- Author: Bud Veliquette
Yes, you can have it all in a relatively small back yard space: Fruit trees and veggies. Our “mini orchard” is on an oblong plot that’s about 25x15’, a sunny plot that came with the house we bought last summer. In that space there are 3 dwarf plums (Prunus spp.), 2 apricots (P. armeniaca), 3 cherry trees (P. avium), 2 peach trees (P. persica), and an apple (Malus domestica), all of unknown varieties. Our fruit trees are about 5 or 6 year old mostly dwarfs (I think), and if not, they got dwarfed anyway by my pruning saw and loppers last December, when I pruned both for shape and fruit production. My rule of thumb with fruit trees is that if it is higher than I can reach, it gets lopped off. This permits easy picking of the fruit and avoids the need for ladders. The pruning and thinning of the foliage, which I do about once per month (see photos) also allows more nutrients to get to the fruit, besides giving those veggies planted in between their 6-8 hours of sun.
The veggies we have include 6 tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum) in cages, 2 clumps of squashes (Curcurbita pepo), Japanese eggplant (Solanum melongena), bell peppers (Capsicum annuum), a lemon cucumber (Cucumis sativus), 3 hollyhocks (Alcea setosa), and 2 sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). The tomatoes have been so productive we have to give the surplus to neighbors and friends. The eggplant and peppers have been slower to mature but nonetheless very tasty in stir-fries, especially with added portabella mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) and fresh chard (Beta vulgaris), the chard grown in one of our raised beds in another location of the yard.
And so, another example of when less (space) is more (more intensively gardened).
UC Davis has a publication called The California Backyard Orchard, which you may find useful for tips on pruning, both in the dormant season in during the spring and summer months. See homeorchard.ucdavis.edu.
- Author: Riva Flexer
This is a time when the garden should be calling to me, because it’s that ‘in-between’ time, when the hills are golden–hued with crisping grasses and the ticks are nearly gone, and the apples are ready for picking. This year my crop of an as-yet-unidentified ‘Delicious’-type variety was bounteous, but since I did not protect against codling moth infestation, and I did not thin the crop, I have too many apples, many of them small, and many of them with an exit hole besmirched with frass. They are edible, but it’s simpler to just cut the apple in half and find the tunnel from the center and cut out the damage. I’ve never enjoyed the apples, but they are very flavorful this year.
With the winter rains about to start, I need to clean up the beds. This involves raking up dead leaves and fallen petals. I wish I could leave it to rot, and add organic material to my soil. But this cool, moist mulch would provide a wonderful cradle for fungal infections. The roses, hollyhocks and peach tree are particularly vulnerable. The roses are susceptible to black spot and rust, and the hollyhocks, which really don’t belong here in California (but I love their tall stalks and bunches of large open blossoms) develop rust so easily. Cleaning up fallen leaves is just plain sensible.
As for my peach tree, it is highly susceptible to peach leaf curl. I will clean up fallen leaves and I’ll be spraying the entire tree with a copper-based fungicide in early December, when all the leaves are gone. I’ll be mixing up a new batch (or rather my husband will…). Depending on what I can find, it will be a Bordeaux mixture, or an off-the-shelf product. Either way, I hope it will work. I’ll be replacing this tree in the next few years with a resistant variety, because it seems to be a never-ending battle, it is a very old tree and I do love peaches!