By Robert Burgess

Do you have to be an expert to grow your own fruit?

No, was the answer I learned during an Introduction to Home Orcharding class I took at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill several years ago (and that is being held again on April 14, 2018).

Robert’s homegrown pears.

My family had recently moved into a suburban neighborhood where our third of an acre plot had been cleared of trees by the previous owner. We wanted to plant new trees, and we figured they might as well make themselves useful and provide some nourishment.

We had never planted fruit trees before and weren’t clear where to begin. Which kind of fruit trees grow well in our area? How big will they get? How much maintenance will they require? Is it possible to grow any tree fruit organically? How long will it take to get our first fruit? Where should we buy our fruit trees? How and where do we plant them?

There are college majors dedicated to this topic. There are hundreds of books. Farmers pass their expertise onto the next generation. It all felt a bit overwhelming. Maybe we should just plant the typical ornamental trees that feature prominently in yards across New England, we wondered.

That’s when we discovered Introduction to Home Orcharding was being offered at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill. It was just a few hours on a Saturday morning. That seemed like a good place to start.

Benjamin Crouch, the instructor, provided the confidence us students needed to try growing fruit trees ourselves and the resources to learn more later on. I saved his hand out and still refer back to it when I need to double check something he taught us.

Now my landscape includes five apple trees, three peach trees, a crab apple tree, two pear trees, three cherry trees, two pawpaws, and a hardy fig. (We also planted hazelnuts, raspberries, grapes, blackberries, blueberries, wild raisins, serviceberries, rosa rogusa, chokeberries, cranberries, and gooseberries.)