Adding More Plants To The Edible Landscape

Adding More Plants To The Edible Landscape

new fig tree
Young one-year-old fig tree

I actually didn’t get as many new edible plants and trees this winter or spring as I have in past years, but I still probably got more than I really have room for.  Basically, my small urban backyard is getting too full and the family isn’t ready to give up the front yard lawn yet.  Since many of the neighbors on the block are changing over their lawns in the city’s Lawn to Garden program, our front yard has become one of the few left that are ideal spaces for kids to run and play on.  At any given time, there is six or seven kids out there running around in the shade, and sometimes none of them are even mine.  Therefore, for now, in order to put in new a edible landscape plant, I prefer to pull out something already growing, but I hate intentionally killing plants.  Nevertheless, I do have to do it sometimes.

This winter I did something drastic and ripped out my pretty Black Mission Fig tree.   I had good reason for doing it; it got really enormous, despite summer pruning.  It is a delicious variety, it just kept getting too big for my yard. I took the time to propagate the Black Mission Fig through cuttings first and managed to clone about 8 baby figs, so technically I didn’t kill it.   The new little figs trees went off with other gardeners and I made sure to forewarn them “Black Mission Fig turns into a very big tree.”  I still have one left in a pot, but it won’t stay a good fig for a pot for much more than a year or two.  It was a poor choice for us from the beginning, especially for the espaliering I was trying to do to it.  When I first planted the Black Mission years ago, I didn’t realize that figs have different growth potentials.  Without summer pruning, some figs get huge, like the Black Mission, some are standard-sized like Brown Turkey or Strawberry Verte growing to about 25 ft tall, and some stay a little smaller in the 10 to 15 ft range, like Black Jack, Celestial, and my little Violette De Bordeaux.  My 3-year-old Violette de Bordeaux Fig is much better behaved for the purpose of espaliering.  The VDB has grown really slow in comparison to the Black Mission which seemed to grow a foot every time I took a day or two off from gardening.

This winter I was generously given a Tena Fig and some cuttings of Mary Lane Fig by a fellow edible enthusiast, Kathy.  However, I don’t know a lot about either variety yet, like if they prefer inland heat more than my cool coastal conditions or how big they get without summer pruning.  I don’t mind doing some summer pruning on them, but I also don’t want to sacrifice production for size control.  For now, they are in pots in the driveway, getting watered regularly with my other plants from propagation projects.  Kathy said the Tena fig came from a cutting from the U.C. Davis germplasm and the Mary Lane Seedless fig originally came to her from her husband’s childhood home, having grown there from 1960 to 2006.  That tree was burned badly in the “Old Fire” in 2003, but they took cuttings prior to it finally dying in 2006.  I love that figs can be easily shared and passed on in families, carried from one home to the next.  I have yet to find room for the figs yet.  I doubt I can keep them happy in pots long enough for the kids to get all grown.

On a whim, I bought a Parfianka Pomegranate.  It was an impulse buy because I found it by accident for $6 at Sprouts natural foods grocery store of all places.  I had previously read (but not personally tasted) that it is one of the best flavored varieties and it is also supposed to be one of the smaller varieties of pomegranate trees.  So of course when I saw it so cheap, I just had to pick it up.  I am skeptical about the smaller size but hopeful it is true.  For now, I planted the little 2 quart-sized tree in a giant pot.  Yes, I did say 2-quart size; I am a patient gardener and don’t mind waiting a year or two to save a little money. I may end up planting in near the Sweet pomegranate and let the two grow together.   In the month I have had it is had doubled in size.  Does anyone else grow Parfianka and knows if is a bit smaller than other pomegranates or has an opinion on taste?

One fun new plant I got is a Kiwi Berry or Hardy Kiwi.  I splurged on an Issai Hardy Female Kiwi in a one-gallon pot.  It pained me to spend $17 on it, but it is reported to be self-fruitful.  Even if it isn’t able to self-pollinate, I figure since I already have a male Fuzzy Kiwi, which actually can pollinate Hardy Kiwi, I could give it a try.  My daughter loves Kiwis, and the one time we bought a box of hardy kiwis/ kiwi berries at Trader Joe’s, we liked them. However, we don’t know what variety they were so it is a gamble if we will like the taste of Issai Kiwi.  I was surprised when I noticed this morning that it actually is flowering already.  I have read this variety is precocious, but wow! It isn’t even here for a full season and it wants to get started making fruits. My Vincent took 6 years and my male Fuzzy Kiwi took 8 years to flower.  The Issai will get big, although not as big as my Vincent Fuzzy Kiwi, so I am going to have to build another trellis for it.

New grapevine to add to the landscape

And last but not least, is my new Neptune Grape, a hybrid of Vitis labrusca.  It is part of the Celestial series of grapes released by the Univ. of Arkansas Department of Agriculture.  My all-time favorite seedless purple grape, Jupiter, is one of their varieties, so I am hopeful I will like the Neptune just as well, especially since it is a little later ripening.  I really would have preferred to get a different new variety of Hybrid grape called Gratitude, based on the University’s description, but it isn’t available from any retail growers that can ship to California yet.  I am hoping someone in California Rare Fruit Growers has connections and can get their hands on it to see how it is around here.  I plan to put in the Neptune grape where my Fantasy Grape was over on the side yard by the hopscotch path, which is also where the Interlaken and Concord grow in the long narrow strip of the yard.

My Fantasy grape was the last of the European grape varieties, I planted a decade ago, that was still left in my yard.  Over the last four or five years, I have been removing all the Vitis vinifera one by one.  Most of them were unpredictable in their productivity here.  In the years that we had plenty of early summer fog, they did poorly, suffering from mildew, were less productive in producing fruit, etc.  As I replace the European Grapes, I choose varieties that have been reported to do well around humid or cooler climates like Puget Sound Washington, Oregon, or New York.

The Perlette was the first to go. Although it produced huge crops, it rarely sweetened up enough before it would have a few grapes crack, and then it would quickly be plagued with green fruit beetles which further damaged the fruit.  I tried picking the grapes on the Perlette a little on the early side, but they were slightly sour.  The Flame grape was the next to get the ax.  It wanted to grow what seemed like half a foot a day, even though it consistently suffered from powdery mildew by late summer.  Despite the mildew, it did produce a fair amount of grapes in some years.  The two-year-old Interlaken Seedless now occupies the spot where the Flame was originally.  The Fantasy and Black Monuka never set big enough crops to justify the amount of space they were taking up, and both were very vigorous.  Due to our lack of summer heat, neither was overly productive for us.  However, I did love the few grapes that they did produce and was sad to see them go.  When I wanted to plant my first Jupiter grape, I took out the Black Monnuka that occupied the same area.  The flavor and quality are just as good and it is doing so much better in that spot, so much so I probably will have to thin the crop this year.  To date, since choosing new hybrid grape varieties that were reported to do well in cool or coastal locations specifically, I have had much greater success with grapes.

Hanbury House Grapes ( all seem to be good choices for our cool coastal weather, especially our foggy summers:)

  • Interlaken Seedless (a very early season green hybrid grape in late June to early July)
  • Eastern Concord ( seeded purple grape that we usually pick in mid August)
  • Jupiter (seedless purple we usually pick from late July to Mid/late August.)
  • Canadice (seedless red, really sweet and early season, in early to mid July, but they continue to keep good quality of the vine for another month or so.)
  • Neptune (seedless green, supposed to be a mid season grape, ripening after Jupiter.)* Brand new/ No Report yet on how good it does in the local area.

* My neighbor, K, has good results with Glenora and Niabell

6 thoughts on “Adding More Plants To The Edible Landscape

  1. Hi Kristen,

    After the holidays, H & H usually has a nice selection to choose from of all the fruit trees you are interested in, but their fruit tree prices are about $5 higher than Lowes or Homedepot. H & H is comparable in price to Armstrong.

    If you find any bareroot trees at Home Depot or Lowes that you want, don’t forget double check the chilling hours in the Sunset Western Garden Book or online before buying. We have had a few years when my higher chill rated fruit trees, rated in the 400s, didn’t fruit very well or at all here near the coast. HD and Lowes stocks the same variety of trees for all climate zones, and the high chill selections don’t thrive here in SoCal. All my trees that only need 250 chill hours or less almost always flower and perform well. And a few of my best fruit trees did come from Target, Homedepot, and Lowes, so I don’t have anything against them or saving a little money at a big box store.

  2. Thanks for your reply!

    I’ll definitely check H&H for workshops. I need to look into buying our trees too, so will check with them as well. I want to plant peaches, figs, avocado, persimmon, lemon, lime, apple, and maybe a few more trees– but I have no idea how to plant or prune them. Sounds like the folks at H&H can help me out. Thanks for the reference 🙂

  3. I recently discovered your blog, I love it! I live in Huntington Beach so I’m basing all my planting off of your blog. Was going to get a black mission fig, but will now swap it out for the VDB. Do you have any resources for tree pruning? How to’s and stuff like that. Thank you for blogging, I’m just getting into edible gardening, I’m sure I’ll be reading your blog often.

    1. Hi Kristen,

      Thank you for the compliments!

      My favorite pruning book is an old book I bought at a used book store years ago called “Sunset Pruning Handbook.” It was published in the 70s, but the information is timeless. It has diagrams and lots of tips for different kinds of trees and shrubs. I think you could pick it up cheap at ebay,, Amazon, or any used book store for a buck or two or at the library. Also, most of the local independent nurseries offer workshops on pruning, especially in the late fall and early winter. By me, H & H in Lakewood hosts a workshop every winter with a speaker from Dave Wilson Nursery about backyard orchards. The year I attended it, the class included a brief demonstration on pruning the fruit trees. Dave Wilson Nursery also has a “Fruit Tube” channel on YouTube, and it has a few videos on pruning, but there are also lots of other good video clips from others there as well. Best wishes for your new fig tree. If you haven’t bought it yet, I know Armstrong and H & H are doing their pre-order bareroot fruit tree specials for another few weeks. That was how I got my Violette de Bordeaux fig. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. About ten years ago I planted a Black Jack fig. This is a natural dwarf, good for my back yard. It gives great shade for our hens during our 100+ days of summer (I’m in the Los Angeles area), and three crops of figs each season! The first crop is small, and the squirrels usually score before the fruit is ripe enough to pick.
    It stays a reasonable height, about 10 ft., and has a good spread on it. The fruit is delicious!

  5. You are such a wonderful gardener. I love reading about what you are doing. We would love to get rid of more lawn too. We have an area in mind in the back. I planted two blueberries and a raspberry this spring.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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