Posts Tagged ‘help’


Support City People’s to support City Fruit


City People’s Garden Store in Madison Valley is a locally owned and operated community garden store. Since opening in 1988, we have been committed to offering a wide selection of quality plants and organic and natural products to help you grow them. With over 15,000 square feet, the outdoor nursery is an urban oasis!

City People’s strives to give back to our communities who have so generously supported us over the years. Through donations and marketing avenues we support organizations that help us grow healthy communities in the areas of environment and gardening, education and youth programs, and food security.

This winter the Garden Store is concentrating support toward City Fruit through the sale of bare root fruit shrubs and trees.* 10% of the proceeds from the sale of these items through March will go to City Fruit. We will also host City Fruit workshops this month and throughout the year (details below, and on the calendar).

Bare root berries are coming from Peaceful Valley Farm, an organic farm in California; raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, and currants, plus rhubarb, jerusalem artichoke, & asparagus. We are excited about this new organic vendor who use no sprays (including biological sprays), making sure not to harm any critters – especially fragile bees and butterflies.

Bare root trees from Mt Vernon, Washington and Mallala, Oregon include:
Apples – dwarf, columnar, espaliered & 4-way combo varieties
Pears - espaliered & 4-way combos
Cherries - including several dwarf varieties
Hardy Nectarine - dwarf
<& Plums, Figs, Meyer Lemons, Honeyberry, Kiwi, Japanese Pepper, Goumi, Grape and Hops!

City People’s Garden Store’s bare root fruit selection will be arriving the first week of February. Come early for the best selection!

* Buying bare root plants is an affordable way to grow your edible garden as you are buying only the plant and not the soil or the pot.

Don’t forget to check out City People’s Garden Store’s fruit-related talks coming this spring:
Registration is required. To sign up for a workshop, send an email to or call the store (206) 324-0737.

Winter Fruit Tree Pruning
Sunday, February 9th, 11 am – noon
Winter fruit tree pruning can improve overall health and appearance and can increase fruit production. This class, co-sponsored by City Fruit, discusses pruning tools, basic biology behind pruning fruit trees, basic cuts and how to stimulate fruit production.

Planting Fruit Trees
Sunday, February 16th, 11 am – noon
Getting your fruit tree off to a healthy start means buying a healthy tree and planting it correctly. Root health is critical for tree health, and this class demonstrates the key considerations in planting a new tree. Bare root trees will be available and a portion of purchases of fruit will go to CityFruit. Instructor Jana Dilley is the Program Manager for the City of Seattle’s reLeaf program and is a certified arborist.

Pollinators — Mason Bees, Honey Bees & Others
Sunday, March 9th, 11 am – noon
Learn why pollinators are critical to fruit production, why mason bees are helpful in the Pacific Northwest rain, and how to encourage pollinators in your yard and orchard. This workshop is co-sponsored by City Fruit.


City Fruit-Cycle: Drop off your fruit every Wednesday at Bike Works

City Fruit is kicking off a new initiative in which we encourage homeowners to harvest their own fruit, drop it off with us, and we’ll make sure it gets to one of our many food banks partners.

We are so psyched to be partnering with Bike Works to provide this community resource. Bike Works has been working for kids, bikes, and community since 1996. Their programs invest in young people and encourage bicycling as a clean and healthy transportation alternative. Check them out!

Our lovely fruit trike will be parked out in front of Bike Works in Columbia City on Wednesdays from 3:30-6:30 pm during the Columbia City Farmers Market.  Come on by with your extra fruit and help us get this initiative off the ground.

Wanna volunteer? We need people to help staff our fruit cycle on Wednesdays from 3:30pm-6:30pm. Contact if interested.



Ask Don & Jon: Fruit Q&A

[Even though this is no longer active, we posted the archive below because we think the information is useful.]

These two guys know a lot about fruit, fruit trees, pest prevention, etc, and they’ve graciously agreed to try to answer any questions you have. 



Dear Don & John,
Not a fruit question, but what’s with the new name?
Thanks, James


Hi James,
As you know, we’ve done a few Q&A pieces on this blog, answering people’s questions about their fruit trees, fruit shrubs, and, well, fruit. Well, turns out that there’s actually a company called The Fruit Guys and because of that, we’re changing the name to Fruit Q&A with Don & John. Same idea — you ask questions, we answer them — just a different name.

I do want to talk about The Fruit Guys, though. They were very nice in contacting us to let us know about their company and they care about the same stuff we do. From their site:

“The FruitGuys provides fresh seasonal fruit from local farms to thousands of American businesses, from small family-run businesses to major Fortune 500 corporations…We consider ourselves fortunate to work with customers who share our ideals about health, the environment, and our communities. The FruitGuys launched our Farm Steward Program in April 2008 to support sustainable small family farming. We donate 88,000 pounds of fresh fruit a year (more than 7,000 pounds a month) to non-profit groups and regional food pantries nationwide, such as Somethin’ Fresh. With your support, we sent over 7,000 pieces of fresh fruit to food-banks and programs for families in need over the winter holidays with our Donate-A-Crate Program.”

Seems like a great company and we’re happy to have made their acquaintance.
Learn more at

  • Don & John




Hi Don & John,
I garden at Greenwood P-Patch, where we have a row of blueberries along our garden’s western edge. Unfortunately, the planters did not gauge the light level correctly, and most of the trees have failed to thrive and set fruit.

We have about six bushes that look healthy. They plan to eventually move them into garden plots, where they will get more light and presumably do better. I have six gardeners who have pledged to put their mud boots on and move the bushes while they are dormant.

My question concerns the remaining bushes, which are in very poor condition–stunted with yellow leaves. I’ve pulled out several dead bushes while weeding. How can I tell if these bushes are likely to survive? Once the other bushes are moved, it may be possible to move the sick bushes to areas in the row with more light.

Thank you,


Hi Debby,
We have seen some blueberry plants set tasty fruit in the shade, but the fruit will be more abundant in the sun. Blueberries can do well in shade, but need water and a soil that is acidic — yellow leaves is usually an indication of too alkaline a soil. You also would need a primarily organic soil as you cannot compost, wood chip, sawdust, etc. too much with these plants.

Also be sure to keep the weeds away. Pull weeds, do not hoe or dig up the soil near the plants as they have a very shallow root system. You can also use a low nitrogen fertilizer early in season (Feb-May) and keep things damp. As I mentioned earlier compost heavily, or wood chips are welcomed. Water is the biggest restriction with these plants.
Here’s a great video we found that has a great overview of blueberry care:  Blueberry Plant Care Video
With that work, hopefully the remaining blueberry bushes can make a come back. Hope that helps and good luck with the p-patch!


  • Don & John




Dear Don & John,
My neighbor and myself grow both Red Currants and Gooseberries. This year we both have a bumper crop of fruit setting on our healthy, leafy bushes. We were very excited, until we noticed that something (an insect?!) has carefully laid eggs in every single berry. You can visually see the damage on the outside of the not-yet ripe fruit and inside there is a small, white grub growing.

What pest would do this to Ribes family fruit and what can we do to discourage this is future years?


Hi Rachel,

Thanks for writing in. We don’t get many currant or gooseberry questions!

You’re instinct about the problem being an insect is probably correct. Currants and gooseberries are usually a pain to grow here because of the Currant Fruit Fly which actually is a small fly which hits the fruit, and the Currant Sawfly which is not a fly but a type of wasp whose larvae look like currant-leaf-colored caterpillars. There’s also a small chance it could be the Spotted Wing Drosophila (which they recently found in WA), but we suspect the larva is more likely the Currant Fruit Fly, pictured here.


The good news is that there is a non-chemical way to address this issue. You should immediately pick all fruit and remove it from the area – I wouldn’t recommend eating any of them, although if you only juice the fruit, you can still pick clean now and process.

The reason for removing them from the area is that the larvae drop to the ground and overwinter under the bushes, much as apple maggots burrow into ground under apple trees. Removing all the infected fruit may cut the life cycle enough such that you get a clean crop next year.

And while you can share this information with your neighbor, there’s no telling what the rest of your neighborhood might be doing and there may be infested currants in your area which are not managed and these can re-infest your fruit next year. One way to help against that is to net the shrubs with a fine mesh just after pollination but before fruit begins to form.

If you want to determine exactly which insect it is, save a handful of fruit, place in large Ziploc bag, store on kitchen counter, keep beady eye on it and see who emerges. If a small vinegar fly emerges in a couple weeks or so, you have the Spotted Wing Drosophilia. If no one emerges or rice-sized pupae are seen, you have the fruit worm which won’t emerge until next year.

Hope that helps and good luck with the berries!

  • Don & John



Dear Don & John,

I actually have two questions built in to one request.

1. My inherited apple tree (variety yet unknown) has some kind of disease causing the leaves on many branches to curl and look nasty. How do I treat it without chemicals? Is it too late?

2. Do you know where the best place is to get a reasonably priced orchard ladder (tri-pod style)? Those things are crazy expensive.




Hi Mark,

Thanks for writing in. It looks like you get a 2-for-1 special today!

Your apple tree probably has apple scab, causing some leaf curl and color distortion and you can read all about how to manage scab organically on the Pests and Diseases page. We’ve got some suggested sprays and techniques listed there.

However, if your leaves are tightly curled upward that could be a sign of a new insect, the Apple Leaf Curl Midge, that’s been coming down from British Columbia, Canada. The damage is caused by the new larva feeding on the leaves – which can lead to distorted limb growth, premature leaf dropping, etc. Luckily there is no evidence of reduced quality of fruit.
For a mature tree, you should be safe to ignore it. For a 1 or 2 year old tree, remove affected leaves to try to save others from curl since it is thought to have 2 generations per year here. We would anticipate that parasitoids will slowly catch up with it and keep it in check.

With regards to the orchard ladders, yeah, they can definitely be pricey but worth it. You should probably be able to get by with a 6-8’ ladder unless your tree is really tall. We’ve found Tallman to be an excellent brand generally, which you can sometimes find used. For new, we purchased ladders for City Fruit at Horizon in Bellevue, WA, but Wilson Irrigation in Yakima is also a good bet.

Hope that helps and good luck with the apple tree!

  • Don & John


Dear Don & John,

An apple tree on my block is 20-25 years old, pretty much neglected, but has a good crop of apples. I haven’t looked at it closely this spring until today, and was dismayed to see that the apples are all junk – see the photo.

What is the cause of this distortion? The leaves generally look OK, though there are a few curled and gray.

What can I do to help this tree?


Hi Barb,
The photo is great and always helps us provide a more accurate diagnosis. We think there are a couple things going on with your apples.

First, the spots on your apples are probably due to “scab” – a varying collection of fungus. The fact that the apple tree is older and has been neglected doesn’t help, but the wet weather probably had something to do with this as well, giving the fungus more time to establish itself on the fruit.

While problematic, there are organic solutions. The first step is to remove all old leaves from beneath the tree in the fall and put them in the yard waste container, or bury them. Prune out affected twigs, which bear small, blister-like pustules, and put them in the yard waste. Do both of these things in late winter or early spring, before growth begins in the tree.

There are also several organic spray options including sulfur, lime-sulfur, or Bordeaux mixture (copper sulfate plus lime) applied early in the growing season. These are readily available at most nurseries. Spray as soon as the buds show green. And since scab likes damp weather, spray every week until midsummer if the weather is dry. If the summer is wet, spray until 30 days before harvest.

The dimpling on the apples is more difficult to figure out, but it’s most likely a pollination problem – which is a more difficult problem to solve this season. It would be good if you get a lot of bees or other pollinators, as that would help ensure good pollination. Otherwise, next season when the flowers are blooming, take a small brush and a container, shaking some pollen free from the flower, and then using the brush to then apply it to other flowers.

Hope that helps and thanks for writing in!

  • Don & John



Dear Don & John,
I was cleaning up the ground and fertilizing some of the fruit trees this weekend and I noticed something really odd. All of the plum trees are acting like it’s fall. Several species, all very mature and prolific full-sized trees, have started yellowing and dropping their leaves. 50-60% of the leaves seem to have turned yellow almost overnight. The leaves have brown spots and drop in droves at a simple shake of a branch. I looked for signs of mold or insect damage, but didn’t see anything obvious. They just act like it’s fall.

None of the other fruit trees (cherries, apples, pears, fig) have this issue, though all are suffering somewhat from the weird weather.

Does this have to do with the funky weather we’ve been having? Please help!



Hi Aaron,
You did all the right things in checking what you did. Those are good steps.

And while plum trees in general aren’t producing as much as they did last year, we don’t think the weather is the culprit here, but rather some sort of fungal infection – but it’s difficult to tell without actually seeing the leaves ourselves.

Our best guess is that the fertilizer might be the trigger here. Fruit trees in the Pacific Northwest tend not to need too much fertilizer beyond specific nutrients. But too much nitrogen can spur excessive growth, leaving the tree susceptible to fungal infections.

So we suggest holding off on the fertilization for now and seeing what impact that has on the tree in a few weeks. With all fungal infections, it’s a good idea to pick up all the fallen leaves and put them in the yard waste bin – not your home compost or the disease can spread there.

While you might not get a good crop this year, you can most likely improve the quality of the tree health for next year. In the fall, the tree could benefit from a good pruning – targeting the parts of the tree that were infected this year. This should help the tree produce new growth in the spring.

Fungal infections also benefit from various sprays. Because we can’t identify which fungal infection your tree might have, we suggest bringing in a leaf sample to the Center for Urban Horticulture on any Monday from 4pm – 8pm. They have experts on hand who should be able to more accurately identify which fungus is affecting your tree and then recommend the appropriate organic spray – which would be applied next spring.

Hope this helps and thanks for writing in.

  • Don & John



Don Ricks has been leading the charge on applying foot socks to apples & pears throughout the city. While Don shies away from the term “expert”, he’s very knowledgeable about fruit trees and pest prevention. He’s very involved with the Friends of Piper’s Orchard and sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.

John Reardon is a long-time member of the Seattle Tree Fruit Society and has spent many years helping educate and inform people on the proper methods for caring for fruit trees. He also sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.


September Report

     I want to talk about the Piper Harvest Fest, but first a side note on the weather.
    We have had weeks and weeks now with no rain….as long as you have been watering the newly planted trees and container trees, then you will have no problem.   In fact, just as there is a silver lining behind every cloud there is also a silver lining behind havng  no clouds as well.    You see,  Seattle has had an over-abundance of water the past few years.   It is nice to see some dry weather (for a change) and give the trees a breather from all the fungal diseases that have been plaguing these trees during the wet weather we have been overly plagued with.

      But the main emphasis of this post is this:   The Piper Orchard Festival of Fruit on Sept. 15th, Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be at Carkeek Park again this year.   Please consider being there. (see website for directions)
     Not only is this a chance to meet people from the Tree Fruit Society, and to meet Gail Savina, or to see a cider press in operation or to sample  baked backyard pies  or to have your fruit identified by Dr. Rob Norton.    But on top of all of this, there is a chance to hear  a world-class teacher, Tim Smith from Wenatchee.  Tim Smith  will be there to talk about backyard techniques for improving backyard organic fruit growth.     Tim knows a lot about a lot. As a side note, he helped pioneer one of the few organic pesticides GF 120 NF and I (Don Ricks) will have some of this product there at the festival to be seen by anyone interested   with the further offer  to help people with this product for year 2013 if they are interested.

         Please consider coming.


mid-August report

1. Congrats to Gail Savina and Ingela Wanerstrand who did a good job answering questions on KUOW this past week. Being live ain’t always easy to do, but they fielded questions nicely.

2. Remember to water. Especially newly planted trees and berries, shrubs or trees in containers. The heat will dry things out. Water.

3. Someday if you are up in the Mt. Vernon area you might drop by and look at the trees and berry bushes at the Mt. Vernon research center. On Saturday, August 18th, several speakers will be there as well talking on fruit-related subjects. I have mentioned the Master Gardeners, the Answer Line, Seattle tilth in previous blogs. The Mt. Vernon Research Center is just one more resource to help the backyard gardener.



July report

A new pest is making its way to the Seattle area……the brown marmorated stink bug….but since I over-estimated the damage that would be done by the spotted wing drosophilia (which is, though, a real problem)…..I want to be more cautious as to say what to expect from this new “stinker”… is not here en masse yet, may never be, and we will “watch and see”.

On a  different note, let me mention two more services where one can get help with gardening questions.
One is the Seattle Tilth Garden Hotline M-F 9- 5 p.m. 206-633-0224

And another is the “Plant Answer Line” associated with the University of Washington Miller Library    206-897-5268
Try the Seattle Tilth line for basic questions and the Plant answer line for more technical research.


Burke-Gilman Stewards Put Footies on Trees

We talk a lot about ways to help prevent and manage pests and diseases on fruit trees. Afterall, the fewer pests & diseases, the healthier the tree, and, as a result, the better the fruit.

In addition to encouraging and educating home owners to take care of their own trees, the Fruit Tree Stewards have done a great job making sure that trees within parks and other urban orchards are protected. One example of that is the Burke-Gilman Fruit Tree Stewards (did you know fruit trees were along the Burke-Gilman trail?) — they’ve been super active caring for the fruit trees along the trail and most recently applied a bunch of bags on the low-hanging fruit on some trees. And using some footies City Fruit is supplying, they’re in the process of finishing off the trees by adding additional footies to the fruit higher up.

Their work is turning these previously neglected trees into productive, healthy trees that produce tasty, beautiful fruit.

Interested in learning more about how to apply footies or bags to your fruit trees to help keep pests away? Check out this video from our resident fruit tree expert, Don Ricks. As you can see it’s super simple.


June Fruit Tree Tip: Thin Fruit Now

If you’re like us, you’re getting excited for the upcoming fruit harvest. I can’t help but continually check out our fruit trees to watch the progress of our fuit — apples, pears, plums all getting bigger. And by now, your apples and pears should be the size of a quarter (or larger), and hard as it is to contemplate, it’s time to ruthlessly remove much of the fruit (called ‘thinning’).

This activity helps the fruit tree focus its energy to a fewer number of fruit, making those fruit that are left larger and tastier. Would you rather have a lot of small, bland fruit or slightly fewer fruit that are of good size and taste? It’s not just about this year though — leaving fruit on the branch means that you get smaller fruit this year and less fruit next year. So thin your fruit now for both short-term and long-term benefits.

In this short video, Tom Thornton of Cloud Mountain Farm, shows how and tells why to do this.


Another wonderful way to use your rhubarb!

Our plants are more productive than ever….and am I glad! The New York Times’ Dining section had a great recipe for Rhubarb Ice Cream with a Caramel Swirl.

Rhubarb Ice Cream with a Caramel Swirl
1 hour 15 minutes plus chilling and freezing time
• 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
• 1 and 3/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
• Pinch fine sea salt
• 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
• 4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
• 1 and 1/2 cups sour cream
• 3/4 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, whisk together the milk, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, vanilla bean seeds and its pod. Simmer gently until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and steep 30 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod and return mixture to a bare simmer.
Place the yolks in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in hot milk mixture. Scrape the custard back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Whisk in sour cream. Chill at least 3 hours or overnight.
In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb with 1 cup sugar. Simmer until rhubarb is just tender and has begun releasing its juices, but has not started to fall apart, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to a bowl. Continue to simmer the juices until syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes more. Pour the syrup over the rhubarb. Cool completely.
In a clean, dry and preferably nonstick skillet, sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over medium heat. When it begins to melt and lightly color, sprinkle in 2 more tablespoons and start swirling pan to help evenly distribute sugar. Add the final 2 tablespoons and cook, swirling pan until all the sugar has melted. Let cook, swirling occasionally, until the sugar syrup caramelizes and turns dark brown. Pour in the heavy cream and 2 tablespoons water (stand back; it may splatter). Simmer, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula until smooth. Cool completely.
Pour the custard base into an ice cream machine and churn. Add rhubarb compote for the last minute of churning.
Scrape a quarter of the caramel into the bottom of a freezer-proof quart container. Top with a quarter of the ice cream. Repeat layering until all of the caramel and ice cream has been used, ending with the ice cream. Freeze until firm for at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.
YIELD one scant quart


Mid-May report

The codling moth is starting to fly. If you have an apple tree consider using a solution that will attract and drown this pest at this time.
Also consider talking to your local nurseryman about getting a product that has either neem oil or kaolin clay or spinosad in it and how to apply one of these products  to protect your fruit.    I recommend getting  the spinosad product because if you have a plum tree then later this summer you may need it.
The apple maggot barriers can be applied when the apples reach the size of a marble. For most people this will be late May or early June.   There will be an early work party at the Good Shepherd Center on May 23rd from 5 to 8 pm. for those interested. Come and help protect some apples and see how it is done.

Address: 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North
We will be working on the Seattle Tilth lot and in the parking lot more to the south side of the building.


April Report

An abnormally wet and cool March…..geesh !   Maybe if I post this on April 2nd (rather than April 1st) people will know I am not joking when I say the weather should improve.
Fruit trees need a decent Spring and Seattle hasn’t enjoyed any of those in the past few years…but there are “silver linings” behind these grayish  clouds. For one, pest populations have been retarded. Also, cold hardiness of the buds has been promoted. Further, delayed blossoming will help reduce the chances of any devastating freeze coming after blossom time.
Some plum trees have already blossomed. However most of the apple and pear trees I have observed are still in such pre-blossom stages as those called “green tip” or “tight cluster”. And thus, these trees  should do well the 2nd week of  April when we start to get some sun…and some blooms….and with temperatures near 60 degrees we might even dare hope for some bees as well.

On April 14th, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. the Piper’s Orchard will host a work party for those interested in hands-on learning on the subjects of hand pollination,  mating disruption of codling moth,  mason bee pollination and trichogramma wasps.
All are welcome…bring gloves and something to drink.


Seattle Orchards: Martha Washington Park

[This exerpt is the first in a series about Seattle orchards from Seattle's Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It's a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

The origins of the surviving historic orchards are connected to the rich narratives of the early settlement and development of Seattle communities since the late 1800s. Many of these historic orchards contain a diversity of tall heirloom varieties, instead of the semi-dwarf or dwarf, specialized and standardized varieties. Some of the orchards that were planted recently have heirloom varieties, but they are mostly semi-dwarf or dwarf species. The eleven orchards are only a few of the vast network of fruit trees that spreads across Seattle.

Apple and cherry trees at Martha Washington Park; photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Like many of the other orchards in Seattle, the orchard at Martha Washington Park has a rich history. The pioneer E.A. Clark, Seattle’s third schoolteacher was the first settler to own the land, but he soon sold it to settler David Graham in 1855, who then sold it to his brother Walter Graham ten years later. Graham was a horticulturist and planted the orchard found here.

The location of Graham’s land was close to the cable and trolley cars that traveled to the city center, which enabled easy transport of their harvested produce into town to sell. Graham ended up selling his land to Asa Mercer, who is known for sending two groups of maidens north to Seattle to help meet the demand for single settlers had for wives. Graham met Mercer because he married one of Mercer’s young women. However, Mercer ended up selling the piece of property to John Wilson soon after as payment for a loan because he went bankrupt after sending his second shipment of brides.

In 1889, Wilson sold the piece of land to Everett Smith, an attorney who was the clerk for Judge Thomas Burke. Smith later sold the property to the Seattle School District in 1920, which turned the property into the Martha Washington School for Girls in order to provide resident supervision for delinquent girls. In 1957, the state of Washington took over care of the site, and in 1972 the City of Seattle acquired the land.

Map of Martha Washington Park locationToday there are nine cherry and apple trees left on the property, cared for by SPD and community members. Jim Kramer, one of the community orchard stewardssays that many of the trees do not have harvestable fruit because they have apple maggot flies, which they are trying to counteract by putting nylon socks on the individual pieces of fruit.Kramer states that since these trees are very old, the fruit is 30 feet up in the air and not very accessible. One of the main tasks to accomplish in the next three or four years is to do major pruning in order to encourage fruit production lower on the tree. Kramer hopes that they will also be able to plant more fruit trees at the site in the future.


Nudging your neighbors

We get asked a lot, “My neighbors have a beautiful fruit tree that they never harvest, what should I do?”  Sometimes it’s more like, “I WOULD have great fruit if only my neighbors wouldn’t leave THEIRS to rot all over the ground!” or “They have this tree that hangs out over the sidewalk and and drops fruit everywhere so no one can get by and it gets all over your car and shoes and…”

Calm down people!  Here’s what to do: First, take a deep breath.  Remember this nugget of wisdom: People aren’t lazy, they’re exhausted.  Your neighbors are probably too busy to even think about that fruit, or maybe they see it in passing and think I should do something about that… but they’re already off to whatever’s next.  But that’s why City Fruit exists.  We take all that fruit that people are too busy for, and give it to people who really need it, meanwhile, cleaning up your rotting fruit problem!

Now it’s time to talk to your neighbors, and it’s best to be prepared.  Find out ahead of time who to contact, and write it down.  I’ll make it easy for you:

Think about what to say.  We reccomend keeping it positive, leaving out your annoyance altogether, and focusing on helping people in need.  Here’s a script:

“I noticed you have a fruit tree in your yard that isn’t fully harvested.  I wanted to let you know about an organization called City Fruit that harvests neighborhood fruit trees and donates the produce to organizations in Seattle that help people in need. Would you be interested in that?  I wrote down the email address here.”

This could go a couple of ways:

  • “That’s great!  We’ve been so busy lately.”  Good job, you’ve rescued the fruit!  Make some small talk.  Maybe check in a week later, since they’re busy people and may have forgotten.
  • “How does it work?” It’s OK if you don’t know the details.  Here’s the basics: We scout the tree to see when it’s ripe, then organize a volunteer work party.  The owner can decide to be there or not, and we schedule harvests daytime, evenings, and weekends.  We can leave a small box of fruit at the owner’s request.  For other questions, they can check out our website or just contact the harvest coordinator directly.
  • I’m the last person in the world without a computer” (I don’t mean that out of sarcasm, that’s just always what people say.) Offer to contact us for them.  Write down their phone number, send it to us explaining the circumstances, and we’ll give them a call.
  • “I can harvest it, I just can’t use it!”  They can take donations to the food bank themselves.  See our website for a list of donation sites.  Also consider exchanging some fruit, or other goods, if you’d like a taste of some of that fruit!  We’ve heard of neighbors setting up an exchange so that everyone gets one box of plums, one of apples, one of pears, etc.  You could even hold a canning party to make some jams for everyone.
  • “I can use it, I just can’t harvest it!”  PNA members can check out an orchard ladder from the tool library.  Or maybe you have one to share!
  • “Bah! I can let ‘em rot if I want!”  I do mean that out of sarcasm.  People probably won’t say that, but it’s possible.  If so, don’t push it.  You can’t win ‘em all.  If there’s really a mess on the sidewalk or street, you could offer to clean it up.  You could report it to the city too, since residents have a responsibility to keep the sidewalk clear, but that might result in the loss of the tree, so consider carefully.
  • If they’re not home, try again or leave a note, but be sure to sign it.  If they realize it’s coming from a friendly neighbor, they’re much more likely to follow through.

Thanks for caring so much about harvesting fruit!  We find that folks often just don’t know what to do with a fruit tree.  Once they see it harvested, they start to see it as good food, which leads to taking caring of the tree and harvesting it.  Good luck!


We’re Gearing up for the 2011 Harvest

Have you ever seen this picture, in August or September around the city?  Does it make you feel uncomfortable to see good, healthy fruit rotting on the ground? City Fruit works to prevent this problem by harvesting fruit from residential trees in Phinney-Greenwood and South Seattle to donate to local organizations serving people in need.  City-grown fruit is an important resource that needs to be stewarded and used to feed people in our community.

We are now gearing up for the 2011 harvests, and there are three ways you can help:

1)      Volunteer to help harvest.  This is a fun, social, volunteer opportunity—great for families and everyone else!  The time commitment is flexible, since harvests happen daytime, evenings, and weekends, and you can sign up the week before a harvest.  For the Phinney Harvest, both new and returning volunteers should attend our Harvest Volunteer Info Meeting on Tuesday, June 28, 6:30-7:30 at the Greenwood Library.  If you can’t make it or have more questions, please contact us.

2)      Donate your fruit.  If you have a fruit tree that you can’t harvest or use all of the fruit, we can harvest and donate the fruit.  We typically leave a small box of fruit for the residents, and you can help harvest if you’d like.  You can also harvest your own tree and donate the extras yourself—find a list of donation sites on our website.

3)      Become a member.  It costs us about $1 to harvest one pound of fruit, so the support of our members is critical.  Members receive one free class and $5 off additional classes.  You can join online using Paypal.

Phinney Harvest: Volunteers and fruit tree owners can contact us at   Our “boundaries” are N 50th St to N 105th St, and Aurora to 8th Ave NW. 

South Seattle Harvest: Contact is  This harvest is south of I-90 and east of I-5, up to the City limits.

Our partner organizations harvest in other parts of Seattle.  If you live in another part of Seattle, contact the Garden Hotline at (206) 633-0224 or to have your tree harvested.


Low-Sugar Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

Shunning the sun on Saturday morning, several canning enthusiasts (or soon-to-be enthusiasts) holed up in the kitchen of Phinney-Ridge Lutheran Church to learn how to bottle the summer sunshine for dreary winter months—in the form of low-sugar jams that is.  Instructor Shannon Valderas specializes in making low-sugar jams, to make healthier alternatives for her family.

The secret?  Low-sugar pectins, specifically Pomona’s Universal Pectin (others exist, but typically include dextrose, which is actually a sugar).  It takes one or two extra steps, but you can adjust your jams to have the amount of sugar that you want, above a certain minimum.  Sugar is actually not that important for the safety of canning, that’s taken care of by the acidity in fruit or added lemon juice (sugar does help preserve the fruit once opened, so smaller jars or big appetites are important).  Sugar’s role in jam-making is to activate the pectin, which causes gelling.  Pomona’s is primarily activated by calcium, so you can use significantly less sugar.  And this isn’t just bland diet food, the flavor is great, even preferable to super-sugary jams because it lets the flavor of the fruit shine through.

Pomona’s is available at many natural foods stores, and even some regular super-markets.  The package comes with good instructions and some recipes, and several more recipes available online.  If you’ve never canned before, make sure you read up on the basics or take a class before attempting any recipe, but jam is a great place to start.  Here’s the strawberry-rhubarb jam we made in the class:

Strawberry-Rhubarb low sugar jam
Taken from Pomona’s Pectin recipe page

  • Makes 4-5 cups jam
  • 2 cups mashed strawberries
  • 2 cups cooked rhubarb
  • 3/4 cup up to 2 cups sugar
  • 2 t calcium water
  • 2 1/2 t pectin

Measure fruit into pan. Add 2 teaspoons of pre-mixed calcium water. Stir well. Measure cold sugar into separate bowl. Thoroughly mix 2 ½ teaspoons pectin powder into sugar. Bring fruit to boil. Add pectin-sugar and stir vigorously 1-2 minutes. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Fill jars ¼” headspace. Wipe rims clean. Boil for 10 minutes.


Fruit Trees in Parks

I wrote about our Urban Orchard Stewardship program in partnership with the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Seattle Parks & Recreation. We’ve been working for the past few months and have selected the parks we’re piloting this year:

Volunteers from each part are beginning to meet with Seattle Parks gardeners to start to think about a plan for the park’s fruit trees. Using those plans, City Fruit will develop & supply training to provide the necessary skills and advice. These plans will start to come together around the end of October.

We’ll share more as we progress along.

If you want to learn more or help with any of these parks, please e-mail Gail at


Selling Fruit: Becoming Financially Sustainable

One of the main reasons we started City Fruit was to develop ways  to become more financially sustainable, rather than depend on an ever-shrinking pool of grant money for funding

As part of that, we’re experimenting with selling a small portion of the fruit we harvest – with a goal of selling no more than 20% of the usable fruit we harvest. So far this year, we’ve harvested 5,775 lbs. of fruit and have sold 448 lbs., so about 8%.

We always talk to home owners before selling fruit from their trees, explaining that the sale of this fruit goes directly to funding the neighborhood fruit harvests next year. We aim to be as transparent as possible and so will again release an annual report early  next year detailing how much we earned from fruit sales and how much it costs to organize our harvests.


We’re specifically targeting restaurants that have a reputation for caring about and seeing the value of using local foods as much as possible.  A couple of the places we’ve been selling to are A Caprice Kitchen and Kathy Casey. A Caprice Kitchen is even Tweeting about how they’re using our fruit:

“Be sure not to miss asian pear caramel pancakes at brunch this weekend, made with ballard pears from @cityfruit !”

And Kathy Casey featured us in her late summer newsletter, writing:

“Right now it’s Jam Time! It’s that time of year again when summer fruits are in abundance (despite this crazy weather!). We’ve been hooking up with City Fruit, a cool non-profit organization that gathers excess fruits from neighborhood yards then delivers them to food banks and restaurants. We love supporting them and are donning our sexy hairnets to cook up lots of great tasty treasures, which we will feature at Kathy Casey Food Studios annual open house this December … yes, we are thinking ahead!”

A few other ways in which the restaurants we’re selling to are putting our local fruit to good use:

  • Crab apple butter
  • Apple pies
  • Escarole with Asian pears
  • Red plum tarts

So far it’s been very exciting to see how the restaurants are using the fruit. They seem to really like the quality and variety of our local fruit and the customers seem to enjoy the food as well.

Farmer’s Markets

In addition to helping fund our harvests, one of the goals of selling fruit was to serve people who are low-income but don’t go to food banks or soup kitchens. In many places throughout the city, this population doesn’t have access to low-cost, healthy, local fruit.

Seattle Green Market FarmersTo help address this, a portion of our fruit is sold to the New Holly Farm Stand and to the Clean Green Market. We sell fruit to each at a much reduced price so that they can then offer this local fruit to their customers at an affordable price.

New Holly Farm Stand is part of the Seattle Market Gardens program and most of the farmers are immigrants from South East Asia and East Africa. It’s a relatively new farmers market and operates every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. It’s at the corner of South Holly Park Drive and 40th Avenue South.

Clean Green Market was founded by Rev. Robert Jeffery (who along with City Fruit Executive Director, Gail Savina, was listed as one of Seattle Weekly’s Best of 2010), in an attempt to “supply fresh, wholesome produce to families in need in Seattle’s Central District.” The market is open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Fridays & Saturdays at the corner of 21st and Fir Street.

We hope that these efforts to sell a small portion of fruit, as well as our membership program, classes, and donations, will help us reduce our dependence on grants and increase our financial independence.

We’ll keep you posted on how this experiment goes.



Obesity – fruit can help

Hopefully everyone watched Michelle Obama & the kids kicking off the Let’s Move campaign. Here’s a video below if you missed it.

And here is another one that is Mrs. Obama explaining what it’s all about.

I just really like the simplicity of it all — eat better, eat less, and be active. It’s a great message and a model for living that anyone should be able to follow.

According to the last census, 64% of adults are overweight or obese. That’s a 36% increase since 1980. And in 2008 only one state had a prevelance of obesity of less than 20% — and no it wasn’t Washington. It was Colorado.

Children are slightly better (5%-17%, depending on age group). And Mrs. Obama’s campaign is hopefully going to bring that number down. As these kids develop good habits, they’ll carry them through for the rest of their lives.

One of the more striking statistics I’ve heard is that the planet has roughly 7 billion people. Of that, 1 billion are obese. An additional 1 billion have inadequate nutrition.

Availability of healthy, affordable food is a huge issue. It’s not easy to get local, healthy, low-cost fruits and vegetables in all areas of Seattle — food deserts exist in plenty of places. That’s something we’re trying to address. Last year we distrubted over 10,000 pounds of fruit to local food banks, senior housing, and worked with organizations like Market on Wheels to ensure everyone has access to healthy fruit.

Fruit is not only an important part of an every day diet, it can also help a person lose weight. The Mayo Clinic has a great article on energy density and how it’s possible to feel fuller with fewer calories when a diet is rich in fresh vegetables and fruit. They recommend “Whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits without added sugar are better options than fruit juices and dried fruits, which are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have a higher calorie content.”

So review that food pyramid and grab some fresh fruit the next time you’re looking for something sweet.


Haiti & Mangoes

We’ve all seen & heard about the horrible situation down in Haiti because of the earthquake. Beyond the physical and emotional trauma inflicted upon the people & their country, natural disasters have long-lasting and far-reaching impact in to agriculture and business.

Found this article in Packer — “The Business Newspaper of the Produce Industry”. I didn’t know this but it seems that mangoes are the number one commodity of Haiti and many of the shipping and export businesses in Port-au-Prince. This will impact the price and availability of mangoes as well as the businesses that rely on that commodity. The aftershocks keep coming.

Very similar to the news down from the Southeast with the freezing temperatures and wet weather. It’s not helping the fruit industry down there. Except for peaches, it seems.

As these natural disasters impact the agriculture businesses around the world, the availability of fresh, affordable fruits & vegetables is reduced. This is where having have local food sources all the more important.

Don’t get me wrong, I love orange juice and mangoes and will probably continue to buy some to help support the farmers in those areas that are impacted by the natural disasters. But the work that City Fruit, and other organizations like it, are doing to ensure that local, healthy fruit is harvested and distributed to those in need in our communities is even more critical now.

And if you haven’t already given to support the aid effort in Haiti, there are a number of agenices I encourage you to support:


City Fruit in the news

Looks like word of City Fruit is spreading. Our organization and our fruit tree mapping project got a great write up in the (Thanks Heidi!) — even highlights a couple of our partners.

An exerpt:
“Much of the fruit grown on trees in the city ends up rotting on the ground. City Fruit wants to change all that and turn wasted fruit into a community building resource. City Fruit and their partners (i.e. Seattle Tilth and Solid Ground) even have resources to help you grow healthier fruit trees, harvest fruit, and donate or preserve extra fruit.”