Category Archives: fruit trees

Bareroot Season

Bareroot season is here.  This is the time that you can add to your garden inexpensively.   Bare root plants are carefully dug up at growing grounds  with their roots bare, meaning that most of the dirt around the roots has been removed. One of the primary advantages of bare root plants is that they tend to have an extensive, well developed root system as a result of being allowed to develop normally.  When the trees are handled well, the root system is left intact, and the tree, shrub, vine or berry will have a better chance of rooting well and surviving when planted.   Bare roots don’t have to adapt to any differences between container soil and the soil in your garden.  They are also cheaper to ship because the lack of a dirt ball makes them much lighter and this lightness makes them easier to handle and plant, too.   

You might be interested mainly in growing ornamental plants like shade trees or a flowering plum, cherry or crabapple. Maybe you want another fragrant lilac to cut for bouquets or a  purple wisteria vine to cover the arbor. Planting something new while it’s available in bareroot is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do in the garden.

If growing something to eat is your goal, think of the first fruit  that comes to mind. This is the tree you should start with.  Already have a few fruit trees but want to add more? Why not add another variety this year that ripens later so that you extend the harvest season throughout the summer?  It’s no fun when everything ripens at the same time and you become a slave to the garden- picking, canning, drying, cooking, bribing the kids to take extras to the neighbors.

Remember that fruit trees need at least  6-8 hours of full sun during the growing season. Don’t worry if you don’t have much sun in the winter time, the trees are dormant then anyway.  Citrus trees, however, are green year round and never lose their leaves so you won’t find a bareroot lemon tree for this reason. 
What fruit tree varieties can you grow here in the mountains?  Well, almost  everything. We have well over 500 per winter. Most of us get 700-900 hours.  What does that mean?  Well, many fruit trees, lilacs, and peonies need a  certain number of hours during dormancy where the temperature is 45 degrees or less.  You can give a plant more cold in the winter and it’ll like that just fine but not less.  Those in Santa Cruz can grow Fuji apples, for instance, but not Red Delicious.  We can grow both.

What else can you add to your garden to eat? Blueberries offer more than yummy berries to eat.  They make beautiful hedges 4-6 ft tall with gorgeous fall color. They are self fertile but it you plant two types like a Berkeley, Bluecrop or Blueray together you get even more fruit.   Other edibles that are available now are asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, grapes, blackberries, boysenberries and raspberries. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to add to your garden’s bounty.    


With the holidays upon us, there’s probably no other tree that typifies the season more than the Bright orange fruits peak out between the leafy branches now but soon they’ll hang alone like Christmas ornaments.

Persimmons are one of the best fruit trees for ornamental use. Their handsome branches spread wide to 30 feet and they can grow almost as tall making them a beautiful shade tree in the garden. Striking, dark green leaves turn stunning shades of yellow, orange or red in fall even in the mildest of climates. After the leaves drop and especially after we’ve had frost the fruit colors brilliant orange-scarlet and brightens the tree for several months, unless harvested.

Persimmons are easy to grow, too. They are one of the few fruit trees that are deer resistant ( the foliage anyway ).
They accept almost any soil, acidic or alkaline, as long as it is well drained. Reaching bearing age at 5 you can expect your tree to live 50 to 75 years. That’s a lot of persimmons for eating fresh,or for baking into cookies, bread and pudding. Or you can try your hand at persimmon wine or beer as the early settlers did or dry the fruit. They are loaded with vitamin A and C.

Fruit drop is one of the only problems you may encounter when your tree is young. Persimmons have a natural tendency to drop their fruit prematurely. Large quantities may drop if the tree is under stress from over or under watering or given too much nitrogen fertilizer.

How much water and food does a persimmon need? Apply enough water to wet the soil 3-4 feet deep when the soil 6" below the surface is just barely moist. Fertilize once in late winter with organic fruit tree food. Persimmons do not respond or need fertilizers other than nitrogen. They are not troubled by excesses or deficiencies of other elements. Persimmons are remarkable free from disease and pests.

The most common types of persimmons grown are the Japanese varieties, Hachiya and Fuyu. Hachiya is the most popular commonly available in markets. Fruit is astringent until soft when it becomes very sweet and pudding-like. They make be picked when firm-ripe to protect them from the birds and allowed to ripen off the tree. They keep a month or more in the refrigerator.

The smaller Fuyu persimmon is a non-astringent variety. These are picked hard and have a mildly sweet flavor. When they soften off the tree they become sweeter and can be kept for several months in the refrigerator. You can also freeze whole persimmons or pulp.

Be sure to harvest either type using a pruning shears.  Cut 1/2 to 1 inch above the fruit so the greenish crown remains intact. Don’t try to remove fruit without also taking the calyx cap and a short bit of fruit stem or they can rot. Whether you plant your own tree or buy the fruit at the market, take advantage of persimmon season and the beauty they bring.

Persimmon are among the best fruit trees to grow for the gardener who has little time to spare.

Citrus & Avocado for the Santa Cruz mts

Late September and you can feel autumn in the air. While our days are still beautiful and warm, nights are getting cooler with less daylight hours. Perfect weather for transplanting or adding new plants to your garden.

Why is this a good time? Cooler air is kinder to plant foliage and soil temperatures are still warm, which creates an excellent environment for new root growth. In the fall many plants and trees ( even broadleaf evergreens ) are entering a period of dormancy. With no need to allocate resources into foliage, plants are transferring all their energy into roots and storing nutrients for the cool months ahead. By spring, the roots system should be well established.

So take advantage of fall planting weather. Decide what changes or additions you want to make in your garden.
Perhaps it’s time to remove lawn from banks or slopes where water runs off instead of soaking in. Replant with more drought tolerant ornamental grasses or perennials.  Picture hummingbirds feeding on beautiful variegated autumn sage, their creamy white and green leaves topped with brilliant red flowers from summer until frost.

If you have a small lawn on flat land and want to improve water absorption and reduce water waste, rake out the thatch that accumulates at the base. Then aerated your lawn in a hollow-tine aerator or power aerator from a rental yard.  This brings plugs of soil to the surface, then rake compost over the hoes and water well.

Now is a good time to plant citrus and avocado. They will fair better during the cold winter months if roots are established.  Remember to give older citrus a good soak every week or so or the fruit will be dry.

If you’ve always wanted an avocado tree there are several varieties that do well here.  The Bacon avocado is hardy to 24 degrees. You can harvest medium sized fruit from November-March. They even produce at a young age and grow to 30 feet tall. Fuerte avocado have excellent flavor. This tree is large and spreading, hardy to 28 degrees and the fruit ripens from November-June. Zutano is another good variety for this area. Mexicola varieties are also very good.
These avocados are self fertile for the home gardener. You can expect your tree to live for about which is a lot of guacamole.

If you receive frost of consecutive night during the winter you can easily protect a young avocado or citrus by erecting a simple frame of 1×1" stakes that extends above the height of your tree.  Then drape with a frost blanket or beach blanket on cold night. Don’t use plastic- the cold will go right through it.

Take advantage of this great fall planting weather. Bon appetit !

Summer pruning for Fruit trees

Here’s some advice for those of you growing fruit trees. August is the best time to do summer pruning. If you haven’t already done so, thin out shoots and crossing branches. This allows more air and light into the tree, reduces disease and promotes earlier ripening of the fruit. Remove most water sprouts. These are the soft, fast growing shoots usually growing straight up. Cut them back to a main branch. If you need to fill in a spot in the tree and there’s a water sprout growing there, cut that one back to about 2" and it will promote a fruiting spur.

Pruning fruit trees this month controls the size of the tree and can also prevent rampant sprout growth next spring. That’s because pruning removes many of the little food factories ( leaves ) that supply energy to the plant  and store it,  to be used for growth in the spring.

Prune to maintain a vase shape. By promoting upright limbs high in the tree and pruning hardest in upper and outer portions, fruiting wood is maintained throughout the tree. Also eliminate limbs growing inward. Remember never to prune more that 1/4 of the total mass of your tree at any one time and no more than 1/3 per year. Better to space out corrective pruning over 4 years if your tree has gone too long since the last pruning.

One last thing, fertilize your trees one more time. Most established fruit trees need their first application when the tree begins to emerge from dormancy in the spring, another after fruit set and the third immediately after harvest. For young trees in the first, second or third growing season, apply at half the rate.

Feed your trees and they’ll feed you.

Fruit & Flowering trees from Bare Root

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to get a bare root plant off to a good start in your garden.  Over the years I’ve planted Floribunda crabapple, Autumnalis flowering cherry, Eastern redbud, Purple Pony and Blireiana flowering plums and Jacquemonti birch all from bare root.  They’re soooo easy to plant this way.  If I had more roomand sun these are some of my favorite trees that I’d add to my own garden this year. 

If you want a tree that’s both highly ornamental and produces great tasting fruit as well, try Saturn flowering and fruiting peach.  The fruit is large, yellow, freestone and delicious.  As if mouth-watering flavor isn’t enough the tree produces masses of large, double, pink flowers making a spectacular show in the spring that rivals the most ornamental cherry tree.

I love flowering crabapples not only for their spring blossoms but for the small fruits that attract birds in the fall and winter and Prairifire is one of the best.   Red buds open to bright pinkish red single flowers that cover the 20 foot tall tree.  Purple foliage follows which turns bronze green by summer.  Fruit is deep red, only 1/4" in size, and hangs well into winter on the tree.  This crabapple has excellent disease resistance to scab, cedar-apple rust, mildew and fireblight which sometimes plagues some crabapples.  It would make an outstanding ornamental tree in your garden.

I eat a lot of almonds.  One handfull is only 160 calories and is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium and a good source of fiber and phosphorus as well as protein, potassium, calcium and iron.   I’d plant a compact Garden Prince almond if I had just a little more sun.  They grow to 10-12 feet and can be pruned easily to 8 feet.  Soft-shelled, good quality sweet kernels ripen in late September to early October on self-fertile trees that set large clusters at a young age.  Dense, attractive foliage follows showy pink blossoms. 

Looking for a tree to provide shade for the patio table?  How about a drought tolerant Golden honeylocust? Fast growing to 40 feet tall with a 35 foot spread this beautiful tree’s leaves emerge a bright, golden yellow at the tips contrasting with the deep green inner foliage making it look like a flowering tree bursting with bloom.  Seedless and thornless, this tree has spreading arching branches and casts filtered shade, allowing growth of lawn or other plants beneath the tree’s canopy.  It’s tolerant of acid or alkaline soils, drought, cold, heat, and wind.

Another good shade tree to consider is the Golden Rain tree.  Enormous panicles of golden yellow flowers drape from the branches in the summer when you spend more time outdoors.  Fat, papery fruit capsules resembling little Japanese lanterns last well into autumn. Growing about 30 feet tall,  open branching casts light shade underneath,  perfect for a hammock on the lawn but this tree would also be a good patio or street tree.  Very adaptable to different soils as long as drainage is good.

This last suggestion is just plain fun.  If you have the room and enjoy putting together flower arrangements, why not plant a ?  Long silvery catkins covered with pink caps are very showy in the winter when the plant is dormant.  The mature height is 15 feet tall with a 10-15 foot spread but can be kept to shrub size by cutting to the ground every few years.

Remember that while these trees and also the pussy willow need six hours or more of sun during the growing season they are dormant in winter and don’t mind being in shade for that part of the year.  So if you live where winter sun is scarce you can still grow edibles and ornamentals successfully.

Planting Fruit Trees in the fall

 We all know fruit is good for us and it tastes so yummy, too.  I love it when a plan comes together !  I’m still enjoying juicy, late nectarines, plums and pluots in addition to newly ripening apples and pears.  Can persimmons and pomegranates be far behind?

Trees are an essential part of every garden so why not have some that produce something good to eat, too?  A large apple or plum can serve as a shade tree if you prune the lower branches so you can walk under it.  A dwarf fruit tree would make a good focal point in a garden bed.  Consider adding a fruit tree now to your garden.  The trees available now are now more mature that those sold bare root in January.  Many are already producing fruit.  

If you have fruit trees in your garden already, look to add late ripening varieties that can extend your season.   Goldmine nectarines ripen in late summer where most other varieties mature earlier in June and July.  Their juicy, sweet white flesh has excellent flavor.  Needing only 400 hours of chilling in the winter – this refers to the # of hours below 45 degrees during the dormant season – they are good for mild winter areas like Pasatiempo.  A great late peach ripening in August is Late Elberta.  You’ll love its large, delicious yellow fruit.

And many apples, like my favorite, the Fuji, ripen in the fall.  With firm, crunchy white flesh Fuji apples can’t be beat for eating right off the tree.  They also keep well and bear in mild winter areas.

So what should you be doing to keep your trees healthy?

  • Water:  A trees network of roots generally extend to the drip line, which is as far as the branches spread from the trunk, so set your sprinkler or soaker hose to cover the entire area.
  • Fertilize one last time for the season to replace the potassium and magnesium that have been leached out of the root zone.
  • Weed:  Young trees especially will benefit from careful weeding around their trunk which can be a hiding place for rodents in the winter. Girdling can be fatal for a tree if the bark is chewed away. 
  • Cleanup:  Practice good sanitation by cleaning up fallen fruit , especially if it has signs of pests and diseases that can come back to haunt you next spring.

It’s too late for light summer pruning and too early for dormant pruning.  However, there are a couple of things you can do now before leaves drop.  Assess the tree.  A main pruning goal is to allow light into the central part of the tree so the lower branches aren’t shaded by those above.  Also look for weaker branches, those with fewer leaves or less fruit.  You might even put a piece of yarn on those branches to mark them for later pruning. 

If you have a fruit tree that is just too large for your space, despite pruning, consider replacing it with a smaller variety.  Many types of fruit trees are available in dwarf varieties as well as semi-dwarf.  It depends on the root stock.  Remember: right tree, right spot.