Patti Bess: Planting your own fruit trees in Nevada County |

Patti Bess: Planting your own fruit trees in Nevada County

Patti Bess

My father stacked the boxes of peaches and then retreated into the bowels of his garage to avoid the commotion.

I can close my eyes and still smell warm ripening peaches on the back porch of my parents' house.

The day my Irish grandmother came to help can peaches was one of the highlights of summer.

My mother took this task very seriously, but my grandmother had a silly side.

My sisters and I would crouch under the dinette table captivated with this trickster.

When an unthinkable swear word would slip out of her mouth, we dissolved into giggles and were promptly sent outside.

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The real joy was, in the dead of winter, to be awakened on a Sunday morning by smell of peach pie in the oven.

When the price of fresh fruit edges toward $3 dollar a pound, it's time to plant your own.

Now is the perfect time of year to plant bare root trees.

It is encouraging to see this tradition of having a few fruit trees on one's property coming back, especially here in the Foothills.

Peaches and nectarines from the supermarket are picked early enough to safely ship and store.

They are sometimes mushy and somewhat disappointing if you've tasted fresh ones.

Picked at their peak of ripeness, they are like eating sweetened sunshine.

"Growing a few fruit trees is not as difficult as one might think," stated Karen Bansemer, a horticulture consultant who teaches classes at Prospector's Nursery in Nevada City.

Her specialty is fruit trees and Japanese maples. Karen has worked in the nursery business for more than 30 years.

"In Nevada County, the elevation changes dramatically. You must choose the right tree for your location," Bansemer said. "You can grow apples, figs, and peaches in Nevada City; but plums and apricots would be better in South County.

Here are some of Bansemer's suggestions for choosing and caring for your new tree:

• Talk with your nurseryman about preparing our "less than perfect" Sierra soil for planting. Choose a location where your tree will receive a minimum of 6-8 hours of sun each day.

• To avoid insect damage, paint the bottom third of the trunk with a white or light interior paint mixed with water.

• Make sure you know if the tree is self-pollinating or needs another one for pollination.

• Ask the nurseryman how much to prune before planting or have them do it for you. The fruit should be picked the first year to allow a stronger root system to develop.

• Plan to give your tree a good, deep watering at the drip line twice per week the first year.

If you want to learn more about planting, feeding and watering your fruit trees, Bansemer has prepared a class syllabus which is available free at Prospector's Nursery in Nevada City.

One helpful website for learning more about fruit trees is

Bansemer can be reached for consultations at 530-272-5298. Her class on Japanese Maples will be held at Prospector's Nursery in June.

Pin this recipe to the refrigerator to remind you of the taste of summer that's coming soon.

Until your trees mature, your farmers markets and several local growers have tree-ripened fruits available as well as some U-pick farms.

Blueberry Peach Cobbler

One half cup plus one tablespoon butter, divided

One and a quarter cups whole wheat pastry flour

One tablespoon baking powder

One quarter teaspoon salt

One half cup sugar

Three quarters cup milk

Four cups washed, sliced peaches

One and half cups fresh or frozen blueberries

One quarter to one half cup sugar or two tablespoons honey

Two tablespoons lemon juice

One tablespoon almond extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan melt butter setting aside one tablespoon for later. Allow to cool.

Measure and add together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the milk and melted butter to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.

Add the peaches and blueberries to a 6×9-inch baking pan.

Using the same saucepan, melt the tablespoon butter and add the honey, lemon juice, and almond extract just to warm through. Pour this mixture over the blueberries and peaches and mix to combine.

Spoon the cobbler dough evenly over the fruit. Bake 45 to 55 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and cookbook author. She has written for more than 30 magazines nationwide.


You can find bareroot fruit trees at these locations:

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply — 125 Clydesdale Court, Grass Valley

Prospectors Nursery — 10003 Granholm Lane, Nevada City

Hills Flat Lumber — 380 Railroad Ave., Grass Valley

Nevada County Farm Supply — 17115 Penn Valley Drive, Penn Valley

Weiss Brothers Nursery — 615 Maltman Drive, Grass Valley

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