If you are a humble, backyard grower who longs to have your own small orchard, you’re going to need a good book. So, here’s our review of The Backyard Orchardist, by Stella Otto.
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If you’ve thought about self-sufficiency when it comes to your food supply, it’s probably already occurred to you to plant a backyard orchard. You may have already picked out which varieties you’d like and researched what you need to know about bare root trees.
You may have already read great articles like this one from Schneider Peeps on Planning and Planting a Family Orchard.
At some point, you’re probably going to want to invest in a quality fruit tree growing book for the backyard orchardist. You’re in luck because Stella Otto has written just such a book.
The Backyard Orchardist
If you have fruit trees, you need this book. Learning to plant, maintain and harvest from a backyard orchard is a big task. Even if you only have one or two fruit trees, you still need to know how to prune them, feed them and even figure out where to put them.
Where to Start
Ms. Stella starts off with site selection because a successful backyard orchard begins with putting your trees in the place that is right for them. That may not always be where you’d prefer them, FYI.
If you didn’t inherit your fruit trees when you bought your house, you’ll need to read this section thoroughly.
The Backyard Orchardist also leads you through:
- varieties for each fruit tree
- growth habits
- how to judge ripeness
- disease resistant varieties
as you decide which tress you’d like to grow and where you’d like to put them.
Incidentally, I order almost all my edibles from Raintree Nursery because of the awesome varieties they offer for the backyard organic grower. I tried One Green World, too, and they were alright but I lost a few plants and they don’t have a one year warranty like Raintree so I won’t order from them again.
General Topics of Interest
The Backyard Orchardist isn’t the prettiest book you’ll ever see with glossy photos and fancy fonts. It’s a basic text with no frills and no pretty pictures, just simple (but clear) pencil drawings.
What this book does have going for it is it’s simplicity – well, as simple as you can get when you’re learning to maintain a small orchard!
Pretty much any question you might have regarding growing your own fruit trees is addressed. Otto covers:
- Insect pests, wildlife pests and diseases.
- Different methods of control for pests and the merits of each – conventional, organic intervention, integrated pest management, etc.
- If you’re growing in pots, a special situation that requires certain skills, she can help you with that, too
The thing I use this book for the most is the pruning information. I carry The Backyard Orchardist with me every early spring into the orchard while I prune, just to make sure I’m getting it right.
The book comforts me and tells me I’m doing alright, just like a fairy tree mother would.
My trees are about twenty years old and weren’t kept on top of by the previous owners; nothing terrible, just generally messy. Plus, some fruit trees (peaches, you know I’m talking about you) need a lot of haircuts to perform well.
I love that I can shove this book in the pocket of my apron and go out ready to face the frost and the dead wood.
Otto won’t intimidate you with The Backyard Orchardist. She’ll make you feel like you really can grow and maintain an orchard…if you’re crazy enough to do that sort of thing, that is.
Here’s to the loonies up their trees in the March winds to prune their trees and then scrounging every dropping in the grass in the late autumn sun! Semper Fi.