Organic Orcharding Part 1







Back cover

You can harvest your own apples, peaches, pears, cherries, and many other fruits and nuts from trees that grow naturally around you own home by using this book. Gene Logsdon has brought his extensive experience together with that of many organic orchardists across the continent to share with potential grove-owners everywhere. This includes his philosophy that the best grove is one in which the orchardist plays an intrinsic role in the ecology of the trees. Logsdon completely details the practical skills necessary to orcharding, including propagating trees, grafting, pruning, and fertilizing, also dispelling any mysteries about these skills through simple, easy-to-understand instructions.

Disease and pest control receive comprehensive consideration, again with the emphasis upon the natural, organic orchard. The home groveowner can do a great deal to minimize damage to his fruit and nut trees by knowing the natural predators and parasites of pests.

Fundamental to organic orcharding is raising varieties that grow naturally in your region as the most resistant to insect and animal pests, disease, and climate fluctuations. Since native trees are so important to the success of a grove, a substantial part of this book is devoted to varieties of major fruits, including apples, stone, and citrus fruits, and to nuts, such as almonds, chestnuts, pecans, and acorns. Minor fruit trees are not neglected either, nor are syrup- and oil-producing trees. All of these varieties are noted for their resistance or susceptibility to disease, and their climatic preferences, rounding out Organic Orcharding as the complete book on the natural food-bearing grove for the homeowner.

Front flap

Organic Orcharding: A Grove of Trees to Live In presents the philosophy of raising fruit trees, nut trees, and other food-bearing trees in a wholesome, ecologically sound manner such that the grove-owner becomes a benevolent, intrinsic facet of the growth of the orchard trees as Nature intended. Gene Logsdon has combined his experience with that of many organic orchardists throughout the country to offer the best guidelines to orcharding, including specific information on the ten zones according to tree hardiness to frost and other climatic variables in the United State and Canada.

  • Climatic variations within a region are important to a tree’s growth potential. Thus the first general rule for growing healthy food trees is to grow varieties that come from the area in which they’ll be raised.

The first part of Organic Orcharding details the techniques necessary to raising a grove of trees. Logsdon presents 12 plans of actual existing orchards, and also information on how to draw up your own plan, including hints such as labeling each tree as it’s planted – memory of what’s planted where usually fails a year or so after planting. The author also fully details how to plant tree seeds and seedlings, including what trees need special treatment, like scarification, stratification, and other propagation skills. He also removes the mystique from grafting scionwood onto various trees, by revealing through his thorough instructions just how simple grafting can be. Completing the book’s first part is information on fertilizing and pruning trees to stimulate best growth. All of these techniques are fully illustrated for easier understanding.

The second part of Organic Orcharding examines the state of disease and pest control in the organic grove. In this section, the concept of the well-integrated grove and the grove-owner comes into full play, for the natural control of many pests depends upon the encouragement of their natural predators. To do this the orchardist must be knowledgeable of the ecology of a grove of trees, and Logsdon discusses various diseases, insects, and animal pests, each in turn, including their natural enemies and those organic techniques that have prevailed against these pests in other orchards. For example, birds play an important role in controlling some insects, so Logsdon suggests ways to attract birds to the home grove, including illustrated instructions on building birdhouses suitable for individual species.

The final third of the book lists in detail all of the best fruit, nut, and syrup-bearing trees for each respective zone. The common fruit trees are covered, such as apple, peach, pear, and plum, including the best varieties for specific regions, along with the variety’s susceptibility to diseases, pests, and temperature fluctuations. Logsdon also describes the best varieties of underused trees, too, such as the mulberry, the persimmon, and the papaw. In chapters on nuts, he characterizes walnut, pecan, and chestnut varieties, but he also notes the qualities of hickories, hazelnuts, and pine nuts. No region is neglected as far as information on varieties goes, as exemplified by details on such trees as macadamia for Hawaii, citrus for the South and the West Coast, maples and birches for syrup in new England and Canada, and many, many more. Organic Orcharding:  Grove of Trees to Live In is the complete guide to growing food-bearing trees for the backyard or small grove-owner;  no doubt, this book will become the standard of its kind.

About the author

Gene Logsdon, author of many other Rodale books (The Gardener’s Guide to Better Soil, Two Acre Eden, Small-Scale Grain Raising, Getting Food from Water, and Homesteading) has managed his own organic orchards, a 2-acre backyard grove in Pennsylvania, and at present a 22-acre farm in orchard in Ohio.


We should accept as a fundamental concept, the proposition that crops should be grown primarily for the purpose of satisfying man’s food requirements and not as a means of making particular human activities commercially profitable regardless of the overall effect on human welfare.

A.D. Pickett, “A Critique on Insect Chemical Control Methods”

For nearly a decade I tried not to write this book. One of my editors at Rodale Press, Bill Hylton, would suggest it, and I would change the subject. I did not know how to go about telling people how to grow fruit trees in a totally “organic” (or biological, as I prefer to say) system. There were, in my experience, diseases of fruit trees that in favorable weather could not be controlled even with the most potent chemicals, let alone without them. In addition, there was a growing number of virus problems in some tree fruits that defied all control methods, natural or man-inspired, making fruit production in some instances a fit venture only for poker players with a desire to lose money.

I fretted a long time over what seemed to be flaws in the organic argument: the seeming inability to cope adequately with fungal disease in tree fruits, and the rather vague insect-control program that applied to a medium- or large-size orchard. (It was at that time only beginning to be realized that the same criticism applied to chemical controls, too.) After some years of study and experimentation, I think I have the answers to my frettings, but ten years ago I certainly did not. I was raised on and worked on farms where financial worries dominated every decision. In the face of heavy debt, or in striving to avoid heavy debt, we felt unable to farm in as ecological a manner as we would have liked. As an agricultural writer, I came to know many fruit growers in the same situation. They grappled with staggering debt loads; with rigid and often senseless market standards; with a shrinking number of market buyers who often seemed to act in collusion with each other when they bid on farmer’s produce; with enormous competition from other growers; and with crop risks that would give a racetrack gambler ulcers. I found unsavory the idea of writing a book that would espouse methods these growers would only consider naïve and pompously insulting. No matter how carefully I worded my argument for a more natural and less financial approach to tree crop agriculture, I would insinuate that these farmers, who scratched out their livings raising fruit, were the bad guys ecologically, while I, who raised fruit without toxic chemicals but only for my own table, was one of God’s little ecological angles. I did not want to assume such a sanctimonious posture.

  • In realizing that finance, not biology, was the root of the farmers’ predicament, I was closer to a solution to my fretting than I understood at the time.
  • Only rarely did anyone answer my question by saying, “If I don’t spray, the trees will all die.”
  • If all fruit trees would die without spraying, or if the whole crop would be ruined, a fruit industry could not have arisen in the first place.
  • I began to study the history of chemical pest control in fruit trees.
  • Trees die from fungal or insect attack only if something has upset the ecological balance or if a species is introduced to the region not biologically acclimated to that region.
  • The history of chemical pest control is a history of conflict between profiteering humans and natural biology.
  • My conclusions about the orchard were the same as those about the forest.

The 1970 paper by R.W. Stark stated: “It seems to me that the tremendous economic growth of forestry in the past has blinded us to the fact that prior to our exploitation of the forests, forest pest problems were much less. In many of those areas that are still relatively undisturbed, problems are usually minimal. The majority of our pests are man-made.”

Robert Van Den Bosch in The Pesticide Conspiracy (New York, Doubleday, 1978) points out that about 30 years ago, when the synthetic insecticide era really got rolling, the Unites States used roughly 50 million pounds of insecticides a year and insects destroyed about 7% of our crops. Thirty years later, we dump 600 million pounds of insecticides on our land and lose 13% of our crop to insects! Van Den Bosch went on to say, “This reflects incredibly bad technology and extremely poor economics – unless, of course, one is selling insecticides.”

  • The renewed emphasis on biological pest controls that came during the 1970s further motivated me to write this book.
  • You can’t poison just part of an ecosystem. Persistence in trying to do so leads to a collapse of the whole system.
  • Scientists and orchardists are trying to work out a compromise – a combination of biological controls with some continued but decreased use of chemicals.
  • This method is called integrated pest management (IPM) and, for success, demands an extremely disciplined and knowledgeable attention to the orchard environment.
  • If fruit growers are prepared to accept IPM, it is my hope that a total biological-control system would be better yet and a goal possible to attain.
  • If I needed a last straw I stopped at a roadside stand in front of a large peach orchard where scores of customers, who had driven some distance, were turned away angry because he was sold out.
  • Since the locale had a good peach-growing climate, those disgruntled customers could have grown their own peaches without spraying.

Naturally, the orchardist had to spray, and spray, and spray ten more times. What was achieved? Disease continued to mount in his orchard despite the spraying. The grower’s bank account, by his own admission, dwindled rather than increased. His customers paid exorbitant prices for the fruit. Or got none at all. Nature was wasted and no one was satisfied, save perhaps the chemical companies who supplied the spray materials and the government regulators who parasitized a living from the fruit industry under the pretense of protecting consumers.

And so to this book. It is intended neither for the commercial grower trapped in a financial situation over which he has no control, nor for consumers who prefer to support that financial situation because they are too lazy to grow their own fruit. Biological orcharding won’t work in that kind of “progressive” society. Biological orcharding is economical in the original meaning of “economy” – the management of a household with a careful and thrifty use of resources. The truly biological orchard is a grove of trees to live in – literally to live in and from. The establishment of such a grove and its maintenance are quite different from that of a commercial orchard. For those who yearn for such a tree grove, for those who like the independence of raising their own food and wish now to advance beyond vegetable and berry gardens, for those I hope this book will be helpful.

In establishing my own grove, I’ve committed my share of blunders, and some of them will inevitably creep into this book. For this, I apologize. Let us all seek and learn together, for there is much more to be learned about biological food production than is known now. A nation of nearly self-subsistent grove dwellers is not an impossible dream. If you have a home or plan to have one, you are more than halfway there now.



Chapter 1: Life in a Grove of Trees: An Overview


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