Visit our full Garden Story and photographs here: Todd & Diane’s Garden.
When we starting designing our Victory Garden, one of our primary focuses was to squeeze as many fruit trees as we could into the garden, without crowding out everything else. We wanted to make sure the plots for the herbs and veggies would still get enough sun to thrive. We are lucky to have a very temperate climate that allows a huge variety of fruit trees to grow here. There is enough chill hours to grow low-chill varieties of pears and various stone fruits. Yet we don’t get too cold, enabling us to still grow many tropical fruit trees. However, our climate is absolutely prime for citrus, so we have taken advantage of that and filled our victory garden with an abundance of different citrus trees.
Despite having an incredible climate to work with, our location still presents some problems. Our soil is nearly all an impenetrable clay soil. This can be challenging at times, but between amending the soil, building planters and filling them with better soil, and utilizing pots for the trees that do well in them, we have been able to keep many of our trees quite happy and productive. Using pots for some of the trees has the added benefit of keeping them from getting too large, thus allowing us to fit in a few more varieties to enjoy. Between all of our fruit trees, there is always something flowering, fruiting or waiting to be eaten. As if that wasn’t enough, we still are somehow able to occasionally rearrange the garden a bit and make more room for additional fruit trees. Here’s a current listing of our fruit trees as well as some of our failed attempts:
Our citrus represents the largest percentage of our fruit trees. Many are semi-dwarf varieties allowing us to grow a more diverse group of trees as well as use pots to adjust each tree to find it’s sweet spot in the garden. The citrus love our climate, but unfortunately leaf miner love most of our citrus. It is easily the worst pest we deal with for the citrus. Leaf miner is more or less harmless, but they significantly affect the leaves and as a result affect the health and production of our trees. Otherwise, the citrus are happy and productive and quite useful for many of our cocktails. In fact, they inspire most of our cocktail recipes.
Washington Navel Orange
This orange is tasty, huge and juicy! Our tree is still small and not high fruit yielding, but the few fruit it does produce is heavy with juice and flavor. Washington navels are a great eating, juicing and cooking variety to grow. This citrus, along with the Blood Orange, Mexican Lime, Fremont Tangerine, Kaffir Lime, and Grapefruit all get attacked by leaf miner. Need to figure out a treatment.
’08 Update – Spinosad works on the leaf miner, but never remember to repeat treatments until too late. Must be more diligent in ’09.
’09 Update – Going to try leaf miner traps. Must eradicate this pest. It’s more annoying than the snails.
’09 Spring Update – We’ve been good about the spinosad treatment and the leaf miner has been significantly reduced. In addition, we’ve been spotting many assassin bugs and they’ve been a great help in reducing the aphid population. Leaf growth and blossom abundance on all citrus is way up this year!
Also a small tree, but it’s finally getting settled into the soil and it looks like once it gets established, it’s going to be a consistent fruit producer. The fruit grows in large clumps, like grapes. Neat to see. It’s also a great fresh juice for Blood Orange Cocktails.
’09 Spring Update: The blood orange in doing very well. We’ve adjusted the drip line to a new type of 1/4″ soaker line and the blood orange likes it. Plus the beneficial assassin bugs are guarding it’s leaves from the aphids, and the treatments for leaf miners are working well too.
This is one our very original purchases, eons ago. It was planted in a terra cotta pot when we lived in our first apartment and is still in it’s original pot. It’s survived 2 major moves and it seems really happy in the pot. It’s a heavy fruit producer and the juice is fragrant and a touch sweet. It makes a great fresh lemonade in the summer because it’s not too tart like some other varieties of lemons. It’s also perfect for using in desserts.
- Creamy Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette Salad + Victory Gardening
- Meyer Lemon Curd Pie w/an Espresso Ganache
- Candied Citrus Peels
We thought one lemon tree would be enough, but realized we need a eureka for it’s pure, tart lemon flavor. Some recipes fare better with a Eureka Lemon for it’s straight lemon flavor. It’s struggling a bit now with white flies, but hopefully it’ll do better after some treatments to zap the flies.
’08 Update – With regular hose downs, white flies are nowhere to be seen. Looks to be settling in and may put out some good growth in ’09.
Our friend passed this tree on to our garden collection after realizing that it was a grapefruit, rather than a lime. She wanted to a lime tree for her patio, saw the green fruit when it was small and realized later that it was a grapefruit. It’s our gain because this tree has been doing great. Thanks, “you know who”.
The second of our very first purchases, years ago. It is still in it’s original pot and we never bothered to plant it in the ground because it always fruited so well and it was just beautiful to see it fruiting in a pot. In the last 2 years, the fruit production has not been like previous years, possibly due to over watering. We are still investigating.
The “charlie brown fruit tree”, we called it. It was brought home when it was a struggling, tiny specimen. The first year and half while it was in the ground, it never really showed much progress. It stayed the same size for a long time, then all of a sudden in the past 2 years…BAM! Don’t know what happened, but this tangerine just went crazy! It must have hit a sweet, “crack” spot in the ground or something, but it just exploded with growth and fruit. We recently had to get a trellis for it’s heavy branches because the fruit was overwhelming the branches. This tangerine definitely wins the award for “most improved”, “most fruit production” and “most uncontrollable”. Grow baby, grow!
’08 Update- Once we get rid of the leaf miner, this tree is going to be amazing. We love this tree.
- Silky Chocolate Whiskey Tangerine Pie
- Tangerine Carrot Cupcakes
- Thoughts: Our Tangerine “Dream” Tree
- Candied Citrus Peels
- American Flyer Cocktail
This little mandarin is incredible. The fruit isn’t huge but it is super sweet and seedless. Plus, it produces like crazy. There is usually more fruit growing on it’s branches than there are leaves. Every single node throws out a little cluster of fruit. Amazing little tree! We’re growing it in a pot with the bottom broken out to give it a good home with nice soil, but allowing the tap roots to work their way through the clay if they can.
Mexican Lime or Key Lime
Our “Margarita Tree” is over 10 years old and another one of our originals. We never took it out of it’s original pot because we didn’t want it to get too big. We’ve seen how huge and uncontrollable these monsters can get. But it’s really been struggling because it’s so root bound in the pot. There’s no room for it in the ground in the garden because of it’s potential size. The fruit production is small , so we don’t get too many “Margarita’s” out of it.
’08 Update- Strettttccchh. Our Mexican lime can finally stretch it’s roots. We built a planter for it as well, (avocado got one earlier), and our little Mexican Lime is showing a resurgence in growth. More margaritas in ’09!
- Champagne Cooler Cocktail
- Candied Citrus Peels
- Check out the Bearrs Lime recipes for more…
This is a recent addition to our garden because the Key Lime was struggling. This lime is also struggling with fruit production. So far, both are limes are low on fruit. We’re still trying to figure this one out.
’08 Update – After changing the drip heads to a 1/4″ soaker line, the Bearrs lime seems much happier. Could ’09 be it’s break out year?
’09 Spring Update – Leaf growth and flowers are way up. It’s looks like our little lime is settling in.
This small tree is just perfect in a pot because it produces just enough leaves for cooking (the fruit is not really edible). It’s always grown well and it’s dry, shriveled looking fruit is a great conversation piece. The fragrant leaves make it even better to show off.
’08 Update – Ahhh. The damn leaf miner wiped out almost all of the leaves. Luckily the plant enjoys regenerating new ones, so everything is back and stronger than ever. Damn leaf miner.
’09 Spring Update – With the leaf miner battled back, the kaffir lime is looking great. More curries on the horizon!
Kalamansi Lime (Calamondin limes/oranges)
If you’ve never tastes a kalamansi, do yourself a favor and hunt one down, they are incredible. It’s kind of like a kumquat, only with a brighter, wonderfully floral taste. The Vietnamese will squeeze them into their fresh sugarcane juice drinks, and it can’t be beat. We are growing ours in a pot and it is incredibly happy. Leaf and fruit production is incredible. Unfortunately the local rodents seem to like it’s fruit quite a bit too. We are guarding diligently.
Another great little cocktail addition. This is the rodents like this one almost as much as the kalamansi. So do we, so the war is on. We refuse to let them rob us of our precious fruit.
Buddha’s Hand (Citron)
This is a very old variety of citrus. The fruit is incredible to see with all of it’s fingers. There is no juice, just rind and pith, but the rind is incredibly fragrant. This is a very cool citrus. It is often used as the rootstock for dwarf and semi-dwarf citrus. We are growing it just for it’s own beauty.
Yuzu – Japanese Citron
Yuzu is the citrus behind Japanese ponzu sauce. It is highly prized by the Japanese and can be difficult to get to flower and fruit, but we were taught a little secret by some Japanese gardeners. Let’s see it there is a payoff…
’09 Spring Update – Those Japanese gardeners knew what they were talking about! We have blossoms! We are up to 8 and counting. Yuzu! Yuzu! Yuzu!
The next majority in our fruit tree population belongs to the stone fruit family. Most all stone fruits require some, if not a lot of chill hours, but thanks to passionate horticulturists we now have many low chill varieties that are able to grow in our So. Cal climate. Especially thanks to Floyd Zaiger who developed the plout and our new addition of the necta-plum. That man has good tasting fruit!
Dapple Dandy Pluot
Also know as the dinosaur egg, this is one of our favorite pluots. It isn’t self-fertile so we had to get it a companion to help in develop fruit. That leads us to our next stone fruit, the Weeping Santa Rosa Plum.
Weeping Santa Rosa Plum
Diane’s Dad grew a regular santa rosa plum when she was a kid, and it still brings back salivating memories. We found this weeping variety that has long, willowy branches. When it grows up, it should be a stunner and great fruit producer. We have an arc to allow one side to casacade over a pathway. Beautiful!
Another incredible creation of Floyd Zaiger. This fruit hasn’t even hit most of the farmer’s markets yet. The leaves are a beautiful deep red, almost like an ornamental plum, but this puts out the fruit. We’re so excited to be amongst the first to grow it down here.
’09 Spring Update – The Zaiger’s weren’t 100% sure it would do well down here, but so far it looks great. It flowered well the flowers seem to be deveeloping into fruit. Can’t wait to taste it.
- Grilled white peaches w/honey balsamic glaze & homemade creme fraiche
- White Peach & Sorrel salad w/honey balsamic vinaigrette
Another victim of our clay soil. It doesn’t get the drainage it needs, so we’ve been adding gypsum to the soil every few months to help break down the soil. Hopefully, it’ll get enough doses of gypsum before it starts to flower in spring. The fruit that does produce also gets inundated with fruit flies that bore into the heart of the fruit. We’ll be treating it with something that reduces the fruit flies this spring.
’08 Update- The tree was small but it exploded with fruit. The pups ate more than we did. Still had a lot of bugs. We’ll have to get on that better before it flowers in ’09.
One of few trees we kept from the original owners, although when we moved in it was nothing like it is today. It had a nectarine grafted onto it as well, which unfortuneatly died off the year we moved in. That first year there was great fruit, albeit from a much small tree, but sice the nectarine half died off, the fruit has not been very tasty. We are thinking it just needs another pollinator, which hopefully when some of our other trees get bigger, the bees will make the journey from one stoner to another and delicious fruit will be restored. The tree itself is incredible. It’s grown tremendously after removing the competing plants and given it a little love. Even if we only get the annual flower show, we are happy.
Other Fruit Trees:
Haas Avocado –
The most challenging of them all. This is the 3rd huge, 24″ pot avocado that we planted. The first 2 died a miserable death in our heavy clay soil. We finally got smart and built a raised planter for better drainage. This current one is doing extremely better than the first two. We originally wanted 2 avocado trees, but are just settling on one, if we’re lucky. We won’t give up though. If this one does well, the next one will be grown in the exact same way. But the next one will be a Reed Avocado.
’08 Update- After we’ve put our poor avocado into the planter we built for it, things looked promising until a disease hammered about half of the branches. It’s been treated successfully and the branches that survived are sending out a lot of new growth. Keeping our fingers crossed for a successful comeback.
’09 Spring Update – Flower and even more importantly leaf production is up. Go little avocado, go!
Manila Mango –
This is one of our pride and joys because we were told mangoes are difficult to fruit in non-humid environment. They normally leaf out well, but fruit is limiting. But we did our research and planted this mango in a very well, drained soil area and it produces tons of fruit. Unfortunately the Southern California frost of 2007 literally KILLED this tree, leaving only the dry, shriveled trunk. But after some love, care and pruning, it has leaved out back to normal. Hopefully the spring of 2008 will bear some new flowers and fruit.
’09 Update – Not a lot of fruit last year, but lots of growth. Increasing the mulch in the planter has seemed to help a bit. It’s strength allowed it to escape a bit of frost this “winter”with no damage so far. Looking forward to spring to see what it is able to produce.
Century Asian Pear (2 trees)
Southern California does not get enough chill hours for all our pears to fruit much, but they are so pretty to look at. The slightly spotted branches, and the deciduous, color changing leaves makes the garden beautiful to look at. We might only get maybe about 3-10 fruit on each tree, but it’s still worth it because of it’s colors in Autumn.
Grafted Pear of 3 varieties-1 tree:
Bosh, Anjou & Bartlett – This has struggled for the past 5 years. We originally bought two and had grand visions of espalier-ing the branches to produce a magnificent Pear Trellis. But our clay soil killed the first one immediately and the second one still struggles to leaf out and fruit. Although the remaining one showed signs of a come back this last spring, it probably won’t ever fruit because of the lack of chill hours. We would be happy if it could just leaf out and show off it’s beautiful foliage.
’08 Update- Unfortunately this tree was our biggest casualty in ’08. It developed fire blight which then threatened the Asian pears as well. We decided to pull it and replace it this winter.
’09 Update- The replacement has been found. We got a Dapple Dandy pluot from propagated from Dave Wilson’s Nursery. Since it needs a pollinator, we also added a Weeping Santa Rosa plum, and while we were in the plant frenzy state, we also bought a new variety, a Spicy Zee Necta-Plum. Very excited. Pics and info to be added on this page soon.
Pomegranates (2 varieties: Green Globe and Wonderful)-
Both are in pots and do extremely well. Pomegranates in our area grow very easily and never seen to have a problem with fruiting. With both varieties producing lots of fruit in Autumn, we go crazy with our pomegranate cocktails!
-09 Update- These two beauties are going in the ground this year. We’ll be doing a little rearranging and adding more pathways and trellises.
-’09 Spring Update – The planters were finished just before the pomegranates started to leaf out. Now, a month later they are absolutely exploding. We can’t wait to see what the harvest is like this year.
- Pomegranite Cosmo Cocktail
- Fresh Pomegranite Juice
Giant Fuyu Persimmon
This tree is our latest challenge because it grows and flowers extremely well, but can’t hold on to the fruit. It produces hundreds of fruit, but very few of them are able to reach maturity. Most fruit die and fall of before they get to be half their intended size. This is another challenge we have to figure out before next spring arrives. It’s such a waste to see so much fruit drop. Maybe it’s too much watering.
’09 Update – We removed all of the competing plants on top of the persimmons roots, then landscape fabric-ed and added a layer of decorative rock. Then in order to still use the space for other plants, we finished off the plot with 5 pots to grow veggies and herbs (all on a drip lines.) We’ll see if that helps out the persimmon this year.
- Poached persimmons in rum w/mascarpone coconut cream
- Eating a very ripe Persimmon
This fig monster grows like a weed! It’s roots took off the day it got put into the ground. It doesn’t seem to be disturbed by the high clay soil content. This “Strawberry Fig” has a light green skin and pink insides. It’s mildly sweet and delicious to much on. Unfortunately the potato bugs in the garden love the fig, so it’s a race to see who gets to eat it first, us or the bugs. Other than that, it seems to be the most neglected tree (fertilizer wise), but it produces some of the most fruit. Go figure!
Our neighbor gifted us with a great coffee plant and what-do-ya-know, there’s coffee beans growing on it. We’re waiting to collect a decent batch and we’ll try our hands at roasting our harvested beans. Wish us luck!
This is a tree that grows well, provides beautiful green, shiny leaves but does not fruit well (at least where we are at in California). It was definitely worth the try, but if you’re in California and you want a similar, related fruit, then try growing Longans. Longans will fruit and are much better adapted to Southern California than the lychee.
’09 Update – We had a bit of a frost and the lychee was lost. We are in mourning for this wonderful fruit tree.
Carambola (Star Fruit)
The fruit from the carambola are so cute. When they are first developing it is easy to mistake them for leaves with their thin star shaped profiles. We’ve planted this is tree in a pot in our front courtyard. It seems quite happy getting good afternoon sunshine.
Our Garden Inventory:Here is a tally of what we have grown thus far, what has died, marginally survived and what is currently flourishing in our continually evolving garden.