I revel in visiting other yards and farms, where I learn so much. This past year I got around a bit, and below are a few of the remarkable things I saw and lessons I took away, presented in chronological order.

January 4, 2021. How far north can lemon trees grow outdoors? I don’t know, but they can certainly survive above the California border, as proven by this lemon tree thriving in a yard in the town of Harbor, Oregon.

January 6, 2021. Check out the extraordinary “off bloom” and fruitset on this Carmen avocado tree in the yard of some expert growers near Santa Cruz.

This Carmen variety grows and flowers differently from most others, and I’m still learning about its habits.

February 2, 2021. A canyon yard I got to visit near San Diego State University had lots of creative features and surprising plants, including this productive coffee bush.

March 7, 2021. A friend showed me a Reed tree in his avocado grove that had a single branch growing mysteriously mishapen fruit. Was it a sport limb, a natural mutation? I took this photo.

Later, he informed me that he discovered a graft union. He had grafted onto the tree a couple years prior, but forgot to label the branch. It was fruit of a variety from Australia that some people call Koala. Lesson: label your grafts. You might think you’ll remember but you won’t.

April 11, 2021. Fremontodendron californicum is a large bush with showy yellow flowers that is native to California, especially the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County, which is where I found this one planted in a yard in the foothills town of Glendora. Natives can give you color without much care, and they often feed bees and birds too.

June 26, 2021. Near the beach you can grow broccoli into the summer and still harvest heads bigger than a golf ball. Here is one heading up nicely in early summer within a couple miles of the ocean in my aunt’s garden in Encinitas.

July 9, 2021. Can you get fruit from an avocado tree in a pot? These tall Reed and Hass trees in pots in a San Diego yard leave no doubt as to the answer.

Lots of avocados on potted Hass tree.

August 8, 2021. At the entrance to the Carpinteria community garden, in Santa Barbara County, there is a massive – and massively productive – passionfruit vine growing over an arbor (with some grapevine mixed in). Passionfruit vines grow incredibly well throughout Southern California.

August 12, 2021. Also in Carpinteria, I noticed a pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) bush that had been pruned up into the form of a tree, with a turtle shell top. This takes constant and consistent attention to pruning, in case you didn’t know. Pineapple guavas naturally grow like pomegranates, as multi-stem bushes.

November 23, 2021. Jan Boyce is a variety of avocado tree that has an open growth habit, making it not ideally suited to hot, inland locations where fruit is vulnerable to sunburn. However, as I discovered in a grove in the hills overlooking cool Monterey Bay, Jan Boyce can thrive where summers are mild.

November 24, 2021. An apple grower near Santa Cruz shared with me some red-fleshed varieties that he grows, and they blew my mind. I realized how much more than sweet and crisp an apple can be.

December 25, 2021. Our family had a white Christmas as we spent it up in the Sierra foothills at my brother and sister-in-law’s place. Here is what their home orchard looked like.

Chill hours are not something they worry about.

Thank you to everyone who let me visit their yards, farms, and orchards this year, and learn more about growing food, and share about it here so that you can learn too.

An overall lesson that I have been reminded of in 2021 is how superior it is to be out in the world touching things compared to merely reading about them. Let’s turn off our computers, put down our phones, close our books, and visit one another and observe and touch the real, physical world often in 2022. 

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