255. Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest: How to Grow Abundant, Organic Fruit in Your Backyard | Tara Austen Weaver | Seattle, WA

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

varieties as seedlings

not in a great tomato growing region

really as hot

Washington is divided east and west of the mountains

East side is much hotter and dryer

West side we have more summer rain and just don’t have the heat units to get really sweet tomatoes

I wanted to explore some different heirloom Italian varieties

not like the big ugly heirlooms but they are really pleated and odd looking but they have amazing flavor! 

I started all of the tomatoes from seed. I did the same last year, I was moving so they didn’t get tended very well

leggy in their seedling pots

I want to really be on my tomato game next year

Once you start doing things from seeds and have access to all these interesting varieties you want more and more sort of like collecting baseball cards and you want all of them!

I am interested in doing more of that

I have really also gotten into chicories and radiccio and bitter lettuces!

 I have some that are actually growing on 2-3 year now, like the same plants, I just cut the seed stalk

do it sort of as a cut and come crop cut all their leaves as they are growing in the summer and it just resprouts from the root stem! 

3 year old chicory

I let some develop seed stems and the seeds drop reseeding themselves

very attracted by perennial gardening!

I love being in the garden but summer’s short in the US and in NW and I have  lots of things to do

half an acre a lot to look after

  • shortcuts
  • easier

permaculture approach if you can have a cycle that replenishes itself is fantastic


nice in the winter and see these beautiful red heads of


not greens either

nice to have something to make salads through the winter because that’s a hard get climate

I am totally craving greens and salads! For the last two years I’ve hardly bought a bag of produce from August – November and I finally buy a bag of produce and what happens the Romaine recall and I had to throw it away!


Mike even said to me the other day, that we need to build some kind of  salad beds because he can tell I need some fresh greens. In late November I was still picking kale in the snow.

I have her book. 


Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live

I follow her on Instagram  it’s so fascinating to see what she is doing in Nova Scotia!

She has all of these cold frames and exciting to see what she is doing in the middle of Canadian winter surrounded by snow!

There is also another book

growing oriental vegetables

sounds like an outdated title

It is all about cold season gardening and talking about different varieties that do well in cold climates

I know mustards are heartier in cold climates.

We go through a lot of kale! My family eats a lot of kale. My mother has been kind of holding back from gardening as she gets older but one year she would plant things in the spring. She would be gone all summer long! She goes to Canada  and she can go 

I was like did you know how many kale plants you planted and she’s like oh, year a dozen or so and I was like no you planted 110!

  • can go multiple years
  • let it go to seed
  • bees love the blooms
  • birds love the seeds!

They crack open the seed pods and I let them open the seed pods and it sprouts!

Call me the lazy gardener

I think we are just busy so I would call you efficient. I  just wanted to correct the title, the 4 Season Harvest is Eliot Coleman


Eliot Coleman: Four-Season Harvest : Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long, 2nd Edition 

She just came out with a new book I have been trying to get her to be a guest on the show. 

Niki Jabbour's Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun https://amzn.to/2FzyJB9

Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun

I have a green house doesn’t get a whole lot of use. We start seeds indoors and then we move them out to the greenhouse for a while. It gets a month and half of use. I would like to get some things growing things in there in the winter but the area in ground, is a mess of bind wind and quack grass. 

clear out the soil there get all the roots out is on my longer to do list


I feel like it’s getting harder and harder the food in the store tastes less! We’re also learning a ton. What my husband does is he plastics in our porch and opens the kitchen door to heat it but that’s closer to spring in March.

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

I have actually been struggling a little bit with peas

sounds a little silly.

I have been having really low germination rates

I think it might be maybe, I net my peas

We have a lot of birdlife which I like a lot except not when they eat the things they just planted

IDK if it’s birds or slugs or something like that

I am starting to not start my peas in the greenhouse

Plant them in the ground the are not doing well

Destructive Wildlife

I’ve had some tunneling in the garden for the past couple of years

I think is moles, I haven’t been too fussed about it

I don’t have a super tidy lawn, but now I think something else is using the mole tunnels because last year my tulips cut down in the prime of life

I went to investigate

  • come out super easily
  • sheared off
  • something has eaten the center of the bulb out

earth worms and grubs

tried some healthy things

One garden expert said make a strong slurry of mint pour it down their holes that didn’t work at all. That’s something I get to investigate this winter and find what kind of approach I can use to get rid of some unwanted guests. 

I planted a few tulips this year,  but I planted them in plastic pots hoping they won’t eat through the pots. 

dahlia tubers

eating the tulips

a little heart breaking

We have voles too. This summer they weren’t as bad as last summer. We got some more cats. We have a 6 foot deer fence but we still get mice etc.

We have a ton of squirrels haven’t actually bothered anything. So that has been nice. We live in the NW so there are giant evergreen trees so they are everywhere.

We put out birdseed one year but that was a non-starter, they just stood underneath it and gathered all the seed that dropped.

That was super demoralizing.

Another reason I didn’t plant a lot, is every where I was digging I was hitting air pockets so I thought whatever I plant here isn’t gonna grow, that was very discouraging.


Squirrel Damage

What happened with us, I was always begging Mike to plant more broccoli, and this one year he planted me just lots of great delicious broccoli and the squirrels would take one bite and move on and poop and one bite and move on and Mike thought maybe they were marking their territory, another guest I talked to thought they were thirsty. It was a dry year. He didn’t plant as much broccoli last year but they didn’t bother it at all.

It sounds like you have very resourceful squirrels, I think mine might be a bit dumb.

The other thing Mike thought was that the squirrels usually eat all the apples and the didn’t get into the apples this year and he thinks maybe they fermented last summer in their nests and they got all hungover or something so they didn’t eat so many this year.

This is the part of the show we call getting to the root of things!

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

I have

  • bindweed
  • blackberries
  • horsetail

That kind of weeding is just misery.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

This is gonna sound funny my favorite activity is going to be sitting and enjoying. Especially the first five to seven years I was working at my mother’s house and so I wasn’t living there all the time. I was just coming here to work in the garden and never getting to enjoy it and this friend of mine said, you have the worst situation here because

the best part of gardening is kicking back and having a nice beverage and enjoying it

He said as soon as you’re done with the work you leave, so I have had to train myself at the end of a garden session to just enjoy it a bit.

I think it’s natural for gardeners to see what needs to be done.

I was writing about farmers and go out to their farm

  • small organic farm
  • very complementary
  • just be talking about how gorgeous that

and the farmers were like I just see all the things that need to done.

We’re out there because we love it and what we are creating and so to take 10-15 minutes at the end of a long weeding session to just sit there and enjoy all the birds and the bees and everything that.

Im kind of known for sitting and enjoying my garden. It is a lot of work and it is important to enjoy it.

Another part of my enjoyment is also bringing other people in

  • particularly kids

One of the reasons we decided to go in on this large garden is my brother also lives here in Seattle and he had 3 small kids, and my mother raised my brother and I in a large garden and she wanted to give that to her grandkids

also grown up here

spent a lot of time

getting into their teen years so they aren’t particularly interested as much but 

I have a lot of friends with kids

There is a border of alpine strawberries that I recommend to people with small children because they almost taste fake like strawberry bubble yum and they’re perfect for tiny little kid hands. I plant to the border so they go no further and start tromping around in the flower beds.

Not everyone has access to nature and one of my favorite times I usually have a big open house so every labor day weekend there are people come and go all day long I love to see a bunch of kids running around in the and enjoying. 

Passion is the name of the game

I was telling you that I am an educator it’s so important for kids to get out in the garden and I’ve had so many guests that said they weren’t interested in gardening when they were young, but they did pick up a love of it from a passionate person who shared it with them. It’s important even if they are resisting and rebelling in teenage years just keep sharing your love.

Sometimes I think gardening is just a seed that has a very long hibernation period!

if it gets planted in you as a child it usually sprouts at some point!

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

The best garden advice is the advice I don’t take

this actually comes from a garden blog

I think it was indi gardener


golden rules for being a happy gardener

I was reading through them and going yeah yeah

One was have a right size garden

my garden is too big for one person!

I would possibly be happier if it were not such a big garden

one of my goals

work on some irrigation systems which I don’t have

I’m the irrigation system. Having a little bit of the infrastructure in place.

stuff I don’t need

I generally water by watering can, because I like to see how much is going in each place but that is just super inefficient! But we water with a rain water catchment system

have to figure out how an irrigation system will work

water pressure fluctuate

engineering problem I’m either gonna have to solve myself or find someone to solve it for me

That’s what’s kept me from taking that step

2019 the year of the irrigation system and I’m looking forward to it!

That’s awesome because irrigation systems are coming so far. Mike has always wanted to build this pond irrigation system he read about in JM Fortier’s book. One thing I always say about not having a lot of water, you are not wasting a drop of water, it’s going on the roots.

The first 6 years we lived here we didn’t have running water, then we put in a shallow well, but that couldn’t water a lawn and only a small garden. Then we finally made the plunge and made  it 560′! 

Water is so essential.

My heart goes out to the people in California, I hate hearing there’s nothing we can do. I think if we take care of our water!  I feel like if we follow these growing practices and permaculture techniques and care for our planet a little better we don’t have to have atrocious fires!

I push back against that idea that there is nothing we can do, we have to!

It’s not optional at this point! It’s interesting one of the reasons I grow so much food is I do want to have a very small environmental footprint. You mentioned you were a teacher I was as well and I taught environmental ed for years!

We all have to take inventories of our own lives and make an impact and raise our voices!

As much as everyone can do something we still need to have public pressure on government and industry to make some of the larger changes. 

If we are going to get through it with our population on this planet it’s going to take all of us. I go pishaw when someone says there’s nothing we can do!


Well said, I’m really digging this new movement the Sunrise Movement Kids with the New Green Deal hope they’re gonna get it through and the are like we want it! They’ve been holding sit-ins since election day! They want a new committee made and action taken now!

I think in some ways the young people are a bit more clear eyed about this. We have been basically going through a huge period of inaction. IDK if it’s the frog in the pot so the heat rises slowly and you don’t jump out. Particularly if you live in the west and dealing with these will fires.

We are living through climate change right now.

tell us it’s not a big deal

were not that blind

politicians don’t want to bring up the issues when they don’t have solutions

we don’t really have an option not too!

I hear people who are still constantly arguing with me in my daily life, there’s always gonna be fires and there’s nothing we can do so I love my listeners and guests like you who feel like I do. 


You another organization

Citizens Climate Lobby


chapter in my part of Seattle

It’s all over. It’s working with that public piece it’s a great organization.

I had mentioned this group 350.org someone mentioned another group.

350.org has been wonderful organization

I would love to work for them! I love them!

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

the hori hori

it’s funny when I first started

just another thing

maybe I was given one and it is that and a a pair of good clippers and a shovel!

3 things I would take to the desert island

How about a wheelbarrow?

I think it is essential but I don’t use it all that often!

pruners garden tool

I’m gonna agree with the clippers. My mom got me a pair of Cutco Pruners and they were the best!


I talked to a woman in Seattle who sells a tool called the Diggit. They also have a hor hori I want to get one of her Diggits. She makes like 3 tools and that’s it!

Diggit Garden HAnd Tool, Diggit Hori Hori Garden Knife and Diggit Duck Garden Hand tool

You can have clippers sharpened

The place I take my knives also do gardening clippers

have to be higher end, not the cheaper ones

I use the red Felco clippers

Felco Pruners

Every spring I get our clippers sharpened and it’s such a pleasure to do that! I didn’t realize all of our clippers were really dull, I have a friend who takes them apart and oils them and sharpens them but that’s not in my skill set yet.

That would make a big difference and it’s good to know there’s a professional who can help with that. I know my husband is always sharpening his chain saw. 

Part II of my interview will post next week!

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

berry curd if you’ve ever had Lemon Curd. You often get it in English tea rooms with scones.

It’s traditionally made with lemons

adapted to make with any berry


Mix with

  • eggs
  • butter

Turns to a delicious spread

  • have it on scones or toast
  • crepes
  • yogurt
  • filling on layers of a cake

I like to freeze a bunch of it and you make it in the summer

freeze in little jars

You can actually eat it frozen! It’s this really rich frozen custard

such a treat in winter and crack open this treat that’s a taste of summer. 

That sounds so decadent. 

its’ not hard to make

It’s a lovely thing to break out when you have guests

melts and turns into a bit of a syrup. 

Have it on Christmas mornings with waffles! 

It’s a real treat

super easy

stores, our’s don’t make it through the winter, but it will store up to 6 months

Someday I want a chest freezers

I just have a standard kitchen freezer

really really picky about what I freeze so it has to be really good.

It’s pretty damp here for a root cellar.

repurposed an old laundry room

Storage is an issue

if you are growing on a large scale

Yeah! Mike grows a lot of potatoes, golden beets, carrots, I guess the pont of the root cellar is it wouldn’t freeze.

IDK if you could leave them in the ground?

I released a replay of Kathy O’leary the other day and she said she puts like a ball of straw on top of the ground and is able to harvest fresh carrots all year, but she had just moved here, from Idaho so it’s kind of new to her now.

That’s what I do with my dahlia tubers, a lot of people depending on your climate, I leave them in grown and mulch them heavy. For me it’s a rotting issue so I put a terra cotta pot on top of the mulch

  • mark where they are and
  • to shed some of the water

not digging them up

depending on the year

some snow

a little bit of a soil freeze but nothing like where you are.

You don’t have to replant them every year?

No, I don’t. In some ways I think they are safer in the soil

don’t have a great place to store them, then you have to replant them and I just don’t trust myself

wasn’t really a dahlia gardener, we kept finding these tubers they were dahlias. The ones that are here in the yard survived years of neglect so I gamble on it each year

so far so good

I have dug some up to divide them and sometimes there is some rot on them. I haven’t lost one completely yet, I do mulch them heavily and straw. I know some people put black plastic to keep the water off.

It’s sandy soil and slightly sloped, so I think it drains well.

I think that’s genius the pot upside down.

It actually, again it reminds me what is where, I always leave a tag becuase if you leave it out in the weatehr the names come off.

enough that’s not rotted that they resort

It makes it interesting

When the kids come over they say, what are you doing?

It looks a little funny creates interest.

It reminds me of this fairy garden behind my moms house. It reminds me of this book I ahve about Monet’s garden and how he liked certain wooden additions like benches and bird-feeders.

I visited Monet’s garden and it was filled with kids just sketching and it was great!

I can’t believe after all these years of dreaming of his gardens and visiting when I went to Paris it was 2 weeks before it opened and I could have changed my ticket but I was afraid I would chicken out. I’ve been painting all these pictures of my trip. 

I think you’ll have to go back.

Maybe, I went because my passport was going to expire. Painting all these pictures makes me want to go back. You can see them here.

A favorite internet resource?

It’s interesting a lot of my garden inspiration is coming from Instagram

That all comes down to who you follow

I have been following a lot of

  • English gardeners
  • Dutch gardeners

There’s a woman I will look up her name! She’s kind of fantastic and she has a youtube channel.  She is in the Netherlands, and has a big garden and is doing a lot of permaculture things!

her Instagram channel.


Vera Grutink?

Speak a little German but don’t speak Dutch

active youtube channel


growing compatible seeds together

account out of England

Fordham Abbey

beautiful garden

old abbey


spending a lot of time

people I have been following


Canadian Gayla Trail

Margaret Roach

upstate NY

has a series of books

a way to garden

really super inspired by

farmer florists moment

erin floret

I know you had Erin on your podcast  from Floret  in Skagit Valley which is about an hour north of where I am. 

But there is another farmer in Ontario


Dahlia May

erin is just amazing with all that she is doing

I love Melanie! She is just about 4 years into farming, she is growing on land that is her families but she writes a lot on her captions Instagram! She is very honest about what she is doing and waking up at 4 in the morning and that there is a lot of work into making the magic happen! 

Flower Bulb ROI

We love to look at the pictures of dahlias and sunflowers, she is pulling back the veil to make that and how you are gambling your life savings on thousands of dollars of bulbs in the spring that you are not going to  see the return on until later. 

endless summer farm (which is actually Michael Genovese’s Summer Dreams Farm)

He also is farming family property he grows a lot of dahlias, the other side of the farm is a christmas tree farm his parents started when he was a kid. He just did a tour and took everyone through a morning at the Christmas Farm and it was really interested into everything that goes into selling Christmas trees.

It’s so great to see people doing amazing things and so when I get discouraged with my mole tunnels that’s where I go! 

What about what’s your channel on Instagram? Handle?

@tea_austen on Instagram

I post about the garden and I also do some food writing

  • posting what I am cooking out of the garden as well
  • travel and different things
  • I had a blog for years, although I don’t write much there

tea and cookies blog.com

There are actually a ton of recipes and there is a whole gardening section, a tab at the top where you can look at  and see pictures of my big garden and gardens before

I use my blog as a recipe archive to

Growing your own food changes how you cook

It’s no longer what do I feel like eating what looks good at the grocery store, it’s I have  6 heads of cauliflower what am I going to do with them?

choices happen very early in the year in the choices start in what you choose to plant! Really think about what you eat, and what you like and what you are going to use up!

don’t just get the starts at the nursery  and think it will be fun to grow this

one year I actually had forty chard starts

I planted them all and they all thrived

It was when I was in the community garden which actually had a program to donate food the food banks

garden shed

someone would pick it up at the end of the day

if you don’t love kale don’t plant a ton of kale!

it’s been a learning process!

I’ve been really working on my freegardencourse.com and trying to finish it and I’m working on a workbook and this weekend uploading it to Create Space which they make things pretty easy, except for it’s like you can spend 3 hours going , I got it one little tweak, oh one more tweak in the file. 

Swiss chard at the Farmer's Market

I love chard! I really only like the red chard or the yellow. I like to use the stems instead of celery because it’s easier to grow. The kids say it’s stringy or earthy. I took it to the farmer’s market one year when we had a ton of it, but I couldn’t give it away. I need a drop off place that I can just take it when I have an abundance and I have actually harvested it.

It’s called

Lettuce link

They encourage the community gardens to put your excess in there or grow an extra row. They’re always excited to have fresh food, it’s not something they can get really easily they can get canned goods but fresh produce is an exciting thing!

  • they encourage the community gardens to either
  • grow a row
  • plant some things specifically you can give to the food pantries
  • always so excited to have some fresh food
  • not something they can get really easily
  • day old bread

I’m gonna send you one of my favorite chard recipes.

Tell us about your book!



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

Some of the things that stood out to me were the apple socks and that raspberry starts were really called canes.

We have coddling moths here in the pacific nw.

pom fruit – pears and apples

fruit is about  smaller then a quarter they will lay eggs and tunnel inside. You know the children’s books where you see the apple with the worm sticking out!

You’ll get tiny tiny thread trails

see that in an apple

i can still eat it, but it ruins the storage capacity of the fruit, it doesn’t render it entirely inedible. If you don’t have high standards for your backyard fruit, the fruit wont keep for very long.

This actually happened in Oregon, this guy was shopping with his wife in Oregon and saw those little pads and thought I wonder if I could put that on the fruit to use as a barrier?

It is a little labor intensive.

I’ll be really honest we don’t sock all of our apples

our liberty tree

we do all of those

older trees that we inherited

I think that will actually seem less intimidating to people

some people put little paper bags

  • plastic can retain moisture
  • lead to fungal or rot issues

It’s a way to protect it

I noticed people are experimenting with putting nets over the entire tree, so I think I am going to experiment next year

The city of Seattle is doing these in the public parks

ghostly looking trees

gathered around the trunk so nothing can get in

the big thing I think a lot of times people who buy houses with fruit trees in the backyard don’t know how to care for them and in order to get the best fruit possible there are some things you do need to think about

we have a great organization here in Seattle called City Fruit

gleaning organization.

If you have a lot of fruit trees here in Seattle and you can’t keep up with them, you can register your trees.

They get a lot of volunteers to pick them. You can keep some if you like, but the bulk of them go to the food bank. They’re trying to help people and supporting people to go

how to gro better fruit. 

They have classes in the spring.

There is a tremendous amount of food waste from backyard trees.

Maybe you bought a house and you weren’t buying it for the 3 old apple trees in the back

The more we can save the better it will be.

If they put these socks on it’s only for like a 2 week period of time. 

raising fruit that ends up being edible

in the compost

primarily may end of june, 

They have a couple of lifecycles so you might as well leave them on.

People who cover them with paper bags the fruit will grow, but it won’t redden so you need to take the bags off a couple of weeks off before harvest

leave our socks on till we pick it. 

I have a basket of apples

last apples

That’s not so bad if you can leave them on.

because the socks grow with the fruit, they just stretch

is its a pain, like I said growing fruit trees is like being an aunt or uncle who shows up on birthdays or graduation. You have to show up for putting socks on and pruning your fruit trees.

area of having these pests

pruning I think is a hugely intimidating topic

There are entire books about pruning if you really get into it I recommend some as resources basically I would say about pruning: 

A. you don’t have to do it yourself

idea of pruning

There are professionals you can hire to do your trees

I will say be careful about who you hire

There is an association

do want to not just hire the person who comes to your door, they might be great but they might not be, only to people who have experience and have passed a test

arborist certification

not everyone does

horror stories I can share

don’t want to damage your trees

pruning your tree

particularly if you plant your own tree

barefoot tree

potted tree

kind of influence the growth of the tree

kind of like a conversation that take place over years and year

tree will react

more detail

heading cut

  • will Stimulate growth
  • thinking cut
  • sunlight on your fruit
  • twice a year

in the winter

leaves are all down

tree is dormant and you can look at the shape of the tree and decide how you want to influence the growth


to see if the fruit is getting sunlight

open up your trees

Pruning can be really complicated but it doesn’t have to be

really wanted

This is not a book entirely about pruning but

nerdy about pruning

thick pruning books

really wanted to demystify and put people at ease

trees want to grow!

Even when someone does a hatchet job of pruning the trees respond and they will bounce back. It might take some time.

But you are talking about the long game

most likely

will I very much hope will live without me

berries and fruit trees

This is sort of like legacy gardening

It requires a lot less work from you that annual vegetable gardening but it is gonna be around for a long time

You have time to learn about these things

plant some bare root trees this winter you have some seasons to figure out about pruning before it becomes a necessity.

There are blueberry bushes that live a 100 years.

feeding someones grandchildren that’s something to think about.

Wow! That’s interesting and so true too! I talk about that a lot thinking about where’s the sun gonna be in winter, in spring figuring those things out. Anything else you wanted to talk about you wanted to mention? 

Well one of the things I have the most fun with writing the book

real fan of kiwi berries

they look like miniature kiwis the brown fuzzy kiwis

miniature size

skin doesn’t have the fuzz on it

It’s a soft green reddish skin

Which means you can just pop the thing in your mouth

They taste fantastic and the kids love them!

most exciting thing!

They come ripe in September and October

summer berries are out the door

  • take up into winter
  • high vitamin c
  • good for cold season

fun for kids to grow!

  • wildberries
  • salmonberries
  • thimbleberries
  • evergreen huckleberries
  • currents
  • gooseberries

If you don’t have the sun if you have a shady spot

grow in the sand


evergreen huckleberries

grow larger in the shade

currents and gooseberries

family the Ribies familiar

banned for years, so they were an alternate host for pine blister rust

For states that have timber industries they outlawed planting them

developed blister rust resistant varaities

Haven’t developed much of a following here in the US

black currents is another things super popular in Europe!

elderberries fantastic to fight off winter colds. They are really easy to grow they just haven’t gotten much love here in the states

tart berries

lingon berries

It was a really rewarding project to do because I learned so much.

I feel honored bound to tell everyone, the book has, I laid out the ideal way to take care of your berries, I didn’t do half of what is in the book for years and my berriees really grew quite well

It’s not as intimidating as it seems I think everyone in a corner in your yard


pick out some varieties strawberries grow great in containers


container friendly

really again the reward to ratio effort

raspberry canes will give you fruit year after year

return on investment

the gardening world is not full of things that are almost maintenance free and so rewarding it is a great kind of lazy gardener hack!

IDK about the lazy gardener, i think it’s the convenient thing and people are busy.

It’s something for someone who isn’t a confident gardener.

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

I think climate change absolutely

I would love to , IDK if I think as a gardener I would encourage everyone to grow a little bit!

If you plant a little pot of parsley on your deck and didn’t buy parsley again for the rest of your life. Again, those herbs are so frustrating you have to buy a whole bunch of them for the 2 sprigs for the recipe you are making and honestly the the rest of them rot and turn to slime in your fridge.

food waste is a huge issue

40% of food in mid-well to do countries is wasted

And it’s wasted late in the process!

Generally at the grocery store at the home kitchen stage. 

That food when it

  • gets thrown into landfills, 
  • rots
  • releases methane contributes to greenhouse gas


I would encourage everyone, but I am probably preaching to the choir, someone who can’t garden a lot just 

  • grow herbs

  • grow something that is easy

and cut down on the food waste and transportation miles required to get food to your house

another things that is really helpful to gardening is it ties you into the seasons! 

when green bean season

You know when you buy berries in the season in winter

honking big berries have white in the center is the ghost of  a strawberry 

also picked three states away sitting in a plastic carton so that’s three kinds of unfortunate!

I’m happy there are recipes in the book get off the out of season flown from the

I’m so glad too. You now how long I stand in the store saying I should buy strawberries because they’re good for me, but they’re wrapped in plastic so I shouldn’t but they’re healthy, but they’re laiden in chemicals.

what’s interesting also, doesn’t entirely solve the problem

frozen fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness, and frozen! 

it’s actually in terms of carbon impact is probably better then buying the plastic cartons of out of season berries. 

They don’t slice as nicely onto your breakfast cereal

They are picked and flash frozen so they’re probably a little better

My big thing with fruit is I feel like it’s so messy. You bite into a peach and a pear it drips down my arm. I feel like I eat on the go, I am always trying to force myself to eat fruit. Frozen berries would be good. IDK if anyone has said that. One of the biggest things for me was how you can take red peppers and just freeze them without blanching. You can just throw raspberries in the freezer right?

Yes, There’s a section on freezing fruit in the book


all the berries

you can just

what’s best is to freeze them on a cookie sheet! So they are individuals. If you pack them into a ziplock they will freeze together like a block of fruits. 

It’s fine with some like if I  freeze pears like that turn into pear sauce

But if you are baking put into muffins

  • put on a cookie sheet
  • put in a bag

quarter of my freezer




I don’t grow enough so I buy a case from a farm in the summer

I don’t grow enough strawberries to freeze. Some years I will go to a you pick to a local organic farm. 

If you are not producing enough it’s really easy to go to a you pick and it’s so much cheaper then what your gonna get a grocery store! 

It’s a nice afternoon in the sun. Take some friends and some kids and then learn to tie yourself to those seasons

websites that will tell you what’s available for picking when! 

I like to combine it with a camping trip on a weekend

farmland around Seattle

come back with a case or two of berries!


  • jam
  • freeze
  • gorge yourself

I’ve seasonal in my eating since I’ve been gardening

I was an editor for a sustainable ag magazine so I got very into local foods


middle of winter in the grocery store those things taste like wet tissue paper, so maybe I have become a snob but it’s hard to go back.

I take roasted cherry tomatoes, it’s not the same as fresh but so delicious!

Yes, and the taste of tomato sauce in winter is awesome!

It probably requires a little more thinking. If we go back to the climate change issue. I would love to see if we can take personal inventories

government and industry have got to be pushed in the right direction. 

me not purchasing herbs is not going to save the planet on its own.

everyone making some collective positive decisions makes an impact.

It is not optional any longer.

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

here you go,

this is a really common quote in permaculture

the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago

the second best time is now!

I take that to mean jump in and do it

I remember I moved into my first house in San Francisco I wanted to plant rhubarb

but takes a couple of years to get established and I didn’t think I would be there, but I should have just planted it

  • read some books
  • get some working knowledge

thinking about having

will say I have another resource we forgot to mention talking bout food waste

Scraps, Peels, and Stems: Recipes and Tips for Rethinking Food Waste at Home Jill Lightner

Scraps, Peels, and Stems: Recipes and Tips for Rethinking Food Waste at Home

jill Lightner

It’s full of recipes for using the core of the cauliflower you cut off those florets and cut off a hunk of a core.

She’s figured out good ways to do things with it

We’re both nerdy in this food waste issue! 

How do we connect with you?

the book is out at the end of January



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



link to my blog

whole section on gardening

massive recipe archives. I go to the blog to find my own recipes. It’s fun since the book came out I can use it in my own kitchen instead of having to get back on the computer.



Thanks so much for sharing all of this knowledge I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a long interview like this. Congratulations on this book and some of your other ones I’m dying to read the Butcher and the Vegetarian!

Well it’s nice to hear about gardeners in other climates. I’m not dealing with anything you’re dealing with.

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 Free Organic Garden Course 

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You can  download the first 30 days here   while you’re waiting for it to come in the mail. 

Organic Gardening Podcast Group

We’d love if you’d join  Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Community!

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.