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Grow a Little Fruit Tree- Book Review

Grow a Little Fruit Tree- Book Review


I just finished reading Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph.  Around our home we have a pear tree, two apple trees, and a plum tree.  Last year I cut down the peach tree (the second one in that spot) that was probably 10 years old.  We’ve also lost an apple tree (or was it two) and an apricot tree. All total I think I’ve eaten 2 peaches and 2 to 3 pears from all the trees over the years.  The pear tree is a giant squirrel feeder, the peach tree got brown rot and the peaches were wormy, some tress were lost in storms,  the apple never produced fruit.  I clearly need help.

Because we are on a city lot, I’ve always tried to buy dwarf or semi-dwarf trees.  Most of them turned out to be full size as far as I am concerned.  Last year I tried to get rid of the brown rot by spraying with an organic spray without success.  It was a hassle to get out the ladder and awkward trying to place it on the uneven ground.  It was nearly impossible to get the top parts of the tress sprayed.

I’ve been faithfully pruning the apple tree that has not produced a single apple.  Last year I bought a second apple tree, thinking that the tree needed another apple tree for pollination.  They bloomed at completely different times.  The original apple did set fruit, but every apple fell off long before they were full size.

Along comes this book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree, and it is exactly what I needed!

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Most of the current advice on fruit tress is based on large scale production, not geared toward the back yard grower.
  • Pruning is more important to the eventual size of the tree than the designation of dwarf or semi dwarf.  By using the pruning techniques in this book you can keep a tree small.
  • You can shape the direction of growth on a tree by pruning above a bud that is pointing in the direction you want the growth to go.  I didn’t know that!
  • Since most fruit trees are grafted, the type of root stock is important to the overall success of the tree.
  • It is better to get a bare root tree than a potted tree from the nursery.

This book includes a lot of information on pruning, selection, planting, watering, feeding and harvesting.  The most radical idea is the first pruning cut when you plant the new tree.  It’s a little late for that in my case but I still learned some things I can do to keep my existing trees from getting too large.

The advantages of a small tree are numerous.  You can take better care of a tree if you can actually reach the branches and fruit.  You can plant more trees because you are keeping them small.  If you have more trees you can have a bigger variety of fruit.  You can have a manageable harvest with a smaller tree (not a problem for me in the past).

apple tree prune

It’s pruning time here so I’ve taken the advice in this book and my loppers and pruned my remaining fruit trees.  I cut the central leader out of both the plum and the newest apple.  I think it was harder on me than on the trees.  I plan to also prune in June as the author recommends to control the vigorous growth that results from the winter pruning. I’ll do the best I can on the pear.  The worst thing that can happen is that I deprive the squirrels of their feast.


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