Feb 172012
Prune out the crossing branches

by Robert Kourik – Guest blogger extraordinaire.  Robert is an expert on all things in the edible landscape. Here is an important tip on fruit tree pruning.

Fruit trees don’t need to be pruned to make fruit. But pruning will:

1. Help keep the fruit within reach.

2. Provide stronger limbs and branches that can carry the load of an abundant crop.

3. Allow more light into the middle of the tree to support fruiting lower in the canopy (foliage).

4. Cause branching for more  places to produce fruit.

5. Shape the tree into a more natural fruiting form.


Fruit tree pruning angle

Best angle for pruning a fruit tree is around 60 deg

Tree “shaping” is as important as pruning. As a general guideline, the best position for a shoot to naturally favor some lateral shoot growth and some flower buds is between 60o and 45o from horizontal. Flowering and branching are encouraged and a reasonable amount of tip growth remains so the plant doesn’t grow too narrow or spindly.


Pruning or shaping new growth to this ideal zone of position will promote:

  • More laterals without extra pruning.
  • Form a wider angle of attachment of the younger lateral to the trunk or primary  scaffold, which is also good for fruit trees because it lets more light into the interior of the canopy for better fruit color and flavor. (Use speader sticks like in the photo to widen the angle. This can be done in the late winter or early spring.)
  • More flower buds for greater ornamental beauty and, with food crops, more to harvest.

Be sure to use sharp and sturdy pruners to make your cuts. It will make the work easier and allow the cuts to heal faster.

You can read more about fruit trees and everything else you might want to plant in the edible landscape in Robert Kourik’s book. Designing and Maintaining your Edible Landscape Naturally, at his website: www.robertkourik.com

Nov 292011
Lettuce seedlings can be planted in winter
Lettuce seedlings can be planted in winter

Lettuce seedlings can be planted in winter

Lettuce seedlings can be planted in winter. Plant your seedlings in a sunny well drained site


Although we’re almost to the shortest day of the year, it’s still possible to work and plant in your winter garden, at least in some parts of the United States. You can look out your window and see if you have snow on the ground or you can look up your planting zones in this nifty site.  Type in your zip code and they will tell you what you can plant and when to plant it.

This is the time of year to choose your sites for deciduous fruit trees and shrubs.  Depending on your available space and sunlight, you can consider dwarf or semi dwarf fruit trees, blueberry shrubs, raspberries, and other cane berries, currants, kiwis and grapes.

Kiwi on fence

This kiwi grows on a strong fence.


There are some hardy vegetables like lettuce, chard, kale and all the cabbage family, including broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage that can take the cold weather.  A little extra protection provided by row covers can really help your plants grow during the cold weather.

For the very committed gardener  you can use cold frames and green houses to extend your seasons.

There’s no end to the fun one can have in the garden in the winter season.

Oct 042011
Tubers of bearded iris can be planted in Fall or Spring

Bearded Iris are hardy, drought tolerant and beautiful

When planning your edible landscape design, you need to consider that every plant has its Right Place, both aesthetically and for its growing needs and its Right Time for planting. Before planting be sure to find out what are the best conditions for your plant and when is the best time to plant.

Just as you shouldn’t put plants that are shade loving into the sunny side of life, you can assure yourself of healthier plants when you put them into the ground at the right time.

Foxglove, and Ferns in the shade, right plant, right place

Foxglove and Ferns in the shade

With Winter right around the corner it’s time to think about planting deciduous trees and shrubs and bulbs. Fruit trees are best planted in the winter when they have lost all their leaves and are in their dormant growing mode.  Although they won’t look like they’re doing anything at the top, underground they are establishing healthy roots to support the tree when it starts to sprout leaves.

Order and plant your Spring bulbs now.

In the West, it’s time to plant and sow our natives that will grow with the winter rains through the mild weather. Because California has summer drought, the plants here have adapted to winter rains. Consider sowing wild flowers to cover hillsides for beauty and to prevent erosion.

Consider planting Ceanothus, Manzanita, Wild Gooseberries, and California Wax Myrtle, for beauty, ease of maintenance, low water needs and bird habitat. You’re really getting a lot bang for your buck with these plants.

Ground cover Ceanothus

A strong, beautiful California Native plant, Ceanothus griseus

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