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To plant or not to plant, that is the question. Well, it may be a bit overstated, but the dilemma of a backyard orchard is very interesting for many homeowners to try and solve. Changing times and changing tastes are making growing backward fruit more and more challenging. Those pioneers who first settled this state always planted fruit trees. Even today there are a few pioneer trees that remain as a tribute to their work. For several generations, growing fruit trees and storing the crop was a part of life in Utah. Unfortunately that is no longer the case, and backyard plantings of fruit trees are declining. Lots are smaller now than they were former days so planning and planting the home orchard is even more essential. There is little space to waste and with a very mobile society, timing to get trees into production is even more critical than it was previously. The increasing pest problems and the growing reluctance of some to use pesticides is discouraging others from getting into fruit production. Others have lost the time-honored tradition of preserving their harvest and no longer want to bottle their crops. Finally the spring frosts are often cruel reminders that we do not control the weather. On the other side of the orchard fence are the current recommendations to eat more fresh produce. Growing your own means you can control everything that is applied to the crops and also produce the varieties you like. Best of all is the quality. If you have never had a tree ripened, melt in your mouth, drip down your face Utah peach, you have missed a wonderful taste treat. Although the weather has not been kind to my own trees the past couple of years, we have some set aside in bottles. We took some out of our storage a few days ago. Five half peaches filled a wide mouth quart jar and they had the taste that only tree ripened, preserved at the peak of freshness peaches can have. Add the great feeling of producing your own food and the bragging rights and satisfaction that comes with sharing your produce with others. Do not overlook the landscape effect from well cared for trees. They can offer shade, beautiful blossoms in the spring and, of course, color as the fruit ripens. Add all these factors together and the scale in my book is tipped in favor of including fruit in the garden. If you want to grow fruit in your backyard orchard or if the trees you already are frustrating you, plan on attending the “Home Orchard Course” I am teaching. Topics include soils, fertilizing, pruning, variety selection and many others. To register or to get additional information call (801) 768-4971 or 1-888-672-6040 (ext.4971). Classes start February 5, 2002 at 2 or 6 P.M.. Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Thanksgiving Point Office