Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Grow your own fruit cocktail in your yard

Imagine a backyard garden where you can go outside and pick your favorite fruit, right off your own tree. Throughout the year, you have a plentiful supply of flavor-packed, homegrown food without worries about where’s it’s been, exposure to pesticides or carbon footprints.

Your kids delight in picking oranges in winter and cherries in spring. Juicy peaches start ripening in June. Shiny apples arrive in fall.

It’s a cornucopia of freshness, all in your own backyard, front yard, and through what’s called scion grafting, on a single tree.

That’s part of the appeal of “edible landscaping.” You can grow your own food, even if you have only a city-size plot of land. That’s especially true in the Sacramento area, where a wide range of fruit trees can thrive.

“People figure they’re using that water anyway, they might as well grow food,” said Drew Bohan of Carmichael. “Even if you’re on a water budget, you can have impressive savings (on food). And your neighbors will really like you.”

Bohan knows from experience. He’s among the organizers of Sunday’s annual Scion Exchange, hosted by the Sacramento chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers. The popular event will be held at La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael.

Attracting hundreds of local gardeners, the Scion Exchange has nothing to do with used Toyotas. Scion or budwood is the part of a tree that bears fruit. In winter, it’s grafted onto rootstock or a parent tree. Scion grafting allows one tree to bear several different varieties of fruit.

“For example, a homeowner with a yellow Golden Delicious apple tree might wish to graft red Gravenstein and green Granny Smith varieties onto it to expand the colors of the tree, the flavors of the apples produced and the number of weeks that the tree will produce fresh apples,” Bohan said.

Related stone fruit can be mixed and matched to create a “fruit cocktail tree.” With grafting, a single tree could bear plums, peaches, pluots, cherries, nectarines and apricots. Or one peach tree could bear five different varieties of peaches, with each kind ripening weeks or months apart.

“You can’t do much better than a peach,” Bohan said of his favorite backyard fruit. “My goal is to have peaches from early June through November; spread them out. That way, the fruit isn’t ripe all at once and you have a nice, long peach season to enjoy.”

Bohan grows more than 100 fruit trees, packed into a quarter-acre suburban landscape. He has his share of unusual fruit such as guavas and mulberries, but many more heirloom varieties of classic peaches, plums, apples and cherries.

With grafting, he keeps adding more to his harvest.

“You can get an awful lot of fruit off a few trees,” he said. “(With grafting), you can have more of your favorite varieties and still keep that tree in a small space.”

California’s prolonged drought, combined with renewed interest in growing food, has spurred suburban fruit growing.

“Absolutely,” Bohan said. “People want to grow their own food. During the drought, people started making the connection. They’re using a lot of water to irrigate their trees. Why not grow fruit? You can have an attractive landscape and also get a lot more out of it.”

Bohan has seen this transformation in his own neighborhood. “A growing number of our neighbors have started putting in fruit trees, including their front yards,” he said.

That’s prompted fruit swaps as neighbors share their bounty.

But first, you’ve got to get started. Experts at Sunday’s Scion Exchange will help novices pick out the right varieties of budwood to try as well as demonstrate how to graft.

“We’ll have hundreds of varieties and there’s no charge for anything – except for rootstock or grafting supplies – once you’re in the door,” Bohan said. “It’s really a good deal.”

Especially if you like fresh, home-grown fruit.

California Rare Fruit Growers’ Scion Exchange

Where: La Sierra Community Center, 5325 Engle Road, Carmichael

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17

Admission: $5 suggested donation

Details: drewbohan@yahoo.com, www.crfg.org

Highlights: Hosted by the Sacramento chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers, this popular event features budwood (scions) for dozens of fruit trees plus rootstock and grafting supplies. Experts will show how to create your own grafted fruit trees.

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