Tag Archives: growing fruit

Pruning Guru Makes It Easy

Move over Lee Reich. Reich is one of my go to resources for gardening, growing and weeding. He also used to be my “go to” guy for pruning tips and tricks. Although I still love Reich’s book, I have a new, best friend when it comes to pruning.

Her name is Ann Ralph; her book is Grow A Little Fruit Tree.

For the first time since I started reading about and trying to understand what to prune, when and how, I completely understand pruning and I know the answers to the what, the when and the how!

It is so simple that I am amazed!  And Ann Ralph’s approach ensures that your dwarf trees will not be 25 feet high and still growing with fruit totally out of reach.

Here’s the first bit of advice I was surprised by.  When you buy a new fruit tree, cut off its little head!

Ralph calls this, “…the toughest cut you will ever make.” Although the reasons she shares in her book are logical and the outcome desirable, the author notes that many people just can’t bring themselves to do it and guess what, their dwarf stock quickly exceeds all predictions for height and you are stuck with a fruit tree you can’t manage or harvest.

Now for the second bit of advice.  I live in the United States.  Ralph’s “rule?” Prune in June.  Just before Summer Solstice.  Yes, even if you trees have fruit on them, prune.  This prune is for height, not necessarily for shape.

Like a whole lot of people, I was told to prune when the tree was dormant – January or February, before it set fruit.  And so I did.  That’s why all of my trees grew 10 to 15 feet every spring!  Winter pruning should be for shape; pruning a tree back in winter unleashes all its stored energy into growth in the spring and you become the proud owner of a monster tree!

I’m not going to give away all of Ralph’s amazing, practical and straightforward advice.  If you have fruit trees, buy the book.  I got the paperback and the Kindle book and have devoured every word, twice.

An amazing, easy to read and easy to implement book on pruning is gold to any gardener and this book is all of these things and more.

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How to Grow Figs, with Lee Reich from A Way To Garden

Two of my favorite gardening resources got together to discuss how to grow figs and the outcome is an information-packed  article coupled with a podcast!

Lee Reich, whose books include Grow Fruit Naturally: A Hands-On Guide to Luscious, Homegrown Fruit, The Pruning Book: Completely Revised and Updated and Weedless Gardening, shares his secrets for growing figs with Margaret Roach — a gardening expert in her own right.

FYI – in case you’re thinking it’s too cold where you live to grow figs, read on.  Both of these gardeners live in Zone 5 and still grow figs.  And the topic of growing figs is one of my favorite.

I have two fig trees in my Southeastern PA zone 6 – one is the Celeste the other was a cutting from a tree brought to America in 1910(?) by a friend’s great grandfather.

Both did beautifully for years, providing so many figs that I gave them away, diced and froze them and made fig jam!

But in the last 2 years, the very cold winters have really hurt them. I am back to just getting stems with leaves growing up from the roots in the ground that survived.   I hope to get figs again next year or the year after because this is a superb fruit.

One of my favorite ways to eat them is right off the tree! But if I manage to get a few in the house, I chill them, cut them in half, place a small round of goat cheese on each half and drizzle balsamic vinegar mixed with honey on each half. Heaven!

I hope you enjoy Margaret Roach’s interview with Lee Reich and give figs a try!

Grow So Easy Organic – The Wonderful World of Growing Fruit

Fruit is a joy to have in your backyard and a wondrous ingredient to pull out of the freezer or pantry in the dead of winter.  Well, some fruit that is.  Other fruit can be tricky, spiteful, bug-ridden, disease-laden and just a downright pain in the…ankles to try to raise.

For me, growing fruit was a bit of trip down memory lane trying to remember what my Mom raised when we were kids and how much cursing was involved. 

Growing fruit was also a bit of trial and error – trying to discover what would like my soil and live in my “zone” and erring on the side of killing a few trees before their time.

But after about 2 years of planting, pruning and, okay I admit it, cursing, I mastered three types of fruit – blueberries, blackberries and Montmorency cherries and I’ve been on easy street for about 15 years, enjoying the “fruit of my labors,” immensely!

So, on to the short, sweet (oh so sweet) method of raising those three organic fruits.

Blueberries In The Backyard
Why not start with the easiest and one of the tastiest fruits first? 

Blueberries win that contest hands down.  Long before edible landscaping was popular, I began exploring ways to raise fruit like blueberries, one of the more expensive products you’ll find in any store.  I wanted to start small so I ordered 6 bushes thinking that would be plenty for our 2-adult house.

June 2011 in my blueberry patchIn the end, I popped 12 blueberry bushes into a corner planting in the back yard.    Why so many?

I ordered them online and waited, and waited and waited for them to be delivered.  When I got my credit card bill and saw the charge from the nursery for the bushes I hadn’t received (I thought), I did a little charging of my own.  I demanded they send the bushes they had charged me for.

Despite the fact that I was wrong the company immediately said okay.  They shipped me 6 more bushes.  About a week later, I got a call.  Someone named “Pat” had actually signed for my bushes.

My husband, whose name is also Pat, had signed for the bushes, forgot to tell me and left them in the garage.

After immediate permission to charge me for the second set they shipped and multiple apologies, I slithered into the garage and located the tall, brown package from the nursery.

When I tore open the package I found white sticks with white leaves on them.  My bare root stock blueberry bushes had lost all their chlorophyll!

Since the bushes had traveled so far and suffered so much, I decided to give them a chance, anyway.  So, 15 years later, I am still harvesting 50 to 60 quarts 20110628_0412of blueberries every summer.

Now think about that.  You plant them once, care for them just a bit and they yield 240 pints of fresh, organic blueberries every year for 15 years.

If you had to buy the same number in your local grocery store, you would have paid more than $10,000 for the privilege.  And you would have no idea if what you were eating was pesticide free.

I’ve been growing my own for 15 years and saving all that money every year.  At a  conservative estimate, that means I’ve put $10,000 in my pocket for an initial investment of less than $100!

You’re probably thinking, “Oh, I don’t have enough space.” or “I can’t grow anything.”  Or my favorite, “I don’t know how.” I am here to tell you blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow…period.  And I’m going to tell you how to do it, next week.