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Low-Hanging Fruit

Articles: Low-Hanging Fruit

An abundant peach harvest on an easy-to-manage small tree in the Fair Oaks Horticultural Center Orchard. Photo: Chuck Ingels

Ah, tree-ripened fruit. That exquisite experience of biting into a juicy, flavor-filled peach or pluot that falls off the tree into your hand on a warm summer morning. The experience is especially satisfying—and safe—when the fruit is harvested within reach of the ground or with a small stepladder.

In the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center orchard, the primary focus has been on keeping fruit trees small, as the average backyard is getting smaller and smaller. The orchard began in 1998 as a demonstration of “fruit bushes,” which are standard or (preferably) semi-dwarf trees kept small mainly by summer pruning. The method was not new, and Ed Laivo, of Ed Able Solutions, popularized it. The strategy requires pruning in spring and summer to keep tree height down and allow sunlight into the lower canopy to promote flower buds low in the tree. Those buds grow on spurs and other specialized fruiting branches.

The concept of cultivating fruit bushes for the home gardener was a huge paradigm s...

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