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259. Part 2 Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest: How to Grow Abundant, Organic Fruit in Your Backyard | Tara Austen Weaver | Seattle, WA
14th January 2019 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:57:15

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Today, I’m excited to introduce my guest from Tara Austen Weaver who’s written a book about growing


Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest: How to Grow Abundant, Organic Fruit in Your Backyard

I know that you are going to love this because it’s got lots of great tips for anyone living anywhere not just in the Northwest and I’m super excited because last summer I was visiting Nola’s yard last summer because her blueberries were amazing and I am bound and determined to grow some this year! And there’s just so much to learn so welcome to the show!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My mom had a giant organic garden!

I guess I’m sort of a second generation gardener I actually grew up not really liking to garden I liked playing and running around but weeding seemed like drudgery to me!

I have all these very visceral memories of just being out in the garden and sunshine, my mom would pop cherry tomatoes into our mouths when we were kids, because we just picked it in the sunshine!

fruit that was warm from a tree

So I have all these really positive memories of being in a garden but not doing any work!

I was living in San Francisco in my late 20s, early 30s

I started coming back around to the idea of gardening

I remember one year for my birthday I got the idea to build these window boxes ~ I had gotten into cooking. I wanted to grow herbs.

It is so irritating to buy a whole bunch of parsley when you just need a sprig.

I lugged these boxes home and I’m dangling out this window and holding this heavy drill and I got them put up and filled them with soil and nestled my tiny little herbs and was so so pleased! 

Then within a week or two, I noticed the sage leaves had this kind of white stuff on it. I was concerned and I lived on the foggy side of the city and thought oh my is this is fungus or blight on my herbs and when I went to investigate I discovered it was pigeon poop and I realized I wasn’t gonna be a gardener in the city. 

It wasn’t till I moved to Seattle about 10 years ago that everything fell into place, Seattle has such a giant gardening community! 

Everyone here it seems even if they just grow beautiful yards edible ones and everyone is out working and tending vegetables

I got bitten by the gardening bug

  • quickly used up all of the area
  • didn’t have much of a yard
  • I got a community garden plot
  • started studying permaculture

Eventually my mother moved up to Seattle and bought a house on half an acre!

For the last 9 years we have been collaborating

The Neglected Orchard

there were 9 fruit trees on the property but they were engulfed in blackberries

adding to it ever since

We have 20 fruit trees now

12 different types of blueberries

  • raspberries
  • strawberries

lots of annual vegetable gardens

I’ve recently got more into flowers

I’m obsessed with my dahlia patch and also interested in flowers to support pollinators. 


So, are you following Erin Benzakein’s blog at FloretShe’s really biinto dahlias. I tried to grow some last year but I must have buried them too deep because they never grew. I’m gonna have to try that again next summer. 

I’ve enjoyed your story here. I’ve been painting pictures of Paris, and there are so many window boxes in Paris it’s interesting to think about growing in the city. Plus I’ve been reading this very strange children’s book about pigeons, there’s like a place in Pennsylvania where they have a live pigeon shoot. Anyway…

I think my situation in San Fransisco, my neighbor fed the pigeons

lots of ones going back and forth and they would nestle down so that seems like a nonstarter. 

With a half acre, I do have a few things in pots, that keeps me more then busy

I do have a a few window boxes on the deck, I mostly grow my basil, so I walk past it multiple times a day to keep an eye if it needs water.

I do grow citrus

we are not suited to

  • Meyer lemon
  • recently given a a kaffir lime

South Asian

thai curries

You use the zest and leaves

These are my California roots but I’m attempting to grow a lemon in Seattle.

Mom's plate of Meyer lemons from her lemon tree

My mom grew a Meyer lemon in NY. It’s funny my memory post on Facebook was a pic of her plate of lemons in NY. People are growing them indoors, she was gonna send us one.

actually have a section on growing citrus in the NW

I know a lot of people are interested there’s a nursery on victoria I think they are called 

fruit trees and more

They do an amazing job with 

  • in-ground citrus
  • avocados

and all sorts of things shouldn’t be grown in their climate.

They have this approach where they plant them on walls on the south side

  • winter string old fashioned lights
  • cover them in ReMay

coldest winters they give just the small amount of heat to keep them growing enough they have citrus all year long.

They have some videos on their website! It’s really worth checking out because it’s very inspirational!

We’ll have to check that out!

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

I’m coming off not a fantastic garden year, because I moved this spring! I wasn’t thinking it through thinking I could move and garden and that didn’t really happen!


didn’t grow

usually do

let grow wild

this is true in any gardening year, some years one things does really well and another year it was another thing that do really well

So because I wasn’t growing as much, I ended up paying more attention to some things like my basil crop! I had time to pinch it back and ended up getting like 5 crops of basil! I made into pesto and ended up with a freezer full of pesto

couple of things

I usually plant a lot of winter squash

but I didn’t have the band with for it

The benefit of having a lighter gardening year that I had the time and energy in the fall to put the garden to bed well, focus on soil fertility for next year

We have neighbors that clean out the goat barn and I did use that bedding and that material that is going to breakdown over the winter!

I am already looking forward to a good season next year!

I think that is so important. Some years things go great and other times you maybe change your focus. In 2018 my motto was Life happens for you not to you and focuing on accomplishments and what did get done!

focus on

I was gonna say that is one of the situations that makes me so gratified to make the berry bushes and inspired me to write this book because you can have an off year and they don’t mind

Perennial gardening is growing obsession

I have a busy life and in the summer I also like to go hiking. I am really really interested in those things that don’t need as much help and tending as lettuce and peas do

those twelve blueberry bushes were fine and asked nothing of me! 

The fruit trees the same, we do our winter pruning and they are really pretty much on their own and give and give and give

Fruit trees is kind of being like an aunt and uncle, you have to putting in some face time but nothing like a parent and so for minimal effort the berries are the same

The reward to effort ratio is 1000%

I agree 100 percent. I feel like you that I like to go hiking, I usually teach full time and only can hike in the summer. And I almost always work full time if there are so many days I don’t even get home till after dark and won’t see the garden for a week.

Prolific Fruit

But I talk a lot on my show about if I had to start from scratch I would put a lot of raspberry bushes and fruit in. I’m always surprised how prolific you are and how much fruit you get back. I was talking to someone the other day about how much time Mike puts into growing green beans is insane. I’m very excited about the perennial garden idea!

I have some friends who had a house with an old pear try

raspberry canes

prune them back and clear them out

I warn people a little bit you can get big harvests and be prepared for them

overwhelmed in the fall


attracting the yellow jackets

Ended up not knowing what to do with it and they got so many flies, so they dug a whole and berried all of these pears!

They didn’t know what to do with a glut of tree fruit


master recipes I have developed over the years

  • this jam
  • crisp

you can make with any fruit

raspberries at


pears or apples in the fall

I really lean on those recipes

My secret weapon to use up

and preserve it

When you get that much you can’t give it all away

  • friends
  • food bank

something with it

so we can enjoy it throat the winter

states that a

countries that are far away

Because I became a food person and food writer so I thought that was an important balance 

good ways to grow it and great ways to use it up

not a bad problem to have

You’re so right! I always end up feeling guilty if I don’t take care of things or let things go, then the next year I would think should I grow that. We have chickens now, which helps a bit. Mike also canned apple sauce this year we had so many apples which was great because he bakes with a lot of apple sauce to make his cookies etc softer. The apple sauce itself was delicious!

something that can take

quality of what you grow yourself is so much better then you can get at the store, and honestly sometimes even the farmer’s market as they’re picking ahead of time to get at market

picking your own strawberries first thing in the morning!

It’s true a strawberry or raspberry you put in your mouth in the garden is not like anything else!

the other thing people don’t realize

commercial growers grow certain varieties because they stand up to transport that will stand up on the shelf.

There are a lot of amazing varieties that don’t get grown commercially because they are just too fragile.

My favorite strawberry variety is called Shushkan

not grown commercially

They really need to be processed within 24 hours

They have the most amazing flavor

There are farmers who grow them and take them to the farmers market but you have to buy them and eat them that day

if you are used to

never experienced

friend who was a big proponent of Shushkan strawberries and he brought a group of food writers on a sort of a tasting trip

And one of the writers tasted one and said if this is a strawberry what I have I ben eating all my life?

12 different types of blueberries

big and juicy

high bush and low bush blue berries

low bush

you get out of Maine a bit smaller

don’t see those in the supermarket

People want those big plump juicy berries! 

But compared to these small flavorful ones.

really interesting

my favorites and other people favorite varieties recommended

You have to make sure they grow in your growing zone but there is a whole world out to explore! 

I’m glad you said that, because after I tasted Nola’s blueberries I was like I am never going to pick another huckleberry again, but the one thing I bake is huckleberry coffee cake I don’t think it will take as good with large berries.

huckleberry coffeecake

the low bush blueberries, the smaller more flavorful ones are suited to colder climates.

That would make sense because you said they came out of Maine right.

They grow best along the US Canadian border.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

well I feel like I actually had a slower gardening season next year so I have a jump on this year and I have my fava beans in already!

My favas are already 4 inches tall

I had a really good tomato season about 2 years ago

growing tomatoes from seed

pretty good plant sales