Archives for posts with tag: fruit trees

Young Fuyu persimmon

I took a big step this month toward extending the food I grow. Yesterday I planted my first tree, a Fuyu persimmon. This sounds simple, but it was months of work, from learning about trees and deciding what to put in first to breaking up a concrete slab with a sledge hammer and hauling the concrete out of the planting hole. I bought the tree with a Christmas gift certificate and redeemed another certificate to transport the tree.

I relied on the advice of many gardening books, especially Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph.  I selected the Fuyu because it is a hardy tree, generally free from diseases, because its foliage turns color in the fall, because I enjoy eating Fuyu persimmons and because we desperately needed a shade tree (our yard had no trees or shrubs) and the summers are hot. It was the best tree I could come up with to provide fruit, foliage and shade.

Between me and my desired tree, lay many obstacles, including the stump of a large pepper tree, years of drought and a 50″ x 29″ slab of reinforced concrete. I tried undermining the slab by digging the dirt out from under it, hoping it would break and fall. Then Johnny, who rarely spends time in the yard, decided to discuss my plans with our kind landlord. Richard brought a ten-pound long-handled sledge and set to work. And when he went away he left the hammer leaning against the fence and I took up where he left off, bashing away. One of the more satisfying moments I had was watching the slab crack into three pieces.

Wheelbarrow and sample concrete.

After hauling chunks of concrete across the yard I began to dig the planting hole. About a foot and a half down I found another chunk of concrete. This is life in my hard-luck yard. My landlord had taken his sledge home and I had only a borrowed one-pound sledge, which felt like a child’s toy after the larger hammer. Naturally, I found the concrete as it was getting dark the evening before I planned to pick up my tree.

I wondered if I should delay getting the tree, but I had been working on this for six months and my gut said, “Get it.” I wanted to take advantage of the recent rain. I did not know if I could get the concrete out of the planting hole, but the nursery said I had up to forty-eight hours to plant the tree after I brought it home.

I might be out there digging and swearing instead of writing a blog post now, except my brother’s girlfriend Jayzie dug that concrete out of the hole. It was a small round chunk, eight inches thick. My friends Barbara and Dan call these concrete obstructions “Basic Concretians.”

Jayzie and I dug and filled and Bryan drew us a level and held the tree straight.

After they left, I moved more concrete and rocks, leveled the dirt in the pit, and flipped back all of the pavers I had removed for easier excavation. Then I went in and had a long soaking bath and a hot meal.

Pruned Rose #1

This morning I was at it again. When I went to get my tree yesterday I took a class in rose care and pruning. The cold January day gave me the perfect opportunity to practice on the Sterling Silver rose in the front yard, a tangled mess that had not been properly pruned in years. Our instructor said that roses were forgiving so I took courage and pruned wayward branches, cut away rose hips, clipped yellow leaves. When I could get to the bottom of the plant I took off suckers, cleared away debris, removed the intruding branches of the nearby hedge. I hope the rose will appreciate some air and light.

I appreciate all of the help I got to begin my backyard orchard, including Natalie Goldberg’s teachings about great determination. Do I want more trees? Oh yeah. Shrubs, too. Berries, Meyer lemons, Kadota figs, grapes. I could use a few days off from encounters with Basic Concretians, but my birthday is coming up next month and Berkeley Horticultural throws its remaining stock on 30% off sale on March 2nd.



Watercolor painting of sweet peas in vase

Sweet Peas

I have not written a blog post in so long that I can’t remember when I last wrote. I have kept up busking and working for my friend Elaine. I even painted a couple of new paintings this spring. I continue to be interested in eating clean food, while Monsanto contaminates the food supply with glyphosate and who knows what else.

Emerald Dent Corn

If I grow my own food organically, I know what has gone into it. For a few years I have grown kale and chard, butternut squash and tomatoes. Last year I added Thai basil. I’ve grown beans before, mostly to fix nitrogen in the soil: although I love fresh green beans, the aphids loved them, too, so I plant scarlet runner beans to go with this year’s emerald dent corn.

After severe drought, California got rain in 2017 and I am able to start thinking about planting trees and shrubs in my no-shade yard. I dream constantly about peach trees, a Fuyu persimmon to shade the patio, a pomegranate, a kadota fig tree, apples and blackberries and raspberries, a Meyer lemon. I have been studying books on backyard orchards and radical pruning to keep trees to six feet.

At the same time I dream of home-grown fruit and relieving shade, I see every eyesore and obstacle in my yard and work to transform them. I have neither money to hire work done nor funds for trellises and pavers — I want what I have to spend to go for trees and vines. I am neither handy or particularly strong, having been disabled from birth by cerebral palsy. I am good, however, at finding alternative ways to do things.

Lately, I have been finding objects. Today I dragged this old box spring three quarters of the way down my street because the wood framing looked like a trellis to me. Or a raised bed.

Bed or Trellis?

A kindly neighbor carried it into my backyard and leaned it against my fence where it awaits its transformation.

I build a compost heap in a rotting stump to speed decomposition because the stump occupies the area where I want my persimmon tree. I scavenge large sheets of cardboard to solarize the weeds in the side yard where I think the berry patch is going to be.

Whenever I get stuck, I just ask myself, what can I do? There are weeds to pull and tomatoes to pick and cardboard to bring home, seagull feathers to pick up from the ground to fold into the compost bins. It isn’t planting season yet, but there is time to disrupt weed growth, to make worm tea, to find garden tools at Berkeley’s Urban Ore. The corn is growing and someday, despite my impatience, I will have garden fruit.