I'm curious if anyone is interested in backyard fruit growing. I have an average size suburban yard. I've been developing a small "backyard orchard" by reading and trial-and-error. Rather than a couple of full size or semi-dwarf fruit trees, I have dwarf and superdwarf trees, vines, bushes that yield fruit over an entire summer and into the fall. It's not perfect, and it takes some effort. The effort is not a bad thing, it is a form of meditative puttering.

Currently, we have:
3 super-dwarf apple trees. 2 bear about 3 pounds of fruit per season. One is "fruitless". They are still quite young, so I have some hope for larger crops.

1 "flagpole" apple tree. This one occupies about 4 sq feet of ground space, and is 8 feet tall. The fruit are good, but not very produtive. I need to work on my pruning methods. Last year there were about 25 apples on this tree.
3 genetic dwarf peaches. Peaches require special treatment in my climate due to disease. I've learned how to get a reasonable crop, enough for a household of 2 ravenous peach lovers, and prevent leaf-curl disease.

1 muiltigraft pear. The multigraft allows for pear production without having to buy a pollinating tree We have been eating pears for the past 2 weeks, every day.

5 sweet cherry trees. My partner loves cherries, and eats them by the bowl-full.

5 fig trees. My success with figs is mixed. The trees are young, cutting-grown. I think that this year will be great, 4 of the trees have 30 to 50 figs each. The summer crop was small but tasted wonderful, and worth the effort.

5 grape vines on an arbor. This takes almost no garden space, since the arbor covers a pre-existing deck. Another vine over a gate, again occupies essentially no garden space.

Multiple berry bushes and plants.

The "Backyard Orchard Culture" method involves, keeping fruit trees or vines pruned to small size, so that they take less room. In addition, the small trees are often planted close together, which results in a dwarfing effect. The trees are kept pruned short enough that no ladder is needed for harvest. The trees are summer pruned, which restricts growth and encourages formation of flower buds.

This year we added 2 Asian plum trees and a multigraft Asian pear. We may get a taste next summer, but it will probably require another year to get a few bowls of fruit from each. I love fresh Asian pears this time of year, and they keep better than the European dessert pears. We also added a tart cherry, for frost resistance and prolonged bearing. For next year, I'm perusing a catalog for an long-bearing mulberry tree, and a couple more miniature apples.

Home grown fruit is often so much sweeter and more flavorful, compared to store-bought, that there is no comparison. The grapes are almost like candy. The berries are sweeter and juicer than anythign from the store. Fruits take longer than veggies, but they are worth the time and effort. It's like living in my own eden.

If there is interest in comparing methods, varieties, successes, failures, pruning methods, I would love to discuss more. Obviously, growing fruits is one of my personal gardening passions. I would also be willing to trade cuttings (grapes, figs) or scionwood (apples, pears), if anyone is interested.

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Hi April,

Leaf curl on peaches is frustrating. It is caused by a fungus. The spores wash into buds during fall and winter rains, and start growing when the leaves and flowers grow. Once it starts in leaves and buds, those leaves and buds can't be cured, they have to die off and be replaced. If the tree is healthy otherwise and hasn't been too overwhelmed, the new leaves that start after rainy season will get it through the year, until the cycle begins again.

I control leaf curl by a 2-step method. I agree it's intense. My trees are genetic dwarf varieties, and grow to 4 to 6 feet tall, so more like bushes. In early winter, I spray them with an organic copper fungicide spray. Then I bundle the branches together, and tie them, then cover with plastic bags, and tie those. That way, no rain reaches the branches. In March, when it looks like the buds are swelling, I unbundle the branches. I've only done this once (2009) but had bumper crop with no leaf curl, for the first time.

A better solution is to have leaf-curl resistant varieties. For that, you probably have to peruse the internet and get them via mail order - not sure if they can be shipped into California.

As for "nature", the vast majority of our fruits and vegetables are far from where they originated, and have been bred for size, flavor, production, and more recently, shipping qualities. Disease resistance was not a factor in most breeding programs. So, we have to deal with the result. Peaches originated in South China, and cultivation spread West from there through Persia, ultimately Rome and Europe, then to the Americas by the Europeans.

You can probably get really good advice from the gardening podcast out of Davis on KDRT . Your climate is a bit milder than mine, and longer season, but I love listening to that program anyway.
Thanks so much for the great info! My peach tree may be a little large for bagging up (though we'll see what I'm saying next year). I guess the spray is my best bet. I'm glad there are organic sprays out there at least.

Thanks for the podcast suggestion! I hadn't heard of it before. It's great to find such locally pertinent knowledge!
Are you taking boarders?

Don't worry, my fruit trees are my babies, I would have to bring them with me! I grew the figs from cuttings and most of the others from small baby whips.

This winter I added a mulberry and 2 more minidwarf apples - one is a Dutch variety, Karmijn, the other is Honeycrisp. The mulberry is starting to leaf out. I will also prune it to maintain low branching and a final height low enough to cover with netting to keep the birds out, and low enough to pick the mulberries by hand.

We are on our "3rd wave" of blooms - first the peaches, apricots, plums; then the sweet cherries, early apples, and pears, now the sour cherry and late apples. Next the grapes, although the blooms are not so attractive to human eyes. Figs are forming for the summer crop.

Sounds like a huge orchard, really just a very messy suburban yard.
If your climate supports cherries, peaches, apricots, you can grow figs, I'm sure. Fig forum on gardenweb.com has a numbe rof Arizona fig fanatics, and they know lots of varieties that grow well there. Some of them will provide cuttings or starts, probably. I've mailed off lots of cuttings from mine, but it may be too late in the spring to start new fig cuttings. They usually start bearing figs in 2 or 3 years, in my experience, but bearing lots & lots of figs in 4 or 5 years.

Grapes should do equally well, if you can grow apples and stone fruits. Actually, also equally easy from cuttings. It takes about 1 year longer to get grapes from cuttings than from a purchased start.

SOunds like you have a fantastic place!

No Black Mission.  I have King, White Marseilles (Lattarula, Blanche), Petite negri, Brunswick (Magnolia), and Hardy Chicago.  Most of them I grew from cuttings.  


A lot of the information on growing figs came from a Georgia website.


I have some plum seeds planted, but no idea about what will happen with them.

I'm double posting this pic because the comment thread is transient, and it's relevant here.  Sweet cherries are either in bloom, or about to.  This year they have the most flowers ever.  Here is the maintenance pruning I did July 18th - 





I took off about 3 or 4 feet of new growth, leaving about 6 inches on each branch.  I also cleared some center growth because, unlike California, we don't get so much sun here in SW Washington.  When I do this, I always think "I've ruined the trees for next year's crop".  But here they are now.  The L tree is not quite in full bloom.  The right tree branches are covered with flower bud clusters - the most ever.


Similar, this Hollywood plum.  I don't know if it will get many or any fruit - we had frost when it was in bloom.  The flowers are beautiful, pink flowers. The leaves and plums are maroon.  Even the plum juice is maroon.  They are so much better than grocery plums, they don't seem like the same species.

This is my little backyard orchard, or part of it.  The trees in bloom include a 5-variety grafted pear, another sweet cherry, and a 3-variety grafted sweet cherry.  The multi's take some special care but have the advantage of various ripening times, different fruit varieties, and superior pollination.  Horticulturalists pan them as gimmicks.  I have several and I like them, but they take care not to allow a vigorous branch to dominate the less vigorous.

Below is a 3-variety grafted Asian pear.  Asian pears are SO GOOD.  And like the plums, the grocery varieties are no competition.  This tree is in its 4th year.

I'm keeping my mulberry pruned small - not more than 7 or 8 feet tall once it gets to that.  Currently is is only 3 years old and 4 feet tall.  I prune it to train for a well branched, open center tree.  That way, I can cover with a net to keep birds out, and I can reach all of the berries without a ladder.  That's my theory - I'm not aware this has been done.  It works with figs, which are distant cousins.  And with many other fruit trees.

Monica, thanks!  Home orchards are great!  You can get such good fruit, you'll never want grocery fruit again.




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