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


Product Description

Both the gar­den novice and the more expe­ri­enced “green-thumb” will har­vest bushels of hands-on advice from an expe­ri­enced grower and pro­fes­sional horticulturalist.The Back­yard Berry Book pro­vides what is needed for any gar­dener to suc­cess­fully grow every­thing from rasp­ber­ries to grapes, cur­rants to kiwifruit and more.

Includes detailed advice on:

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

Every­thing you need for a boun­ti­ful fruit gar­den except the plants.

Author signed copies only avail­able here

See All Reviews & Men­tions for Stella’s Work

Stella Otto is a gar­den­ing guru.  She gave me every­thing I needed to begin the plan for “small fruit” in my gar­den. .…I felt pre­pared to make choices on what types of fruit I wanted to plant in my yard.… I used Otto’s detailed infor­ma­tion about spac­ing, cli­mate, plant needs and fruit bear­ing amounts to help me reach  my decision.….

This book will be a go to for me when it comes to gardening!

- 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 ]


The Back­yard Berry Book is a book I will be re-reading with a high­lighter very soon. I am hop­ing to re-visit my straw­berry sit­u­a­tion with a new advan­tage! This book was packed with infor­ma­tion on select­ing the right plants and even the trial and error of dif­fer­ent vari­eties. I might even try my hand at a dif­fer­ent berry like blue­ber­ries or black­ber­ries — now that I’m armed with some prac­ti­cal information.”

– Lisa Ruper­tus, [ link ]


…I’ve grown rasp­ber­ries for years and more recently straw­ber­ries, black­ber­ries, and blue­ber­ries. Rasp­ber­ries are rel­a­tively sim­ple if you tie them to a large ver­ti­cal sup­port like a fence, and black­ber­ries are also rel­a­tively easy if you keep them pruned. But straw­ber­ries have to be planted and main­tained in a very spe­cific way for best fruit pro­duc­tion, and blue­ber­ries are an even greater chal­lenge, as they require a lot of organic mat­ter in the soil, excel­lent drainage, and a highly acidic soil. This book addresses all of these issues in a clear, com­pre­hen­sive man­ner, explores var­i­ous prun­ing tech­niques, and has already pro­vided me with some use­ful tips. It’s also edu­cat­ing me on grapes, which is my next chal­lenge. The Back­yard Berry Book includes chap­ters on grow­ing straw­ber­ries, rhubarb, rasp­ber­ries, black­ber­ries, lin­gonber­ries, cur­rants, grapes, and kiwi, and soil prepa­ra­tion, prun­ing, main­te­nance, and dis­ease and pest con­trol for each fruit.”

– Todd Heft, [ link ]


Both the gar­den novice and the more expe­ri­enced ‘green-thumb’ will har­vest bushels of hands-on advice from an expe­ri­enced grower and pro­fes­sional hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist. The Back­yard Berry Book pro­vides what is needed for any gar­dener to suc­cess­fully grow every­thing from rasp­ber­ries to grapes, cur­rants to kiwifruit and more.…

If you want to grow berries or fruit trees in your back­yard, I HIGHLY rec­om­mend get­ting The Back­Yard Orchardist and The Back­Yard Berry Book BEFORE you make any pur­chases or deci­sion. Stella’s advice will help you pick the best spot, set the soil cor­rectly for what type of plant you are putting in, and then help you care for the plant cor­rectly, to get the max­i­mum fruit and long life from it! rasp­ber­ries to grapes, cur­rants to kiwifruit and more.…

The book duo would also make an excel­lent gift idea for the gar­dener, or back yard enthusiast!”

– 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 sim­ple but infor­ma­tive book is a the per­fect gardener’s tool that gives one the con­fi­dence and knowl­edge to actu­ally attempt to grow berries in their yard that they can enjoy and eat for years to come.”

– Conny Crisalli, [ 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 ]


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.

Otto’s com­pan­ion book The Back­yard Orchardist taught me some prun­ing tips and how to spread branches with tooth­picks or clothes­pins so a fruit tree can spread out for bet­ter bear­ing. She goes with the thought that life with­out cher­ries is the pits, and shares how to grow them along with apples, pears, etc. She makes it sound so easy, but I cau­tion that patience is required as one awaits suc­cu­lent bounty on the branches.”

– Dar­ragh Doiron, Port Arthur News [ link ]


Stella Otto is quoted exten­sively in ‘Grow­ing Edi­ble Vines’ article.”

– Jes­sica Wal­liser, Hobby Farm Homes [ link ]


Like grapes, kiwis are vig­or­ous grow­ers and need to be prop­erly pruned, trained and trel­lised. Good infor­ma­tional sources for their care and main­te­nance include Stella Otto’s The Back­yard Berry Book: A Hands-on Guide to Grow­ing Berries, Bram­bles, and Vine Fruit in the Home Garden.”

– 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 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

In the late 20th cen­tury, unfor­tu­nately, berries are seen pri­mar­ily in the super­mar­ket at cer­tain times of year, and while this is wel­come, it used to be that every­one had a few berry bushes in the back­yard: some cur­rants, some goose­ber­ries and a few rhubarb plants. In The Back­yard Berry Book: A Hands-On Guide to Grow­ing Berries, Bram­bles, and Vine Fruit in the Home Gar­den, Stella Otto explains how to bring this tra­di­tion back and raise lush crops of berries and fruit with point­ers on soil nutri­tion, plant nutri­ents and mulching that will make your home-grown berries the envy of folks who only see them in the super­mar­ket. This mouth-watering book will get you going.”

– Pool House Designs

There are so many prob­lems that I con­tend with in my gar­den that I can get the answers from a book or magazine.…There are many great books out there that might be worth check­ing out for your own library or at the library.…including The Back­yard Berry Book by Stella Otto.”

– Stephanie Bethke-DeJaegher, The Inde­pen­dent, South­west­ern MN’s Daily News­pa­per[ link ]


If you’re dream­ing of har­vest­ing mouth-watering small fruits in you own backyard,…read this book!

If you’re already try­ing small fruit pro­duc­tion and har­vest­ing a peck of problems,…read this book.

Stella Otto tells you how to grow the famil­iar and the more exotic, for big results in a small space.”

– Jan Riggen­bach, syn­di­cated colum­nist, Mid­west Gar­den­ing and Mid­west Liv­ing magazine

Stella Otto has done it again! When we reviewed her first book, The Back­yard Orchardist, we wrote ‘What we like most about this book is that it isn’t intim­i­dat­ing. Stella Otto doesn’t act like some expert-from-on high; she gen­tly and con­vinc­ingly enables us to real­ize that, yes, we can grow fruit suc­cess­fully.” Ditto for The Back­yard Berry Book…you should by all means read this book.”

– Hor­tIdeas

…packed with reli­able meth­ods and details of berry grow­ing one sel­dom encoun­ters in books twice this one’s size. Otto pro­vides such a thor­ough guide to the all-important first step of prepar­ing a site for berries, that it actu­ally can serve as pri­or­ity read­ing in start­ing any kind of gardening.”

– Gene Logs­don, author of The Con­trary Farmer


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

Likely to be much-thumbed as a ref­er­ence by the green-thumbed crowd.”

– Small Press

One of the best books on grow­ing berries I’ve seen in a long time.”

– Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger

Writ­ten in plain hands-on lan­guage, clear and pur­pose­ful draw­ings, the defin­i­tive how-to guide to small fruit gardening.”

– Back­Home

…enjoy­able to read, easy to refer to.”

– Fruit Gardener

Gar­den Book Club Alter­nate Selection

Rodale Organic Gar­den­ing Book Club Alter­nate Selection

Fea­ture excerpt in Coun­try Jour­nal magazine

Table of Con­tents from The Back­yard Berry Book
List of illus­tra­tions & charts

1. Suc­cess with Back­yard Berries

Sec­tion I. Get­ting to the Roots — Fun­da­men­tals of Small Fruit Growing

2. Select­ing the Right Site
Select­ing the Site — Soil — Prepar­ing the Site — Con­trol­ling Weeds and Nema­todes — Adjust­ing pH — Adding Organic Mat­ter — Cor­rect­ing Soil — Drainage Prob­lems — Wind­breaks
3. Plant Selec­tion and Prop­a­ga­tion
Select­ing a Healthy Plant — Types of Nurs­ery Stock — Select­ing Spe­cific Vari­eties — Prop­a­ga­tion Meth­ods & Tech­niques
4. A Bit of Berry
Botany Parts of the Plant and Flower — What is a Berry? — Under­stand­ing Fruit Bud Devel­op­ment — Chill­ing — Pol­li­na­tion — Cold Har­di­ness
5. Soil Nutri­tion, pH, and Water
Pho­to­syn­the­sis — Soil pH:What is it? — Mod­i­fy­ing pH — Choos­ing a Fer­til­izer — Func­tions and Sources of Impor­tant Plant Nutri­ents — Soil and Tis­sue Test­ing — Under­stand­ing Your Soil Test Results — Fer­til­izer: How Much? — Water: How Much? — Irri­ga­tion — Mulching — Com­post
6. Pest Con­trol Strate­gies
Approaches to Pest Con­trol: Cul­tural, Chem­i­cal, Organic, and Bio­log­i­cal — Inte­grated Pest Man­age­ment — Effec­tive Pest Con­trol — Safe Han­dling of Pes­ti­cides
7. Insect: Friend or Foe
Under­stand­ing Insect Life Cycles — Insect Dam­age — Gen­eral Insect Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion — Encour­ag­ing and Using Ben­e­fi­cial Insects for Pest Con­trol — Effec­tive Use of Ben­e­fi­cial Organ­isms
8. Dis­ease
Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Fun­gus Dis­eases — Bac­te­r­ial Dis­eases — Viruses & Mis­cel­la­neous Dis­or­ders — Nema­todes
9. Wildlife Pests
Birds — Deer — Rodents — Gophers, Rac­coons and Porcupines

Sec­tion II. Early Spring Fruit

10. Straw­ber­ries
Select­ing & Prepar­ing the Site — Growth Habits & Spe­cific Vari­eties — Plant­ing Sys­tems — Plant­ing in Small Spaces — Plant­ing — Care of the Berry Plant­ing — Ren­o­va­tion — Pests and Dis­eases — Har­vest
11. Rhubarb
Site Selec­tion Prepa­ra­tion and Plant­ing — Gen­eral Care — Vari­eties — Pests and Dis­eases — Harvest

Sec­tion III. Brambles

12. Bram­ble Basics
Site Selec­tion — Select­ing and Car­ing for Bram­ble Vari­eties — Plant­ing and Spac­ing — Water — Fer­til­izer — Prun­ing and Trel­lis­ing — Insects and Dis­eases
13. Rasp­ber­ries
Types & Vari­eties — Thim­ble­ber­ries & Wineber­ries — Prun­ing — Har­vest
14. Black­berry
Types & Vari­eties — Plant­ing — Prun­ing — Harvest

Sec­tion IV. Bush Fruit

15. Blue­ber­ries
Types and Vari­eties — Site Require­ments — Soil Require­ments — Plant Selec­tion and Plant­ing — Care after Plant­ing — Plant­ing in Con­tain­ers — Fer­til­izer and Water — Prun­ing — Dis­eases — Insects –Har­vest
16. Lin­gonber­ries
Growth Habit — Site Require­ments — Vari­eties — Plant­ing — Ongo­ing Care — Fer­til­izer and Water — Pests and Dis­eases — Har­vest
17. Cur­rants and Goose­ber­ries
Site Require­ments — Pol­li­na­tion — Vari­eties — Plant­ing — Prun­ing –Fer­til­izer and Water — Dis­eases and Insect Pests — Harvest

Sec­tion V. Vine Fruit

18. Gen­eral Char­ac­ter­is­tics and Cul­ture of Grapes
Cli­matic Effects on Site Selec­tion — Site Selec­tion and Soil — Plant­ing the Vine — Spe­cial Ter­mi­nol­ogy — Trel­lis Design Fun­da­men­tals — Vine Train­ing Sys­tems — Pests and Dis­eases — Weed Con­trol
19. Bunch Grapes
Types & Vari­eties — Fer­til­izer and Water — Care of the Young Vine­yard — Train­ing — Prun­ing — Clus­ter Thin­ning — Grow­ing in Con­tain­ers — Win­ter Pro­tec­tion — Har­vest
20. Mus­ca­dine Grapes
Vari­eties — Pol­li­na­tion — Train­ing the Young Vine — Prun­ing — Fer­til­izer and Water — Fruit Drop — Win­ter Pro­tec­tion — Har­vest
21. Kiwifruit
Site and Soil Require­ments — Pol­li­na­tion — Vari­eties — Plant­ing — The First Crit­i­cal Years — Grow­ing in Con­tain­ers — Fer­til­izer and Water — Frost Pro­tec­tion — Prun­ing — Pests and Dis­eases — Harvest

Sec­tion VI. Resources

Trou­bleshoot­ing Ques­tions & Answers
Sea­sonal Activ­ity Cal­en­dar
Sources of Plant Stock/Nurseries
Fur­ther Read­ing