Urban Kitchen Garden

Jonathan apple, my favorite apple, like this one growing in my back yard is rarely available commercially and may soon become an heirloom variety.

I live in a house on a 100 foot x 60 foot lot. That’s not much room especially compared to the 80 acre farm with 5 acres of house and yard that I grew up on. We always had a big garden when I was growing up. And we did a lot of canning and freezing of vegetables and fruits. The rural garden carried over to my suburban lot. I have a 10 foot x 30 foot vegetable garden, a 2 foot x 30 foot flower garden and fruit trees in both front and back yards. In fact, all of the trees in my yard except for the city tree in the front are fruit trees.

When I moved in 30 years ago, I planted 2 dwarf apple trees at one end of the back yard. The rest of the back yard was in patio and grass so my children would have a play area. I chose a Jonathan for summer apples and a Granny Smith for winter apples. I didn’t realize at the time that Jonathan isn’t suppose to fruit well here in our USDA 9 climate but I get good crops of apples from both trees every year. I say I grow the apples organically but really I just ignore the trees expect when they are flowering in spring and smell wonderful, need an occasional light pruning to keep the height down to a manageable picking level and when picking ripe apples.

My children are now grown and don’t play in the back yard anymore so my husband and I reevaluated how we use our back yard. We don’t use the back yard much except for reading, sitting in the fresh air and barbecuing on the patio so we decided that the best use was to plant more fruit. Fruit is perishable, seasonal and usually expensive relative to other foods. If we grow it ourselves we can chose our favorite varieties-even heirloom varieties that don’t ship well, grow fruit without pesticides, have fruit without preservatives like waxes used commercially to keep it fresh, and pick it when it is perfectly ripe and most flavorful whereas most commercial fruit is picked under ripe and doesn’t generally develop full flavor.

I am taking my time expanding my orchard as I search out the varieties I want. I have only 20 feet by 40 feet for more trees so I decided to add 6 ultra dwarf trees which should top out at 10 feet tall or less. I can prune them if they grow bigger than that. An ultra dwarf tree should provide plenty of fruit in season for the two of us and I’ll probably have enough left over for family and friends. So far I planted a Blenheim apricot which was one of the most common varieties of apricot grown commercially in this area before it became an urban jungle. Sweet cherries were also grown here so I added a Bing cherry. Pears are grown about 100 miles north of here so in went a Bartlett pear. Like the Jonathan apple, the Bartlett pear really needs more winter cold than we get so I’ll see if it fruits. If not I’ll take the tree out and replace it with something else. This year I will be looking for almond and plum trees, the ultra dwarfs are fairly new hard to find yet. I’ll probably round out the group with a sour cherry so I can make a proper cherry pie.