By Jillian Steinberger
SYNERGY, AVOCADOS AND THREE LADY LANDSCAPERS
When Heather Brady DeQuincy moved to San Leandro, she discovered two huge fruitful avocado trees growing around the corner at different houses. She took the writer of this article to see the trees. When they knocked at one of the doors to ask about the trees, out came landscape contractor Danna Pierce, who has been in business for over 25 years as the Growing Place. She and her partner, Carla Rogers, bought their stunning little piece of paradise full of fruit trees in 2005. They explained that both trees are of the Bacon variety, and both were planted in the ’70s. Pierce prunes and cares for both trees. Incidentally this writer, who now owns the Garden Artisan, apprenticed with Pierce in the early 2000s (and learned a lot). deQuincy is also a landscaper (Green Lady Landscapes), as well as a staff member at the California Invasive Plant Council.
SHARING THE NEIGHBORHOOD BOUNTY
“I glean from the tree growing in the yard behind mine,” says Tina Proia, who lives in East Oakland, where she and her eight-year-old son, Ezra, have a small but productive homestead with chickens, ducks, rabbits, and fruits and vegetables. Her gleaned avocados are rich and creamy, and show Guatemalan genetics with their thick bumpy skin and long harvest time. Proia gives away “bags and bags” of avocados to her friends. She harvests from her tree much of the year, letting fruit ripen in a bag for up to a month.
RESCUE TREE FEEDS MANY
“My neighbors have a pair of trees right on the property line that hang over our deck,” explains Birgitt Evans, a master gardener in Alameda. “My deceased neighbor Don tried to kill the trees 30 years ago, and cut them down to stumps. But they survived despite this.” Evans helped start the Alameda Backyard Growers, which donated nearly 2,500 pounds of gleaned produce to the Alameda Food Bank in 2012. alamedabackyardgrowers.org
FREE FOOD! YOU CAN REACH IT
Lauren Elder, an environmental artist who lives in Oakland’s Rockridge district, thinks nothing of mounting her 10-foot ladder to get the goods. “We have some enormous and productive avocado trees in our area,” she says. “We have two trees that are easily over 30 feet tall. They require no attention, no water, and yet they grow vigorously.” Elder says that the fruit have a thin skin, and are tasty.
In 2010, Stephanie Pascal and Meg Ronayne, who live two doors apart in North Oakland, undertook a neighborly project. Stephanie planted a Hass avocado and Meg planted a Zutano. Both trees flowered in 2011. In 2012, Stephanie and Meg were “incredibly pleased” when their trees set fruit. To date, both trees are about seven feet tall.
AN EAST BAY AVOCADO TOUR
Yes, you can grow avocados!, Join writer and landscaper Jillian Steinberger on Saturday April 13, 2013, 1–5pm for an adventurous carpool caravan tour to visit vigorous avocado trees in the East Bay. You’ll learn: why so few have been planted here, and why experts are now recommending planting more; the varieties we can grow here, from Hass to Reed and more, and which are hardiest for our microclimates; how to plant for a year round crop; about pollination, cultivation, fertilization, pruning and harvesting; about the health benefits, and culinary and cosmetic uses for avocados. We’ll also share recipes. Info: Institute of Urban Homesteading, iuhoakland.com/calendar.html