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.

What’s Wrong with My Fruit Garden? — Book Review

Book Review


What's Wrong with My Fruit Garden?

What’s Wrong with My Fruit Gar­den? One place to start search­ing among the most obvi­ous problems.

Title: What’s Wrong with My Fruit Garden?

Authors: David Dear­dorff and Kathyrn Wadsworth

Strong points: Much of the book is pre­sented in chart form. Near the begin­ning of the book, you will find a chart orga­nized by prob­lem type. This pro­vides quick ini­tial sug­ges­tions to help iden­tify the pos­si­ble source of your fruit gar­den problem.

Weak­nesses: The many pho­tos that are part of the charts are rather small; lim­it­ing their use as clear, accu­rate illus­tra­tions of the prob­lem. Some pho­tos are atyp­i­cal, in my expe­ri­ence, of what some of these prob­lems gen­er­ally look like.
The plant prob­lem solv­ing guide is some­what redun­dant and a bit coun­ter­in­tu­itive in its pre­sen­ta­tion. Rather than start­ing with apple and apri­cot, as does the plant pro­file sec­tion that pre­cedes it, the prob­lem guide starts with avo­cado. Apples occur later; lumped with pome fruit. Apri­cots and almonds are lumped in stone fruit. This group­ing would be accu­rate but per­haps not some­thing that a novice look­ing for a quick solu­tion would be famil­iar with or expect. Less uni­ver­sally grown fruit such as banana, guava, mul­berry, olive, and oth­ers receive almost more page space than the most com­mon, more uni­ver­sally grown home gar­den fruit.
Many of the pests men­tioned repeat­edly (aphids, mealy bugs, and ants being promi­nent) are not usu­ally pri­mary and sig­nif­i­cant pests in well-maintained home fruit gar­dens. Read­ers would be bet­ter served if sig­nif­i­cant, recur­ring pests were emphasized.

Green thumbs rat­ing

Book Rat­ing:  

If you are look­ing for a quick overview guide on what may be wrong with a plant in your fruit gar­den, this book would be an easy place to start. If you are a novice in need of fairly exten­sive guid­ance much of the mate­r­ial is quite brief and lacks expla­na­tions that will help you gain a true under­stand­ing of fruit grow­ing. For expe­ri­enced fruit gar­den­ers look­ing for a deeper under­stand­ing of how to iden­tify and cor­rect prob­lems in you fruit gar­den, there are other books that could serve you better.

The authors’ gar­den­ing expe­ri­ence is por­trayed to be mainly in the south­west and west coast of the United States. This shows up in the book by inclu­sion of some warm cli­mate fruit that are not typ­i­cally cov­ered in many home fruit grow­ing books. For gar­den­ers in these regions the infor­ma­tion is likely to be wel­come and helpful.

The authors’ approach to grow­ing fruit 100% organ­i­cally is laud­able. Unfor­tu­nately they gloss over the real­ity that doing so takes con­sid­er­able com­mit­ment, knowl­edge, and under­stand­ing of inter­ac­tions in the nat­ural sys­tems. As is the case with many “organic only” books, this book glosses over some of the down­side of adopt­ing this phi­los­o­phy hook, line, and sinker. Trap­ping, for exam­ple, is use­ful for aware­ness of pests’ pres­ence, but is rarely effec­tive for true small-scale con­trol. Pep­per spray may not be required to have a safety label, but is highly caus­tic to the user if not han­dled very judi­ciously. Sev­eral “organic” per­mit­ted mate­ri­als, sul­fur and cop­per as cases in point, can be quite phy­to­toxic to plant tis­sue when used dur­ing hot weather. They also build up in the envi­ron­ment and are detri­men­tal to numer­ous ben­e­fi­cial organ­isms in the soil. This very impor­tant infor­ma­tion is not men­tioned until the very last pages of the book.

When I first picked up this book I had great hope that, being authored by a PhD botanist with plant pathol­ogy expe­ri­ence, it would offer lots of detail to really add to home gar­den­ers’ knowl­edge base. Unfor­tu­nately, it fell short of my expec­ta­tion. Over­all, this book pro­vides insuf­fi­cient detail for those seek­ing to become truly effec­tive and knowl­edge­able organic fruit grow­ers. It may help the novice start get­ting their hands dirty.

ISBN: 978–1-60469–358-4 (trade paper­back)
# of pages: 311 pgs.
Pho­tos: Yes
Illus­tra­tions: No
Appen­dix: Short sec­tion of resources and rec­om­mended read­ing
Index: Yes
Pub­lisher: Tiber Press
Pub­li­ca­tion Date: 2013
Price: $24.95 (paperback)