Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Review #2. "Backyard Fruits and Berries"

After giving a barely lukewarm review of another book (click on label "Book Reviews", I wanted to choose a book that I felt more positive about. Here is one. Others are expected to follow.

Again, this book covers the subject of the title. Backyard Fruits and Berries, by Miranda Smith. I bought it locally, but it was not at the bookstore when I looked last week. Available on here.

This is a well packaged book with lots of drawings and photos - a benefit for me. The initial chapters discuss placement of fruit trees, preparation of the site before planting, digging the hole, and planting the trees. The illustration on page 35 is in line with my understanding of how trees should be planted, and shows the concept well. There are chapters on tree care, including mulching, pruning, training. Some of the illustrated techniques are appropriate for the Backyard Orchardist, such as fan-shape, cordon, and espalier, but no discussion of the Backyard Orchard Culture method, including summer pruning, close planting, and maintaining small size. That concept (click on labels for Backyard Orchard Culture, and Dave Wilson Nurseries) is probably just too new for wide publication in books. I mention it here because I expect it to be central to home fruit growers in the future.

There is also a section on grafting. This is great! Also, propagating by cuttings. Any book that empowers the backyard gardener to grow their own, choosing varieties based on their neighbor's or family's experiences, is welcomed. For the avid home orchardist, to share their favorite varieties, and to try new ones by grafting or cuttings, even if they don't know the variety's name, is very welcome.

The sections on disease and insect control are rich with photos, and organically-inclined. Also a plus. I don't like reading about insects and disease damage, because it makes me wonder how we get any fruit at all - but we do, and it's great to see the organic approach.

Fruit specific sections include the usuals, and some unusuals, including apples, apricots, cherries, citrus, figs, pears, plums, and many types of vines and berries.
It includes Asian pears, which I think are an "up and coming fruit" for the home gardener. The plum varieties include European and Asian as well. Sour and sweet cherries are discussed separately - a sensible division given that there are some cultural differences.

The one drawback is already mentioned - Some day we'll need a book which emphasizes summer pruning, multi-tree-in-one-hole methods, and overall philosophy of Backyard Orchard Culture also here. This would include experiences outside of the area where this concept originated, because what works in California may not work, or may require other nuances, elsewhere.

I couldn't find a section on multigraft trees. Many books discourage multigraft, because one variety often overpowers the others. However, the small home orchard is based partly on more involved management, including pruning, and the multigraft may be the best, least expensive, and most reasonable way to have multiple varieties and polinator trees, in a small space. That oversight is minor.

I give "Backyard Fruits and Berries" an "A". It is one of my favorites.

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