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Written by the long-time manager of the renowned Alan Chadwick Garden at the University of California, Santa Cruz, this substantial, authoritative, and beautiful full-color guide covers everything you need to know about organically growing healthy, bountiful fruit trees.
WINNER OF THE AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY BOOK AWARD
For more than forty years, Orin Martin has taught thousands of apprentices, students, and home gardeners the art and craft of growing fruit trees organically. In Fruit Trees for Every Garden, Orin shares--with hard-won wisdom and plenty of humor--his recommended fruit varieties and techniques for productive trees, including apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, nectarine, sweet cherry, orange, lemon, fig, and more.
If you crave crisp apples, juicy peaches, or varieties of fruit that can never be found in the store, they are all within reach in your own backyard. Whether you have one tree or a hundred, Orin gives you all the tools you need, from tree selection and planting practices to seasonal feeding guidelines and in-depth pruning tutorials. Along the way, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the core principles of organic gardening and soil stewardship: compost, cultivation, cover crops, and increasing biodiversity for a healthier garden. This book is more than just a gardening manual; it's designed to help you understand the why behind the how, allowing you to apply these techniques to your own slice of paradise and make the best choices for your individual trees.
Filled with informative illustrations, full-color photography, and evocative intaglio etchings by artist Stephanie Martin, Fruit Trees for Every Garden is a striking and practical guide that will enable you to enjoy the great pleasure and beauty of raising homegrown, organic fruit for years to come.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Fruit Trees for Every Garden
The people of this planet have a long and storied association with trees. Put simply: the story of fruit trees is the story of us.
Some archaeobotanists argue that fig orchards once dotted the eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea and eastward toward the upper Euphrates River Valley. These early orchards may have predated the wild progenitors of wheat, barley, oats, emmer, and other ancient grains that propelled humankind into farming some 10,000–11,000 years ago. Since then, we have benefited from the presence of trees in the immediate landscape and, more fundamentally and simply, trees on the planet.
Why grow fruit trees? Like soil stewardship, fruit tree culture is intergenerational. You are growing fruit trees for the next generation and the one after that, too.
Of course, people grow fruit trees for a variety of reasons—for fruit, shade, aesthetic beauty, and (perhaps in a fit of nostalgia for our primate pasts) climbing and swinging through them. Whatever your reason, it’s heartening to remember that the act of tending to an organic orchard—whether it’s one little peach tree or an entire acre of apples—can also be a chance to turn back the clock on some of the damage humans have done to the earth. Along with enhancing biodiversity in any garden, planting trees can aid in saving the planet—trees sequester atmospheric carbon, essentially modifying the environment and cooling it. When we garden, we should keep in mind that we are very much growing fruit trees in order to grow more trees.
A Paradise for Every Garden
For the past forty years, I’ve been teaching people how to grow fruit trees organically at the Farm & Garden at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The UCSC Farm & Garden is my office, classroom, curriculum, and lesson plan all rolled into one. The Garden, also known as the Alan Chadwick Garden, is about 3 acres perched on an impossibly steep south-facing slope in central, coastal California. It’s been a teaching garden since 1967, when Chadwick, a pioneer of French intensive (organic) gardening, began it as an experiment at the newly founded university. Chadwick was both a formative force and a visionary pioneer in the world of organic growing. In a sense, he was the Rosetta stone for all that has unfolded subsequently in the field. His gardens and those he inspired were at the confluence of technique, science, art, and aesthetics. As organic gardeners, we owe him an extreme debt of gratitude.
I started as a volunteer at the Farm & Garden in 1972, and after serving as an apprentice in 1974–75, I became the manager in 1977. Skip ahead four decades: now I’m that old guy leaning on a spade, expounding on the merits of cover crops and compost to a group of idealistic, hardworking apprentices. Nowadays, our apprentices live in tent cabins (not tents, like they used to). In addition to the apprenticeship program, we sell vegetables, flowers, and fruit through a CSA, at a market cart, and to the cafeterias on campus, and we distribute free produce to food pantries on campus, helping to combat food insecurity among students. The program has graduated more than 1,500 apprentices who’ve gone on to found and lead organic farms, teaching gardens, and food justice projects around the country and the world.
My own fruit tree addiction started with apples. The apprentices tease me that after 40 years in the orchard, I still haven’t gotten out of the “A” section of the fruit tree catalog. But why would I need to? One of the advantages of apple trees is that, thanks to an array of size-controlling rootstocks, they lend themselves to intensive plantings and small gardens. But after 10 years of specializing exclusively in apples (more than 120 varieties at last count), the Chadwick Garden orchard is now graced by a collection of stone fruits, including apriums, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots. The truth is, all fruits are great.
Earlier civilizations, from the Sumerians to the Egyptians to the Greeks, made a lush, fragrant garden the basic mythical setting of paradise, a word sharing the same etymological root as the word garden itself. More accurately, it was an orchard. An orchard as paradise . . . I suppose paradise is certainly a place where existence is positive, harmonious, even timeless.
From the beginning, I encourage you to think of yourself as an orchardist. It doesn’t matter how many trees you have or how big your yard is; your orchard is your own slice of paradise. And while paradise is a place of contentment, it is not a place of luxury, and certainly not idleness. For there is much work and learning to be done, daily, out in the orchard, garden, paradise.
Putting You Where You Can Learn
Gardening is very much a process of observation, decision, action, and reaction. Rinse, repeat. Organic gardening is even more so, because each unique environment, each orchard, will have its own attributes and foibles. In conventional horticulture and agriculture, there are often exact answers to exacting microquestions, but the so-called solutions often provide more problems for the environment and planet. Organic gardening, by contrast, looks at the whole picture—the macro and the micro, all in your line of sight. In this book I’ll encourage you to understand the ecological systems at work in and around your tree, so you can identify what decisions you need to make and then make them in the service of the tree.
Fruit tree growing is a managed craft, infused and informed by science. It’s important to have meaning and intention behind the food you grow, but in farming, nothing happens without science. While it’s true that growing trees is natural, the healthy, productive, aesthetically pleasing fruit tree … isn’t. What the tree might do in the wild often bears little or no resemblance to what you as an orchardist want or need the tree to do to produce a good quantity of quality fruit annually. In an unmanaged situation, a fruit tree’s goal is to put fruit and seed on the ground in order to perpetuate its species. A fruit tree does not exist to produce large, annual crops of cosmetically clean fruit. That is the imperative of our particular species. You want good apples? Sweet, juicy pears? It’s all about managed intervention, manipulation, behavior modification . . . but all toward a good end. Orchardists have evolved to be master manipulators, with the skills to constantly shape, direct, and redirect tree growth and fruiting with an exacting precision. Rather than manipulation, let’s just call it tending trees.
Fruit Trees for All
This book will enable you to select, plant, grow, and manage healthy, productive fruit trees organically, from soil management to irrigation, feeding, and pruning, no matter the size of your orchard. More than just a task list or manual, this book is designed to help you learn to identify the choices you need to make, and then to make good choices. In order to alter the natural growth and fruiting habit of a fruit tree, you will need a thorough understanding of how trees grow—their structure, physiology, biology, and growth patterns—so you can be equipped to do what you need to do to the tree when you need to do it, with what, how, and why. Along the way, you’ll get a strong foundation in French intensive organic gardening—learning to care for and improve your soil through cultivation, compost, cover crops, and green manure. (You can apply this knowledge to any type of gardening, but here we’re applying it to growing fruit trees.)
The first sections of the book use deciduous fruit trees as your testing ground—specifically, pome fruits (apple, pear, quince) and stone fruits (peach, nectarine, apricot, aprium, pluot, plum, cherry). The truth is, most of what you need to know about fruit trees you can learn from pome and stone fruits. The rest are…well, they’re easier. Some of my other favorite fruits to grow—citrus, pomegranates, persimmons, and figs—have their own considerations later in the book.
When I was growing up in New England, everybody had to take Latin, a subject with which I was entirely disinterested. (Baseball was more my thing.) But in the years since, I’ve schooled myself up a bit. There’s a Latin phrase I often translate for my apprentices: a posse ad esse. It means (variously) “from the possible to the actual,” “from being possible to being actual,” or “from being able to being.” As applied to our goals here, the theory goes a little something like this: Of course it is possible to grow fruit trees. Of course it is advisable. But this book will make that real. It is both lexicon and road map. Let’s get into it.