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For Planting Fruit Trees

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Get the big picture. What is this all about?

We have planted and raised a lot of fruit trees and are very excited that you are going to have a few of your own. In case you have any doubts, there are a lot of good reasons why you should grow your own fruit tree.

Once a year we organize a fruit tree group purchase. This is not for everyone. We don’t ship the trees so, you must come to Lafayette on a certain day to pick up your tree(s). It’s mostly for local families. The project has two main goals:

1) to increase the capacity of the local food shed. For example, in the past three years we have planted 1,300 fruit trees. That’s a whole lot of local food.

2) to help develop a local culture of growing fruit on a communal basis. Basically, if we share the knowledge and the chores associated with growing fruit trees, we can grow better fruit at lower costs. Watch Communal Service Concept.

If you would like to plant a fruit tree, below are the most commonly asked questions. If your question is not so common, then drop us a note.

Where and when is the tree delivery and workshop?

I have dense clay soil. Can I grow a fruit tree?

Yes you can. We select rootstock that is adapted to the clay soil of our area.

This is a common question asked by people who are new to soil science. In California we live on some of the most productive land in the world. Soil’s “growing ability” is rated on a scale of 1 to 100. For example, some of the land in Brentwood is rated 100. Much of the land in Contra Costa county is rated between 60 and 80. That’s way above average fertility. This is soil that most of the world wish they had. Of course, you can not grow lettuce in soil that has been neglected for 30 years. But go six inches below that soil and you have a world class growing medium.

How much do I need to know about fruit trees?

The truth is you don’t need to know much. Have you noticed that a house may change hands many times but the fruit trees keep on keeping on? How much do you know about the ornamental trees that are growing around your property? Trees are resilient and fruit trees, when selected for local conditions, can grow without much help. The more you know, the better fruit you will grow. As far as the taste is concerned the “neglected” backyard fruit, tastes better than the fancy store-bought fruit. What is the worst case? You plant a tree and it dies. If your tree died because it did not bud out, we will replace it for you (see warranty). Even if your tree dies after 2 or 3 years, what have you gained and lost? Yes, you lose the cost of the tree – $25 is not going to make you rich or poor. Keep in mind fruit trees are not like oaks that have to preserved. Millions are budded each year, so shed no tears over a lost fruit tree. What did you gain? Adventures, big and small, are a vital source of our knowledge. And if you keep your eyes open this $25 adventure will teach you a lot about yourself and how the natural world operates.

I'm afraid of killing the trees. Will they survive my black thumb?

It depends. If you decide to grow bananas in northern California, (which is possible, highly technical and costly) then you better know what you are doing. On the other hand, plant an apple or a pear and they will grow without much attention from anyone. The pear orchards in Moraga are a good example. For all practical purposes they have been neglected for decades and last year they produced over 5,000 pounds of fruit.

I like to read. Do you have a locally oriented primer on fruit trees?

What grows well here?

We thought you’d never ask! Check this post.

How much room do I need for a tree?

If I had to pick a “first lesson” for a novice fruit tree grower, it would be this. The size of a fruit tree depends on the owner of the tree. What? Most people see a 25 feet apple tree and assume all apple trees grow to be that big. You can keep fruit trees down to size by summer pruning. Of course you don’t get the production of a large tree from a small one but, don’t let space limit you. Instead limit the size of your tree for the space you have.

How about a document with step-by-step instructions for planting a fruit tree?

Can you help me plant the tree?

If you are a member of The Urban Farmers for 2 years or more (or intend to be a member for two years or more) we will plant your first tree for free, and charge you $25 for each subsequent tree. The fee for non-members is $50 for each tree. If you are elderly or disabled, please write to us and we may be able to waive your fees.

If I buy a tree through your program, do I have to donate the fruit?

Of course not. You can share what you want; when you want. After all, it’s your tree. We promote planting fruit trees for many reasons (more here.) It’s good for you, good for the environment, and good for the community. We think of a fruit tree as a source of fresh food for our local food shed. Most fruit trees will eventually reach a point where they produce more fruit that the owner can use.

Can you teach me the basic care of the trees such as pruning?

Fruit tree education is a developing project for us, so not all the pieces are together yet. We maintain several orchards which are planted for donation. When these orchards need pruning we hold a workshop. For a small fee, you will get pruning lessons and get a chance to prune several trees.

I don't have time to fuss with the tree. Can you help me?

The fruit tree maintenance is a developing project for us, so not all the pieces are together yet. We maintain several orchards which are planted for donation.

In principal we think it is cheaper and more sustainable if we maintain all the fruit trees in this area on a communal basis (watch video) However, the model has limitations. For example, the cost structure discussed in the video falls apart if only one tree is registered for the service.

In general, we offer to spray and prune the trees that were purchased through our program for a minimal cost per year.

How long before the trees set fruit?

It depends on the fruit type. As a guideline, peaches and plums fruit after 2-3 years. Apples take 3-4 years and pears take 4-5 years.