Backyard Fruit

Curl up with a book on planting bare-root trees

I’ve always been a fan of regional gardening books, so Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest: How to Grow Abundant, Organic Fruit in Your Backyard by Tara Austen Weaver seemed worth a look. And indeed it was. 

For a start, it is remarkably comprehensive, covering selection, cultivation, maintenance and harvesting tips for just about everything fruit bearing that’s growable in all of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Strawberries, bush, cane and vine fruits and a full range of tree fruits are covered, including less obvious candidates such as aronia, quince and our native evergreen huckleberry and thimbleberry. 

Instructions for planting and culture are mostly clear and helpful, though I am mystified by the author’s suggestion that “the hole should be V-shaped” when planting your bare-root tree. Suggested methods for combatting pests and diseases are all organic. Pruning of tree and bush fruits is dealt with briefly but effectively (I do take issue with the author’s assertion that all currants are pruned the same way, however). The advice on pruning blueberries is particularly helpful. 

Even though it covers a lot of ground, this nicely produced hardcover volume is a convenient size, comfortable to hold in your hands as you relax on a winter evening away from electronic devices. The paper is substantial and the layout uncrowded and reader-friendly. There are many gorgeous photographs and some nice line drawings. There is even a recipe section in back. 

How does Weaver pack so much into a relatively small book? For one thing, while she lists some favorite varieties for each fruit type, there are very few of them. Personally, I would have sacrificed the recipes she includes to allow for a more extensive treatment of variety selection. 

To be fair, though, some of the recipes are interesting, and some fruits (blueberries and apples, for example) come in so many varieties that anything approaching a full account of those suitable for the region would require a much larger and less convenient book. 

So my grumbles are minor. Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest is well written, beautifully laid out and a great introduction to its topic. For many gardeners it could be the only book on the subject they will ever need. It also appears just in time for the ideal planting season, when bare-root plants of strawberries, bush fruits and trees show up in garden stores. 

Bare-root plants may seem intimidating, but they are less expensive than plants in containers and easier to carry! More importantly, bare-root plants are often quicker to establish than plants in containers, if you do a decent job of planting them. Containers can hide problems that may not surface until your tree’s been growing for several years. And container trees may suffer more than bare-root trees if they don’t get adequately watered while they are getting established. 

Some years ago I wrote a detailed account of how to plant a tree. It appeared on Feb. 14, 2008. Search for “Naked Roots” on the Eugene Weekly website. Or email me (rfoster@efn.org) to request a copy. Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest: How to Grow Abundant, Organic Fruit in Your Backyard by Tara Austen Weaver is published by Sasquatch Books, $19.95.