woven basket filled with fruit under a tiny fruit-bearing tree, in a green backyard with a stone path in the background
Photo: Saxon Holt
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Homegrown Fruit on a Manageable Scale

Luscious, sun-ripened peaches...crisp, juicy apples...sweet, velvety-fleshed pears. The allure of homegrown fruit leads many of us to plant a tree or two. Problem is, just a few years later, we find we've bitten off more than we can chew with large, challenging-to-prune trees that produce substantial quantities of fruit. One 'Santa Rosa' plum tree, for example, stands 15 feet tall and wide and produces about 700 pieces of fruit, much of it too high to reach without a ladder, over just a few weeks; same with peach, pear, and apple trees. That's fine if you're a commercial grower, but not if you just want a few fresh-picked plums.

Luckily there's a simple, innovative way to keep fruit trees at people-height, with all the harvest within arm's reach. By relying on a very specific pruning schedule, this method also allows you to grow more kinds of fruit over a longer harvest season in a small area. That same plum tree, pruned in this way, would stand 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide when mature, could be pruned from ground level in about 15 minutes, and might yield 100 full-size fruits by the third year—enough for a small family, with some to share. For all the how-to details, keep reading.

Shown: Kept small with timed pruning, this 'Fuji' apple tree stands about 4 feet high and wide and produces an ample crop of full-size fruits.
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