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Around the Farm

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DIYFruit - Creating A Fruit Garden – Part 1

Jun 5, 2013

There's nothing better than harvesting sweet and delicious fruit from your own tree, shrub or vine!

Thanks to our mild Pacific Northwest climate, you can harvest abundant crops of Apples, Pears, Plums, Kiwis, Figs and more. While we endure months of fall, winter and spring rain and even occasional ice and frigid winds, our winter temperatures are much warmer than those in most other regions of the US. Then, remarkably, we are blessed with warm and dry, Mediterranean-like summer weather, which produces the tastiest and sweetest Apples, Pears, Figs, Berries and many other fruit. 

Whether you want harvest a few Apples from a patio tree or plant a home orchard, there are some basic concepts that will help you be successful in growing your own delectable and nutritious fruit.


Most fruiting plants like at least ½ day of sun. Flowering and ripening is more difficult in deeper shade. Reasonably well-drained soil is also important. With its ability to hold moisture and fertility, Clay can actually provide a good environment for your plants as long as it is not waterlogged. 


While our winters are mild, our summers are not as warm as in the Midwest and East Coast. Plus, our long rainy season allows plant diseases to flourish. While we may love their flavor, many commercial Apple varieties, like Gala and Granny Smith, are bred for regions with hot, dry and long summers and will not be successful in our region. Figs are another example. Many Fig varieties will grow well in our climate, but our season is too short and their fruit will not ripen. With these factors in mind, we will have the best success with early-ripening and disease resistant varieties of all fruits.

Also, unless you live on several acres in the country and have tall ladders, you should consider the ultimate size of the tree, shrub or vine you wish to plant. With Apples for example, you can choose varieties grown on different rootstocks, which will control their size. Apples on M-26 rootstock will grow 8-12 ft. tall, while the same variety on M-7 rootstock can grow 12-16 ft. in height. Or you can plant a Columnar variety, which takes up very little space. Pears, Cherries, Plums, and other fruit trees are also grown on size controlling rootstocks. There are other naturally compact trees, shrubs and vines like Asian Persimmon, Jujube, Medlar, Negronne Fig, Blueberry, Arctic Beauty Kiwi and more.


An important question is when should we plant? Fall planting is good as the soil is still relatively dry and the sooner your plants are in the ground, the sooner their roots will begin growing and preparing for vigorous, spring growth. Winter planting is also good, as long as you don't mind the wet and cold. Plantting in the Spring works very well, even as late as May. As the weather warms, later planting will require more attention to watering.



In 1979, looking for a way to make a living on the farm, I began growing trees.  Combining my interests in fruit and woodworking, I was intrigued by growing plants that would live for many years and provide both food and wood. This project quickly become focused on finding the most unique and interesting fruiting plants for our Northwest growing conditions. In this column I will be sharing my favorite plants and the experiences I’ve had with them.

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