Fruit trees

Since its inception, at least 35,000 fruit trees have been planted with help from the Urban Farm’s Fruit Tree Program. 

The 21st annual Fruit Tree Program kicks-off on Saturday, September 12 – and this year, it will be virtual. 

“We’ve taken the guesswork out of fruit trees in the desert,” Greg Peterson, founder of Urban Farm’s Fruit Tree Program, said. 

Peterson has been planting fruit trees for 24 years and had started hosting informal classes to the community in his living room. Three people attended his first gathering.

“I started doing it because I discovered back then that people could go into most nurseries and every big-box store and buy a fruit tree that would never make it here,” he said. 

When the world was fearing a Y2K malfunction, Peterson decided to plant an orchard of 50 fruit trees in his yard.  

Before long, people were asking Peterson if they could buy fruit trees from him. By 2015, Peterson was ordering 4,000-5,000 plants every year. Since the program started, Peterson and his farm have distributed more than 30,000 fruit trees in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

There are about 80 fruit trees on Peterson’s property. He utilizes solar panels on the roof, greywater harvesting, and up until this year, offered tours of his orchard four or five times a year. 

The program starts with an educational event that offers discounted pricing on trees, followed by classes on everything about planting and growing. 

From September 12 through December 1, Urban Farm hosts dozens of additional classes ranging from what to know before purchasing and planting to fertilizing. 

“The success of your trees is highly dependent on the health of the soil underneath it. So I’m doing another new class this year on all of the different products for your trees’ success and how to use them,” Peterson said. 

Peterson explained that there are a few major factors you need to know before you purchase a fruit tree. The most important being the “chill hours,” or the amount of cold weather a fruit tree needs. 

“If it doesn’t tell you how many chill hours are required for that tree, walk away from that tree,” he said.

“If you plant an apricot tree, or peach tree or an apple tree in your yard, you should have an ‘oh my God’ amount of fruit coming off of that tree within three to five years. If you do it right, if you follow my directions, that’s what will happen,” Peterson said. 

Over 600 people attended last year’s event. 

For more: urbanfarm.org