by Jo Barnes –
A successful orchard bears fruit. This local orchard bears the fruit of learning and legacy.
Bob Duncan of North Saanich’s Fruit Trees and More has been successfully pioneering methods in growing fruit for years. However, the fact that this knowledge and experience is being shared with others creates a harvest of another kind.
“Our aim is to grow as great a diversity of tree fruit as the local climate can sustain,” shares Bob. “We love to teach and share with people, to encourage them and to explore their dreams.”
As well as selling fruit trees and other edibles, Fruit Trees and More offers expert advice on growing citrus, temperate and Mediterranean fruit, pollination and training systems. Customers are often heard to say “great advice”, “helpful”, or “professional service.”
Cultivating the land is an interest Bob and his wife Verna share. “I always wanted to farm from a young age,” says Bob. “I was born on a farm,” shares Verna. “I come from a background and culture of gardening and canning.”
This North Saanich property abounds with life and has dramatically changed since the owners purchased it in 1977.
“When we first came here there was only a hayfield,” says Bob. “I bought this land because of the good drainage, sandy loam and full sun exposure.”
Not only does fruit grow here, it thrives. Colours are vibrant, and in many cases, the size of fruit significant. The vibrant yellow lemons are large; the limes, plump and verdant. You might be surprised by the variety of fruit being grown here including persimmon, strawberry guava, Chinese date, yuzu and sudachi Japanese citrus, navel, Mandarin and Seville orange, lime, apple, cherry, pineapple guava, pawpaw, Meyer lemon, finger lime, plum, loquat, almond, apricot, peach, nectarine, quince and pear. Many might seem unusual for Southern Vancouver Island and more likely to be found in New Zealand, Asia or South America.
“We have a modified Mediterranean climate here with dry sunny summers and mild winters,” comments Bob.
The diversity goes to the heart of activity here. “Biodiversity is immensely important. We need to preserve it. When genetic resources are gone, we won’t get them back,” shares Bob. “We need diversity to adapt to changing conditions around the globe. It is important to food security.”
The variety and number of plants and trees is startling given the fact this property is only three quarters of an acre. Organization is key. Systems in place allow for a significant amount of fruit in a smaller space. One arrangement is the oblique cordon in which apple trees are planted at a 45-degree angle. The stem’s angle nicely mimics the branch angle on a typical apple tree initiating productive growth.
“Each tree is one metre apart with the fruit close to trunk,” shares Bob. “There is a lot of fruit in a tight area.”
Delightful lemons and limes grow up a southern wall protected under an overhang. Citrus can grow well here even with the winter, but in the event of freezing temperatures, Bob has come up with a way to successfully keep the plants warm. “I string Christmas lights, which are only seven-watt bulbs, in the trees and then cover them with Remay, a type of fabric that serves as a good frost cloth,” says Bob. “It’s a system I pioneered 25 years ago.”
Energy efficiency is applied elsewhere like in the greenhouse nursery. “The cost is about a penny per fruit. It’s about $10 to $15 for the whole winter for five trees,” says Bob.
Prior to the pandemic, tours and demonstrations were offered on the property. Bob also gave talks to numerous garden clubs in Campbell River, the south coast of B.C., the Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and Vancouver. Bob finds other ways to support and educate others like online programming. “We have numerous videos on YouTube,” he says.
You might ask: what’s available at the orchard right now? As well as some fruit in season, Verna’s popular homemade marmalades are for sale. You can phone ahead at 250-656-4269 and arrange pick-up. Have a question about pollinating or planting? Looking to purchase a fruit tree? Please call ahead to make an appointment. Visit https://www.fruittreesandmore.com/
Tree-ripened fruit is like no other. The flavour is fantastic. Bob and Verna know. They have been perfecting growing systems for years now.
“You are the pioneer; it’s fun,” shares Bob. “If you don’t try, you don’t know.”
Fruit Trees and More is more than just an orchard where fruit thrives. They have been providing years of expert advice to others and have produced a bumper crop of enthusiastic fruit growers for generations to come.
Photo by Amanda Cribdon Photography.