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BOOK REVIEW: Grow A Little Fruit Tree • Southern Rural Route

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Ann Ralph has written a fabulous book on fruit trees. With 168 pages and eleven chapters, Grow A Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques (Storey Publishing, 2014), covers everything you need to know to easily grow backyard fruit. Ralph claims the backyard and its fruit tree is in our American DNA. We dream of self-reliance and harvesting fruit we’ve grown ourselves.

Ralph advocates that we should not grow a fruit tree like a farmer because our tree will need costly pruning and more fruit than we can use. For instance, a 12-foot apple tree can produce 1500-2000 apples if not thinned. Instead, we should grow a smaller tree we can prune twice a year, taking 15 minutes each time.

Over several pages, Ralph makes her case that proper pruning does more than “keep trees small; it limits crop size to fruit you will actually use.” Rather than choosing a dwarf or semi-dwarf tree, choose an apricot, apple, cherry, fig, quince, persimmon, plum or pluot for fruit flavor and then control the size of the tree with regular pruning. Put away your ladder and keep it small – no taller than you can reach while standing on the ground.

The best time to prune for achieving a short fruit tree? In June, near the time of the solstice because pruning at this particular time decreases vigor.

Other subjects Ralph addresses:

  • Bare root trees
  • Alternative to grafted multiples
  • Drought and over-watering
  • Espalier
  • How to prune and aesthetic pruning (four basic pruning rules)
  • Thinning
  • Choosing varieties
  • How to plant a fruit tree

The information she gives over four pages on the subject of signs of drought and what occurs when you over-water is worth the price of the book for experienced gardeners and those who claim they don’t have a green thumb.

I was quite smitten with this book because it makes growing fruit trees manageable.