Fruit Tree Care Lessons with Greg Peterson

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Show Introduction
Hi, everyone. You are listening to the Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast, and I'm your host, Susan Poizner of the Fruit Tree Care Training website, OrchardPeople. com. This is the 98th episode of this monthly show.
98th episode, oh my goodness. And every other episode has gone out live on the internet based radio station RealityRadio101. com. Well this week, due to a medical emergency amongst the staff at the station... We're going to be broadcasting live on Orchard People's YouTube channel instead. So this is really new for me.
We're going to just give this a try. I hope you guys will find the feed and I hope you will send in your comments and your questions as you always do when we play the live show on the radio. I also wanted to share today that in January, it's going to be episode 100 of this show. Oh my goodness. 100. And we are going to change the name of the show.
So, I will announce the name in the next episode, but in the meantime, if you don't want to get lost in space, if you want to be able to find this show after the name change, I would suggest you go right now to Apple Podcasts, find the Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast, And subscribe, because from what I understand, once you're subscribed to this podcast, even when the name is changed, you will be notified of future episodes.
So hopefully you will find us there. But now we have a great show coming up today. And I am excited to dig in.
Fruit Tree Lessons for New Growers Introduction
In today's episode of the Urban Forestry Radio Show, we are gonna look back. We're gonna start thinking about what it's like to start all over again. And plant an orchard. Or even just a few fruit trees.
What are the things you are going to consider? What are the lessons you will bring with you from your first orchard? And so my special guest today is Greg Peterson. Hello, Greg. Hey, how we doing? I'm excited to be here.
Why Greg is moving to a new site to grow his fruit trees
Yes, so Greg, you are from urbanfarm. org and you have been growing fruit trees for 30 years in one site.
30 years. That's Right? So, yes, 30 years at one site, but 47 years total. Well, considering you're 28 years old, that doesn't make any sense. It just doesn't. The numbers don't add up, but that's okay. So in today's show, I'd love it, we'll start off with you, if you could tell us the story. Why did you move?
What is the move like? And then we're going to go and highlight five lessons that you have taken with you from your previous site. To your new site. And these will be lessons that we can all learn from whether we are going to a new site, or we just want to accelerate our success in our current location by not making the goofy mistakes that we all make.
Does that sound like a plan? Let's do it. Okay, let's do this. So Greg, first of all, can you tell me a little bit, tell me your story, where were you growing your fruit trees before? And why have you, why are you moving? Great question. So I actually lived in Phoenix. Phoenix, Arizona, the desert for 54 years. I planted my first fruit trees in Phoenix, Arizona in 1974, when I was 14 years old.
And, I just was hooked around that same time. I wrote a paper for my eighth grade biology class on how we were overfishing the oceans. So I knew that there was something up with our food system way back then. And then in 1991, I discovered permaculture. And I like to call permaculture the art and science of working with nature.
So how do we work in the flow of nature rather than against nature? Cause we human beings think we know how to do it better than nature. And I got news for you. nature always bats last. Nature is always going to win. So our best case is that we start paying attention to nature and then, work with nature rather than against nature.
So that's what I do. And over the past 32 years in Phoenix, I created a space called the urban farm. It was right in the middle of Phoenix. It was a third of an acre. That's 80 feet wide and 160 feet deep. And on it, I had about 80 fruit trees. I had gardens, I had an old growth food forest, so over time what I did is I planted open pollinated seeds and at any given moment there were 20 or 30 things to eat in the yard, just to go out and harvest.
I had solar panels on the roof, we had chickens out back, it was a, an old growth food forest. I like that. Sounds amazing. Yeah. Like with such a beautiful garden and so many, so much abundance, what would make you move away? What was I thinking? What were you thinking, Greg? So remember I said I lived in Phoenix for 54 years.
Yeah. Phoenix is 4. 7 million people. And while it doesn't make sense to most people, as if they're watching me on social media and stuff, I'm a bit of an introvert. So I like quiet and Phoenix is in no way, shape, or form quiet. And when I'm about 15 years ago, I started my friends started telling my friends and family that when I, when my parents passed away, that I would be moving some place quiet and I was thinking it was going to be, a hundred miles outside of Phoenix and Cornville or, someplace like that, someplace close to Phoenix and.
When I met Heidi 10 years ago, Heidi's my life partner and I told her, Hey, I'm, I want to go someplace quiet someday. And she said, well, we can't leave Phoenix because all my clients, she's a yoga teacher. All my clients are in Phoenix. So I just figured I was in Phoenix forever. And then the pandemic hit and she had to put her classes online all in about two weeks.
And a year into that, she looked at me and she said, all right, Greg, where do you want to move? And so she continues here. We are three, four years later. She's continuing to do all of her yoga classes online. I do a lot of the work that I do online. And so we started looking, well, let me put it this way. She started looking and, Came up with Asheville, North Carolina.
And I had some friends here and she had some friends here. And I said to her, what are you, what, that's all the way on the other side of the country. And we came and visited and fell in love with the place. A couple of things happened for me. When I came here, we found a house. That's a four, four points.
two acres, about 15 minutes outside of downtown Asheville. And when I came to vet this property in December of 21, 2021, I, I had to come and look at the property before we bought it. a couple of things happened for me. I saw billboards. One of the billboards I saw was, get your local compost from us.
On a billboard. The other one I saw was it said, download your, the local farm app. Your local farms are open. A community of 80, 000 people has a local farm app. I'm getting chills sharing that right now. So it was like, all right, well, I found my home because I have been so intensely involved with food and local food for Ford over four decades.
That, coming to some place that really, values, local food was a bit mind blowing to me that it was actually here. So there you go. That's, how it happened. I, and then before we knew it, we were. We arrived on April 22nd. That was Earth Day 2022. And so we've been here almost two years now, and we're getting settled in.
And if you can see my picture behind me, that's my front yard in June. excuse me, in June, and right now looking out the front door, all of those trees have lost their leaves, so I can see the mountains on the other side. Wow, incredible.
Greg's First Lesson: Wait a year before planting your first fruit trees
So from your old growth forest almost that you created, you've got a big open space, I see green grass, I don't see a lot of fruit trees in the background, and so you are starting again.
I am. And so you've got the lessons that you brought with you from the old, from all your experiences growing fruit trees. So could you share the first lesson that you brought with you to this new site? Absolutely. and I told people this for years, this comes from my permaculture training, and it's really Ties into my fourth lesson, which we're going to talk about in a little while, but this is spend a year on a site before you make any major changes, spend time observing, figure out what's going on in the space.
Here's the thing. We have a large greenhouse planned for this property. And my goal was to get it built. The summer that we arrived and it didn't get built. It just, there was so much going on and I don't know that it's going to get built in 2024. And if I would have built it when we arrived in 2022, it would have been in the wrong place.
And we have a chicken coop plan. And if we'd have put the chicken coop in when we first arrived, it would have been in the wrong place. So one piece of advice for me for people is pay attention to your space for at least a year. Before you make any major changes and you're looking for, where's the sun at?
Cause on December 21st, the sun's lower in the sky and on June 21st, it's higher in the sky. And how does it travel and where's your true South and where does water flow on your property? That's a big one. in the desert where we got seven inches of rain a year, it was You know, it was important to know where the water was coming from so that we could preserve it.
What I'm finding here, where we get 35 to 45 inches of rain a year, is that knowing where the water flows so we don't flood ourself out is really important. So, spending a year paying attention to things will, will Help you immensely. Now I'm not talking. Don't put in a garden. We put in a garden.
The first weekend we were here, but fruit trees last a lot longer than a garden. You can move the garden, the fruit trees. I totally agree with you that the time and that thoughtful process of figuring out which fruit trees you want to grow, researching them, and they may not be the same ones. If you lived quite far away, you may have had a successful experience with one type of tree, in Arizona, but you're in a new location.
So I think that's brilliant. It's, hard to do, but like you say, you can occupy yourself with your little temporary gardens, growing your cucumbers and tomatoes. Exactly. Yes. Okay. So that's lesson number one.
Greg's second lesson: Understand IPM
Let's go on to the second lesson that you brought with you. Oh my gosh. Oh dear. So yeah, this was a, mind bender for me.
I thought that in Phoenix we had pest issues and in retrospect, because, we get 35 to 45 inches of rain here, we get seven inches of rain there. It's, a lot less green, a lot less bugs, a lot less things there. And the pest pressure on a scale of one to 10. And when I say pest pressure, I'm talking molds and funguses and bugs and beavers and squirrels and deer and all of this stuff on a scale of one to 10, the pest pressure here is like nine and three quarters.
Wow. So it was something that I had to really. Still, I have to continue paying attention to what's going on in the space and, how to manage for it. I, I planted, and we're gonna talk about this a little while, but I planted 160 fruit trees and berry bushes over the summer this year. Wow.
That was a big project. And nothing I've ever experienced in my life, even planting all the trees that I planted in Phoenix. So on a Saturday in July, we planted six, four stone fruit tree, four apples and two stone fruit trees. So a peach and a apricot or something like that. Got them planted in the ground out in my new orchard.
And I came back out on in the orchard on Thursday and the trees were about four feet tall, had were full of leaves. They were completely stripped. All the leaves were gone.
Something had come and eaten the leaves. Well, turns out it was deer. Oh boy. Yeah. And I was getting ready to plant out another 40.
Oh, fruit trees on Saturday.
So I call my buddy, Scott Murray. He's with edge of urban farm in San Diego. He's a farmer consultant there. And I said, Oh my gosh, what do I do? He said, boy, Greg, do I have a solution for you? And it's literally a solution.
Oh, he said, take cayenne pepper. And I powdered it
and I added an ounce of cayenne pepper and a gallon of water and a pump sprayer.
And I added a little bit of dish soap to make this cayenne pepper sticky and I went out and sprayed.
So we planted on Saturday. We planted 40 stone fruit and mulberries and that kind of stuff on Saturday and I went out Saturday afternoon and I sprayed everything. with this cayenne pepper mixture. And well, so here's the thing.
I didn't spray the mulberries because I didn't think they were going to be interested in the mulberries. And they were all in a line. all the fruit trees were in the line. So, just the last two mulberries on each row, I didn't spray. Well, I came back Sunday morning and the, Mulberries had been stripped and none of the other trees, none of the other trees were touched.
Wow. Exactly. That's amazing. That's good to know. But how often are you going to have to spray that? Will you have to build some fencing? Very good question. So, I sprayed it after every time it rained throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall until I didn't anymore. And that was sometime in mid October.
And what I found, and the other thing is, that these particular 40 trees are in the path of the deer is in the deer path, because in retrospect, I went and looked and I could see deer poop along the way. So, what I found was that they got the message. One, a few springs and they didn't touch them anymore, even after it rained.
So the critters are smart. Interesting. So do you feel you'll be able to get away without having to build lots of fencing there because that adds up and that's a lot of time and effort. I'm intending that. Well, here's the rest of the story. So the other thing I added to this concoction, um, was garlic, liquid garlic.
So I figured cayenne pepper and liquid garlic. They're both natural. I'll get them on there. And I added foliar feed. So I added fish emulsion, kelp emulsion, and some humic acid. So I'm in permaculture. We talk about something called stacking functions. Stacking functions means that we have an, a something, and we do multiple things with it.
So spraying, taking my time to spray these plants, if I was just spraying them with a cayenne pepper to keep the deer away, that's one stack. The second stack is to fertilize at the same time. So the nice thing is, if I'm out there once a week fertilizing, I can also be putting cayenne pepper on it at the same time and the trees and plants will do a lot better.
And the fertilizer is. Oh, fish emulsion. Yeah, the garlic was to keep the, keep the animals away. So the foliar feeding with the fish emulsion. And at the same time, you are protecting from deer and other critters. Oh, wonderful. All in one. That is so fantastic. Wow. Okay. So that is the second lesson is pest pressure.
I would guess as well that it is important to know integrated pest management, or, basically how to recognize, the signs of different pests, because I'm sure the pests there are different. Yep. If you don't know what you have, it's very hard to protect your trees from that thing. So did you have much experience with IPM, integrated pest management?
I went back to college late in life. In 1999, I went back to Arizona State University. I was 39 years old and I got a bachelor's degree in plant biology, sociology, and urban planning. And In my coursework at Arizona State University, I took an entire semester of integrated pest management. So I do know what it is.
I do know, how to go about it. And really, what somebody needs to know, if you're interested in not using chemicals, the Or even if you're using chemicals, the first thing you need to distinguish absolutely 100 percent is what is the pest identify what the pest is and see if it's really a problem because a lot of times, people look at a bug and it's oh my gosh, there's a bug here.
I got to kill it. And sometimes those bugs are amazing, like ladybugs. Yeah, ladybugs. Yeah, I've had that experience. Well, yeah, I'm sure you do too. You get emails and texts from people. It's oh my gosh, what is this bug? How do I kill it? Oh, no, don't kill it. It's your friend. Exactly. Or the other one is that, I sprayed my entire neem tree because there were bugs on it and, it didn't help the bugs.
The bugs are still there. Well, again, you need to know what the pest is in order to know how to treat it. And I say a majority of the time pests aren't bugs, aren't a pest. They're not a problem. So figure that out first. Know what you're, know what you're treating first. Yeah. My philosophy is with pests and diseases.
Every different type of fruit tree has a limited number of pests and diseases that they have to deal with. If you can learn those, you know what to recognize. So I think that's really important what you're saying. Now, I'm missing our listeners. Now, I don't know if we actually are live on YouTube. I think so.
Do you see any messages? Okay, good. We are. Ryan Baldridge is out there. Thanks for being here, Ryan. And, there's a few people watching. Fantastic. Thanks everybody for tuning in. I'm glad you found us. Put your lessons into the conversation on YouTube. I am, have delegated, Greg is the guy who's going to be looking at the messages because I can't figure out how to find them.
Clearly I'm not a technical wizard, but I'm really glad we are out there doing something live because I love doing this for my listeners and with my listeners. I always find my shows are really collaborative. And so often the listeners have better questions than I have. So keep, thinking about it.
If you're listening to this live and pop your questions into the question box. Well, and that's what, I do the urban farm podcast. And the reason I do the podcast is so that I get people questions, people's questions, they're not questions I normally think about. Oh, totally. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
And we all have different experiences because we live in different locations. So I absolutely love having the opportunity to learn what other people are grappling with so that I can then research it, come up with answers that we can all learn from. So, all right, we've got our first lesson. We've got our second lesson.
Greg's third lesson: Your first garden is your worst garden
Let's move to the third lesson. Greg's third lesson that he took with him from his urban farm to his new site. Yeah, so I arrived here. We arrived on a Friday night. We unloaded our trailer. We had a trailer and then a moving truck brought the rest of our stuff. The, we arrived on a Friday night and unloaded on Saturday.
And then on Sunday, we took the trailer back to a U Haul dealership over on one of the local, towns. And across the street was a nursery. So it was like, I said, come on, let's go shop. This is a problem. And. So I went and bought a couple of bags of soil, and I already had some pots that I brought with me, and I brought some tomatoes and a few other things that we got them planted in the ground and in pots, and now I planted my first garden in 1975, and I get here just thinking, all right, I'm going to plant stuff, and that's going to, we're going to harvest, and it's going to be great.
And it was a total flop. My garden burnt out. It was, I shouldn't have even bothered. Although I needed to bother in order to learn the lessons that I, exactly. Yeah. And I'm on the phone with Zach Brooks from Arizona Worm Farm one day and sharing a little bit about this. And he says, Greg, don't forget your first garden is your worst garden.
Well, I hadn't had a first garden in over 40 years. So, I needed that little reminder and, the tomatoes tanked and the squash didn't do anything and, it's just, it was a mess. It was a mess. So, I guess with this lesson, it's about self compassion because you had to do it.
You don't know what the problems are until you start playing with the soil and seeing what you've got brilliantly said. Yeah. Yeah. So it's not like you would not do the same thing again. Maybe you might do seeds rather than expensive plants. Maybe, Probably not. Probably not. You would have done the whole thing just exactly the same all over again.
Yeah. Wow. First garden is your worst garden. And I had never heard that before.
Advice from experienced growers from the North American Fruit Explorers (NAFEX) group
Now I had put this question out on Facebook and there is an amazing group on Facebook. They're called the North American Fruit Explorers, NAIFEX. They have a fabulous Facebook page that I enjoy. And I've told my listeners about them before.
They're wonderful. So I go on Nafex and I say, guys, what are your five top lessons? If you were recommending something to a new grower, or if you were moving to a new site? So I'm just going to read a few comments and we'll see what you and I think about them. Yeah. Okay.
Labels and map your fruit trees
So one that I loved was from Eric from Central Illinois.
Eric says, Label, in pot, on pot, on tree, on map. Labels get lost and you forget and then you get sad. I have been sad so many times, Eric, so when I saw that comment, I'm like, oh yes. Because when you're in the throws of planting, you're all excited and somehow you're planting seven trees and you're like, Oh, which one is which.
So has that ever happened to you, Greg, or is it just me? Oh, yes, it has. Okay. Yeah. And, now that I'm actually so part of what I'm doing here is I'm being an elderberry orchard grower. Oh, I'm actually, getting into the elderberry growing business. So I have to know which variety is which there.
and then I brought in 10 different varieties of experimental stone fruit from California that are hybrids that are supposed to be more resilient. So In both of those cases, I have to know what the fruit trees are, absolutely. So now you know, thanks to Eric, label, label, in pot, on tree, and on map.
And that mapping thing is something that I only just started to learn. I'm now working with Steph Roth of Silver Creek Nursery to do a grafting course. Oh yes. We teach our students grafting and one of the key things is to create a map of your site, not only showing you which trees you have where, but which ones have additional grafted branches.
Are the branches on the north side, on the south side, so you can find those branches later. So, okay, let's do another point.
Buy later ripening varieties (or early if you live in a warm climate)
This one was from Mike. Mike did not say where Mike is from. Okay, Mike says, later ripening varieties are almost always more reliable. They bloom later, and they are less susceptible to spring frost, and they taste better.
More time for the sugars to develop. That's an interesting point. And I'm guessing that Mike lives in a cold climate. Is that true as well if you live in a warmer climate? Sounds like it. No, in the low desert, we need earlier ripening fruit because the problem we run into in the desert is that if it gets so hot in July that if you have a July, August, September, October ripening soft flesh fruit, they just cook on the trees.
Oh, I see. But that's great. That's another great point. Depending on where you live, you really have to consider when are the ripening times. Exactly. Wow. Unless you want pre cooked applesauce, you don't have to take the thing off, the apples off the tree. You just take the mushy apple and just eat it like it is.
There you go. There you go. I, specifically picked the latest ripening fruits. Remember those 10 experimental stone fruit that I brought in? Yes. I brought in two of each, a variety. And I purposely picked the ones that ripen in October and, September and October. Okay. Because of that. So, we'll see.
So, we'll see. That's another expert. We'll have to tune in next year and see how you do. Yeah. Okay. Let's read another one.
Elevate the planting zone
Miriam writes, the most success I've had is with citrus in South Louisiana, Hardiness Zones 8B and 9A. I'd say. Elevate the planting zone. Water when dry the first three years. Use a soaker hose or sprinkler, but do not let a sprinkler contact the trunk.
That's interesting, her point about elevating the planting zone. What does that say to you? Oh, I know exactly what she's talking about. Tell us. Basically, and Tom Spellman, you've had Tom on your show before. He's a rock star. I love the work that he does. Tom Spellman talks about, especially with dense clay soil.
If you dig at ground level and plant the tree at ground level into the ground. The drainage can be a problem. So for those of you that have really dense soils, if you put the tree up on a mound, raise the tree up six or eight inches so that you have a mound and you plant it on a mound in the middle. You can even build a bed.
I've seen Tom in some of his videos, he builds and then plants the tree, at the top of the bed. Okay. six or eight inches above, it's going to do a lot better because you can amend the soil a lot better that way and, the, water can drain off better. So this is the concern is too much water, but if you have too little water, then the water will just roll off your mound onto the surrounding areas, Yes, ish. And even in the desert. So we have something in Arizona called Caliche. Caliche is like cement dirt. And even in the desert, we have this problem. And if you put too much water in the hole, it'll sit there. In fact, Janice works with me. She's the manager of everything urban farm and When she went to plant her fruit trees in her backyard, she did a perk test, a percolation test to see how long it would take for the holes to drain.
And she came back 48 hours later and they were still completely full. Oh, interesting. So, if that's the case, that tree will die within the first six months because there's no drainage. You're just going to drown the tree. One exercise I love doing when we plant fruit trees is you dig the hole a day or two in advance, or even more, before you even buy the tree, you pour in some water, you wait for it to drain out, then you pour in some more water, and wait for it to drain out.
And if it all drains out okay in a reasonable amount of time, you know you have good soil to work with. Exactly. But if it never drains out and you have a little pot, like with a bunch of water in it, maybe it's time to look for a different location to put your tree in or dig a bigger hole or dig a bigger hole.
Yes. Yep. So there are options. Or, yeah, maybe hookah culture, which we talked about in, last month's episode. So, there's different options. So that was a great point.
Join the North American Fruit Explorers
I want to do one more point and then we'll have a few words from our sponsors. This point is from Leslie from Georgia and she writes, and we were talking about it.
Her one piece of advice is join the North American Fruit Explorers. There are many benefits to a paid membership, including, and the paid membership is like 19, including access to many recorded webinars from some of the best fruit growers in the U. S. and Canada. Wow. Thank you, Leslie. Leslie's lovely. Okay, so Greg, we need to talk about your last two lessons, and I have some more fantastic points from the Facebook, contributors.
maybe during our commercial break, you can have a look and see if there's any questions on, the YouTube live feed. But in the meantime, can you hold in there for a minute or two while we listen to some words from our sponsors? Let's do it. Okay, let me share my screen. Let's see how I'm going to do that.
Messages from show sponsors
Oh, everything is so new and interesting here. Okay. And let's make sure we can hear, share sound.
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Introduction to part 2
All right, well we are back and you are listening to the Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast brought to you by the Fruit Tree Care Training website, orchardpeople. com. I'm your host, Susan Poizner, and today we're broadcasting on YouTube Live. So if you're tuned to the live show, we would love to hear from you.
Put your questions or your comments or your salutations into the YouTube chat and remember to tell us where you're listening from. We would love to know. So in the show today, I've been talking to Greg Peterson of urbanfarm. org and we've been talking about Greg's five top fruit tree care lessons that he's learned growing fruit trees for over 30 years on the same site.
Now that he's moved to a new property, he's teaching us the lessons that he's bringing with him to the new site. So these lessons be helpful for us even if we are growing, whether we're going to move to a new site or even on the sites that we are already on. So, Greg, welcome back. Thank you. So, you've been keeping an eye.
Planting is trios
Do we have any questions on YouTube Live? We do. Ryan has asked a great question. He's in Jacksonville, Florida. He says, I'm planning an experimental orchard in Live Oak, Florida. What are your thoughts on using Stefan Sobkowiak's techniques? It's a hard one to pronounce. Hard one to pronounce. Sorry, Stefan.
On planting fruit trees trios. For, IPM. I'm Ryan. I'm not sure that I know what Stefan is up to. However, there's a clue here in the message and it says planting fruit tree trios. And what he means by that we actually had Stefan on the show. He's such an interesting character. So if, and Ryan can clarify as well.
So it's about mixing, Native trees or a nitrogen fixing trees together with fruit trees. Ah, interesting. So, and you want to get the benefit of like you've told me in the past that sometimes in really hot climates, you will plant a tree. Behind your fruit tree to shade it a bit to protect the fruit from cooking on the tree So with stefan's approach, he's in quebec.
It's not really that it's more about pruning the native and nitrogen fixing trees to Release nitrogen into the soil that will help to feed the fruit trees So it's about interplanting with nitrogen fixing trees. Is that something that you've done much of or Yes ish Okay, one of the things that we do in the desert, and I'm still learning here where I'm at now, but one of the things that we do in the desert is we always on the west side of whatever you're planting, you need to put shade so that you're providing some kind of afternoon shade for your trees and plants and.
There's two kinds of shade. There's the kind that you pay for, so putting up some kind of shade structure, and there's the kind that you grow. And so we always are suggesting planting some native mesquites or palo verdes or ironwood trees. All three are nitrogen fixers, but planting them on the west side of your garden so that it's providing you some afternoon shade.
Gotcha. Yeah. And manage. I'm so happy to say that I did find our feed so I can see Brian's question now. That's very exciting. Perfect. This is so exciting technology. Yes. And this is something from Tom Spellman. We mentioned Tom Spellman from Dave Wilson. He was on your show recently. Yes. They created a concept a couple of decades ago called backyard orchard culture.
Backyard orchard culture is about keeping our trees small so they're easier to manage. And we can plant more different varieties. So one standard size peach tree could easily be 30 feet in diameter and 30 feet tall. And in somebody's backyard, that's creating way too much fruit. And the fruit of the top of a 30 foot tree is bird food.
Exactly. It's wasted. So what Tom in backyard orchard culture talks about is if we keep our trees at six to eight feet tall. We can put in that same 30 foot diameter space, we can put eight or 10 other trees. And what we do is we plant them so that they ripen at different times. We call this successive ripening.
And. So like for me and Phoenix are, desert gold peach ripened in mid May, the tropic snow peach ripened at the beginning of June and the mid pride peach ripened at the end of June, so all of a sudden we can get almost two months worth of peaches out of that same space that if you would have had one peach tree.
And so what. They talk about in, backyard orchard culture is digging one big hole and planting three trees like the three I just mentioned. Oh, I see. Yeah, so that they're real close together. And if you're planting them 18 inches apart, which you can do, and let them grow, they'll each tree will have a third of the space that you planted them in, and they'll ripen at different times.
Yes, very interesting stuff. well, Ryan, thank you for that question. That's wonderful. to see you out there. okay,
Greg's fourth lesson: Pay attention and observe
so let's go for your lesson number four, Greg. So what's your lesson number four? Oh, this is really in permaculture. This was what it all boils down to. And that's observed.
Pay attention and observe. And we talked about this in, spend a year on site before you make any major changes. I want you paying attention to the seasons, to where the leaves are fallen, where the wind is coming from, where the water's coming from. And observation is really key to your success for growing anything.
And remember my garden first garden is your worst garden. We had some amazing, amazingly bad results in our first garden, especially around tomatoes, even the second year. So that was 22 was our first year. 23 is my second garden. So last year's garden on a scale of one to 10 was about a 0. 2. With 10 being the most successful this year, we got to about four.
So we're, I'm starting to learn and integrate and that kind of stuff.
How Greg plants new trees
One of the things that I do, I have a very specific way of planting fruit trees. You dig a hole and this is correlating from Phoenix to Asheville. And I checked it completely out here in Asheville with the powers that be here.
And they said, yes, they gave me two thumbs up. You dig a square hole, two foot by two foot. a foot deep. You take 40 percent of the dirt out of that hole, put it in the wheelbarrow. You add two pounds of worm castings. That's got soil life and nutrition in it. You add two pounds of azomite or some other kind of rock dust.
That's a mineral. That's a vitamin pill for your tree. And, two ounces of mycorrhiza. And that gets all mixed up in the wheelbarrow, and then I plant the trees. And then what I do, both here and in Phoenix, is I put a good, layer, six inch layer of woody mulch around the tree base. that holds in moisture.
So, remember the worm castings? I made my own worm castings here and that's the way I choose to compost right now because I hate to throw food waste away, so I'm composting the food waste in my worm bin. In May of this year, I knocked out my worm bin and harvested the worm castings. it's, a flow through bin, so you knock the sides of it, the worm castings fall out of the bottom.
Now I have fresh Worm castings. I took a handful of those worm castings and I put them in every single hole. I didn't have two pounds because I didn't have that much, but I spread them throughout the entire 160 fruit trees. They all got, um, a handful of worm castings. What happened was tomatoes came up from those worm castings.
So this is our food scraps coming from the kitchen. They're going to the worm bin. The worms do what they do. They don't eat the seeds. The worms come out of the worm bin and go into my garden. All of a sudden I had 40. or so different tomato plants growing in the rows of fruit trees that I planted. Late August, September and October, we were harvesting five to seven, five to eight pounds of tomatoes every other day.
So much so that I put up a down on the street. I put a table down there and it said free tomatoes from Greg and Heidi's organic farm. And we made a lot of friends that way. That. And what I observed, so going back to my lesson, what I observed about that is that when we over tend in pots, our tomatoes, they have more of a problem.
The ones that were in the rows with all the fruit trees got rainwater. That's all they got. They didn't get anything extra, and we didn't have the, there's this melange, I don't know exactly what it is, that comes up and turns the tomato plants black from the ground up here, and that did not happen in our rows.
out in the orchard. So incredible, observe, observe, I know.
Greg's lesson #5: Planting 150 trees is different than planting 5
So, okay, let's do lesson number five and then we'll quickly go through a few more comments before we wrap up the show. What's lesson number five? Lesson number five is, oh my gosh, planting 150 fruit trees is way different than planting five.
Now, it takes planning to plant five, but me and a, me and my right hand and me and my left hand could dig the holes and plant five fruit trees. We actually planted 160 trees and I dug 38 of the holes and it was like, okay, I'm done. Yes. Yeah. I'm done. So it took a lot more planning. I actually had intended to plant my orchards.
At the, in May, and as I was getting in the planning process and getting in the figuring out process, I discovered that I didn't have the capacity to get everything done that I needed to get done. So I had to hire people. And our first round was planting 105 elderberries, blueberries, service berries, in the first orchard, and there were, I paid two guys to finish digging my holes for me, and then I had, five people come and help plant.
So I actually had seven people help me on that. And then the second orchard I had, I think about five people helping me with that as well. So it's just, it's a lot more work when when you're scaling up, that's essentially what I'm doing. And, that's a wonderful lesson to share because for those of us who are really committed to planting bare root trees, if you had just had, 150 bare root trees that you need to plant within two days, Yep.
And it's just you, your left hand and your right hand. Yep. It could be a challenge and their trees could die as a result. So that's a good lesson. Okay, let's go through a few more, I have just two more comments from Facebook.
Dig holes for trees well in advance
Jamie from Oregon writes, dig the hole well in advance because it's more work than you think.
Well, that's interesting. Absolutely. Jamie adds, canker is awful and prevalent here. Remember you need room to walk around the tree outside the drip line while it's short. So make the fence bigger. Definitely make a fence because even then the deer will climb the fence to prune for you. huh. That's a nice one.
Learn how to graft fruit trees
Olga in Kentucky says, and I love this one, learn how to graft. Exchanging scion wood is cheaper than paying 100 per tree, and you will not beat yourself up if you kill that tree. Oh, you might. Oh, finally, we have one more. And I love that again, because as I said, this year, we're going to be launching our, at orchardpeople.
com, there's going to be the new grafting course where we teach both grafting and buddying, and we take you through it all through the seasons, and it's so much fun. Grafting is so much fun. I love it. Okay. Final comment I have here from Facebook,
The importance of thinning the fruit on your tree
Johannes from Manitoba says, there's, I have only one thing to add.
Thin your fruit or the tree will suffer. Do you wanna talk about that a little bit? Because that's absolutely something that a lot of new growers don't do? there's two parts. I'm gonna extend it a little bit. First of all, prune your tree. Yes. A a unpruned tree is a recipe for disaster.
The importance of correct fruit tree pruning
Yes. I, about 15 years ago, a friend of mine said, Greg, can you come over and take a look at my mom's peach tree in her backyard? Something happened with it. And they, peaches are notoriously, they grow long branches and the fruit grows out at the end of the branches. And I got to their house and this poor tree had major breaks that from just heavy fruit, too much fruit on it.
And I ended up pruning the tree back for her because she was a good friend of mine. And what I ended up with was about a three foot tall stump just because there was so much damage done. So making, pruning cuts, you cannot be afraid to make pruning cuts. in fact, if I was at a nursery and there was a potted tree and there was a three foot tall potted tree, with an inch diameter base on it and a six foot tall tree with a half inch diameter base on it, I would take the shorter tree.
And then when I pre planted the tree, I would prune it back probably 40 percent. And I know that freaks people out, but that's going to give you, we have a saying in, our program, roots, then shoots, then fruits. So you have to, get really good at being willing to prune your trees because if you don't, you get too much fruit out on the ends and the branches can break and in commercial orchard culture.
I am told they leave one fruit every three to four inches. And it's easy for a peach tree to get four to eight fruit in that three to four inches. So you think about it logically, let's say there is four to eight fruit. Part of you might look and say, Oh, I get more fruits out of this. But if the fruit can't grow to full size, you get four to eight hard, not tasty.
Yucky little peaches, as opposed to one big, juicy, well ripened peach. There are so many good reasons to learn how to prune correctly. Yeah, exactly. I had an interesting thing happen about 15 years ago at the Urban Farm in Phoenix. We had a late season frost, and the frost knocked about 80 percent of the fruit off of the tree.
And your first thought is, oh my gosh, that's a bad thing. But what happened was, Is that 20 percent of the fruit that was left was bigger and tastier and better. And we still ended up with about 80 to a hundred fruit off of that tree that year. That's plenty of peaches for my family and friends over a two week period.
I love, how you tied in thinning the fruit with pruning because pruning is actually a type of thinning, right? You are strategically removing entire branches to improve the structure of the tree so that the tree can put more energy into the remaining branches and the remaining fruit. Again, would you rather have lots of crappy fruit or less fruit but really nice quality?
So one more thing about pruning. Here's what I tell people to do about pruning their trees. Let the tree grow to the size and shape that you want it, and then when branches reach out past that size and shape, cut it off. Because your tree can spend an entire summer growing branches that are four, five, six feet above the canopy that you want it to be.
It's a waste of energy. Because you're just going to come in and prune them off. So one of the things that I do is I carry in my back pocket, my pruners when I'm out in the orchard and when I see a branch getting outside of what I want it to be, I just cut it off. Boom. It's history. Yep. History. Well, amazing.
What a fantastic comment. Oh my goodness. This show has gone very quickly. This has gone very quickly. let's have another quick look at our friends here on YouTube, Ryan and some chat here. Oh, wonderful. Well, I wanna do a special thank you to Ryan, our participatory listener. Thank you so much.
Appreciation for Apple Podcast ratings and reviews
I, I'm sorry to everybody that we are not on reality Radio 1 0 1, and I wanna send my best wishes to the staff of Reality Radio 1 0 1. So he will be back in his chair, hopefully soon and healthy and, ready to go. a few other things I'd like to say, I want to thank the people. It's really hard to get people to find my podcast on Apple Podcasts because there's so many good podcasts there.
So when people rate and review the show, it helps others find. The show. So I want to thank D. R. L. from the U. S. who wrote in his apple podcast review. Great show. If you're getting started on growing fruit trees and want to give your trees the best chance of survival and high productivity long term. Thank you.
D. R. L. for that wonderful review on the urban forestry radio show page. And we've got another one. Another review from Gardner and chef who wrote Excellent guests, good questions asked. So, oh, and then here's a really great one. An extra special thank you to listener Jenny from Finland. Yay Jenny! I'm so pleased.
So Jenny writes, One of my absolute favorite gardening podcasts. One I hope more people would find. Yay! Thank you, Yenny. Aw, isn't that nice? Yeah. So, thanks so much to all the listeners who have gone on to, Apple Podcasts to rate, to review the show. So appreciated.
How to learn more about Greg
So, if people want to know more about you, Greg, where can they go to find out about you?
Well, I have my podcast at urbanfarmpodcast. com. And, that'll take you to my urbanfarm. org website and also my fruit tree program. So I do a fruit tree education program for the low desert and we educate though a couple thousand people a year in the low desert on how to grow fruit trees. Interesting.
I'm finding that a lot of the techniques that we use work here in Asheville as well. And you can find out about that at fruittrees. org. Excellent. Okay.
How to learn more about Susan and her fruit tree education website
And also for folks, who want to find this podcast, other episodes, or even this episode in video form, you can just go over to the Orchard People YouTube channel.
And I am now making all my audio podcasts into video podcasts where you can see me and my guests. Chitty chatting as we did today. Nice. And I also edit in pictures so you can visualize what we're talking about. So it's a more wonderful visual experience. So head over to the Orchard People YouTube channel and click on subscribe.
Or you can go to Apple Podcasts. And you could subscribe there. Currently the show is still called The Urban Forestry Radio Show. You will find it under that but it will be changing very soon. And then finally you can go to my website which is orchardpeople. com If you go to orchardpeople. com slash sign dash up, you get on my mailing list and I will send you notice of upcoming shows and all that stuff.
But on the website itself you can find my podcasts, articles, courses. Okay, Greg, thank you so much for spending time with me today and my gosh, how that was a blast. Yes, it was so much fun and all the technical stuff we got through it together. And for all the listeners, thank you guys for tuning in. I hope to see you guys again next month, either on reality, radio, one oh one.
com or here on YouTube. Again, we'll see how it goes. Thanks everybody. Take care and bye for now.

Creators and Guests

Susan Poizner
Susan Poizner
Author, fruit tree educator, and Creator of the award-winning fruit tree care education website
Fruit Tree Care Lessons with Greg Peterson
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