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Backyard orchard

  • Colby Eierman trims the three plum trees of different varieties that he has in his Napa backyard. The trees are planted in one hole and are pruned to grow out. May 30, 2012.

Colby Eierman manages one of the most exquisite farms in Sonoma County.

The organic gardens he oversees at Sonoma's Stone Edge Farm are painted with colorful heirloom fruits and marigolds and artfully laid out among stone walls and wild-willow trellises — an idealized vision of the growing life that would make even Martha Stewart swoon.

But most people aren't blessed, as Stone Edge owners Mac and Leslie McQuown are, with the fertile acreage to support allees of pear trees and groves of silver-leafed Manzanillo olive trees alongside their vineyards.

Most folks, like Eierman, live on smaller parcels, in suburban neighborhoods or on urban lots. But Eierman, who grew up in Sonoma County and now lives on a quarter-acre lot in Napa, says you don't need a lot of land to have your own orchard. A backyard will do.

Careful selection of drawf and semi-dwarf varieties, proper planting and good pruning can enable anyone to grow fruit trees, even if all you can manage is a dwarf lemon tree in a pot or an espaliered apple tree in a container.

"If you're going to plant something, why not have it be something you can eat?" said Eierman, a proponent of edible landscapes and the author of a new book, "Fruit Trees in Small Spaces: Abundant Harvest from Your Own Backyard" (Timber Press).

Eierman first became enamored with vegetable gardening growing up in Sonoma County. But it wasn't until he was at the University of Oregon studying landscape architecture and got involved in an urban garden that he planted his first fruit trees and started incorporating them into his designs.

"Planting a fruit tree," he wrote, "feels optimistic and kind."

Eierman later served as director of sustainable agriculture for Benziger Family Winery and director of gardens for the former COPIA Center for Food, Wine and the Arts in Napa.

"I see the book and the whole topic as definitely part of the broader edible-landscaping and garden-to-table and local-food concepts. It isn't just about fruit. It's about growing more of what we eat much closer to home," he said.

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