Many fruits can be grown successfully here on the Front Range of Colorado. At one time, there were commercial apple orchards in Boulder and Fort Collins, commercial sour cherry orchards and canneries between Loveland and Fort Collins and commercial raspberry production in various places. Cheap shipping, more reliable weather and harvests in other regions, and a raspberry disease chased these operations to other states. However there is great potential here for the home gardener to grow tree- and bush-ripened fruit that is delicious, organic, fresh and economical.
Conventional agriculture has an economic priority, that places the emphasis on quantity over quality, on shelf-life and ship-ability over flavor, and on cosmetic appearance, over nutritional value. You may know the song about “…two things that money can’t buy; and that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes.” Well, the same holds true for home-grown strawberries, home-grown peaches, home-grown plums, most home-grown apples, and, in fact, for all the fruits.
At home we can nourish our soils so the soil life flourishes and the fruit is more nourishing. Recent studies found that you have to eat two apples today to get the nutritional value that was found in one apple in the 1940s. We can choose the really great-tasting varieties to grow like Ogalalla Strawberry, Anne Raspberry, Stanley Plum and Cortland Apple that cannot be found in the supermarkets. And we can grow them without pesticides, so we don’t have to feel like the witch from Snow White when we hand our child an apple. We can leave the fruits on the tree, bush or vine till they are fully ripe with the starches changing to natural sugars, so they taste really good. We can eat them fresh while they are vibrant with the Life Force. We can feel proud that we are not buying food that was produced and shipped great distances with petroleum fuels that produce greenhouse gases. Nor are we buying food grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers that poison our fragile planet.
Fruit crops are often so abundant that, not only are they cheap to grow, there is often so much food that we can feel generous about sharing with friends, neighbors and the Food Bank. This kind of community wealth not only goes around, but comes around, so the gal giving apples could get plums.
Wow, this sounds really good. And it is! Is it really easy? Not really. Neither is it really hard. But it is harder than growing ornamentals. The economics of Nature are very simple and direct: if you put more in, you get more out; if you put little in, that’s what you get back. Most fruit plants like soil that is rich in organic matter, so add compost and/or composted manure or organic fertilizer every year. They need water, especially between flowering and ripening, but they need oxygen in the soil too. If the soils are soggy, there will be more disease problems. Fruit trees don’t like much competition; plant them far enough apart so they have good air circulation and sun. They need pruning: cut down the old canes, thin and shape the trees and replace old plants of strawberries.
And then there is the work of the harvests. Many fruits have to be processed somehow or they won’t keep. You can dry them, can them, freeze them and share them. In a weak economy, and to strengthen community, a cornucopia of fruit could be celebrated. We have much to learn, much to do and much to be gained.
Mikl Brawner Harlequin’s Gardens