Year — Tools
Grow­ing in Con­tain­ers
Genetic Dwarf Trees — Choos­ing a Con­tainer — The Soil Mix — Plant­ing and Repot­ting — Feed­ing & Water­ing — Win­ter­iz­ing the Con­tainer Plant
Flow­er­ing, Fruit­ing and Thin­ning
Under­stand­ing Fruit Bud Devel­op­ment — Man­ag­ing Growth and Fruit­ing in the Early Years — Flow­er­ing, Pol­li­na­tion and Fruit Set — June Drop — Hand Thinning

SECTION IV. Pests & Diseases

Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Insect Pests
Under­stand­ing Insect Life Cycles — Insect Dam­age — Gen­eral Insect Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion — Dis­ease Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Fun­gus Dis­eases — Bac­te­r­ial Dis­eases — Virus and Mis­cel­la­neous Dis­or­ders — Nema­todes
Pest Con­trol Meth­ods
Dif­fer­ent Philoso­phies Defined — Effec­tive Pest Con­trol — Safe Han­dling of Mate­ri­als — Con­trol Options
Wildlife Pests
Birds — Deer — Rodents — Porcupines

SECTION V. Harvest

Har­vest and Stor­age of Your Fruit
When to Har­vest — Pick­ing Tech­nique — Proper Storage

Monthly Almanac of Car­ing for your Fruit Trees
Reviv­ing the Ail­ing Tree — A Quick Ref­er­ence Chart
Resource list of sources of nurs­eries, scionwood, sup­plies, other infor­ma­tion
Glos­sary of Terms