BOOK REVIEW: Grow A Little Fruit Tree

 Book Grow A Little Fruit Tree

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.


I love cherry tomatoes and grow them in both the spring and fall.

We have mostly mild winters in Florida. In the summer and fall, however, I would like to pack my bags and head north. The Thousand Islands on the U.S./Canadian border might be far enough north. I suspect those folks in the Thousand Islands don’t have cherry tomatoes ripening at their front steps in February. I do.

Cherry tomatoes in February


I even have blooms!

I threw a few seeds in a pot for my fall garden that didn’t happen. I later shoved the pot behind the liriope border at the front steps. I had the best of intentions of planting it inside a wire tomato cage in that flower bed but that didn’t happen either. It was watered but never fertilized, it was stepped on after it climbed over the liriope, it was covered with a sheet on a night that went down to 26 and, against all these odds, survived.

By the way, if you want to discover the world of tomatoes, Gene the Melon Man says there’s no better spot to hang out than Doc and Katies Garden Xandadu. It’s a friendly, generous and knowledgeable crowd who will teach you the difference between a pink and red tomato.



"Look, Ethyl! Them taters and string beans are looking good!" Yukon Gold potatoes about 1 month old
“Look, Ethyl! Them taters and string beans are looking good!”
Yukon Gold potatoes about 1 month old.
String beans were planted about 3 times.


For the benefit of new vegetable gardeners who are planting potatoes for the first time, this is what they look like when they pop out of the ground.

My Siamese cat’s foot is in the upper left corner of the photo to demonstrate that these are newly sprouted potatoes, just barely an inch out of the ground.

One bag of Yukon gold seed potatoes from Wal-Mart will plant three-quarters of a 50 foot row. Planted March 15, they will be ready to harvest in 90 days.

Yukon Gold potato seedling
Yukon Gold potato seedling
Photo taken March 29, 2016