Fruit and Nut School

It’s basically springtime here in Californai! And if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been…don’t assume that I’m so busy out in the garden, weeding and prepping and planting I don’t have time to sit down and write a post. In fact, my garden is looking horrible. the chickens escaped and ate all my broccoli plants, the nettles have take over, the fava beans are only just starting to come up.
I blame it on Fruit and Nut School.
I was lucky enough this year to attend the UC Davis agricultural extension class called Principles in Fruit and Tree Nut Growth, Cropping, and Management.
The class is held up in Davis, CA at UCDavis, which was historically, the Ag school for the University of California, Berkeley–hence their name, the Aggies. It’s only an hour and a half drive from Oakland, but it’s a world of difference up there. Hot, flat, fertile. Perfect place for growing fruit trees. There are also bicycles everywhere. In general, though, the community is a bit more conservative than the flamboyant Bay Area. Dudes are wearing rodeo belts and driving big ol’ trucks. It’s farming, with lots of big ag. Some of the guys (there were about 8 women in the class of 50) were running 20,000 acres of fruit trees down in the southern part of the Central Valley. Me and my 36 fruit trees felt very small indeed.
Even though I’m small potatoes, I still wanted to learn as much as I could. Every day was a total mind meld, filled with fruit biology and tree physiology. For instance, stone fruit trees are actually making flowers at the bud level even when they are full of fruit. So that’s why in the summer you want to give them a burst of water to ensure good flower bud formation (when you don’t, you might get those weird double looking, Siamese twin fruit because stress sometimes causes double pistils). It’s all so intricate and beautiful.

I can’t go through everything I learned but I’m hoping I’ll be able to document some of the thinking I gained as I move forward with a big project in my garden this year: planting even more fruit trees on the lot! Totally inspired by the class and our field trips to places like Wolfskill and the UC Davis fruit orchards, I’m going to plant like a “real” orchardist, no more random trees in random places. First step: concrete removal.

Happy spring!

3 responses to “Fruit and Nut School

  1. Linda Worden

    Novella, I’m familiar with the North Sacramento Valley. I went to high school and a couple of years of college in Chico. Two of my cousins were dedicated members of FFA. I love those folks with the big belt buckles. We need people like you in agriculture alongside the more traditional types. You bring an important voice and perspective to 21st century agriculture. Plus, you’re a pioneer. Your vision of urban agriculture is a great addition to American agricultural practice.

  2. Wow, 36 fruit trees is a lot! You must be having some beautiful blooming – our seven trees are all starting at this point – pink and white petals showing all through the orchard. Oakland is blooming!

    Enjoy the Sac Valley BBQ.😉

  3. Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph is a great guide for urban orchards. The subtitle says it all: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees. It requires the courage for the initial knee high single cut…

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