Her new book, ‘Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest,’ will lead you to sweet, sweet success.

Share story

TARA AUSTEN WEAVER grows an inordinate amount of fruit: 21 fruit trees and 15 types of berries, at last count. You might even say she’s a disciple of the sweet life.

Weaver shares her expertise and enthusiasm for cultivating backyard fruit in her new book, “Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest” (Sasquatch Books, $19.95).

She had me at berries.

“Growing berries and fruit trees is so much easier than a vegetable garden,” she says. “Plant once, reap for years — and no daily watering chores.”

Plus, everyone has room for fruit. “I encourage people to incorporate berries and fruit trees into their existing landscape. ‘Sunshine Blue’ blueberry is a beautiful compact shrub with attractive, almost-evergreen foliage. It stays significantly smaller than most high-bush blueberries, and it even does well in containers,” Weaver says. “And if you want to keep the kids out the flower beds, a tidy border of alpine strawberries stops them in their tracks — they can’t resist the tiny, candy-sweet fruit the plants produce all summer long.”

We humans are primed to prefer sweet. No offense, salad greens, but the charm of fruit lies in its sugars. Picked at peak ripeness, plump and still warm from the sun, backyard fruit tastes better than anything we can get at the store — and for less money, too.

“You’ll never look at a $5 basket of berries the same once you know that for roughly the same amount of money, you can purchase a raspberry cane that will produce for years,” says Weaver, who’s been transplanting the same raspberry canes she purchased in 2007 during a visit to Seattle.

The book provides detailed planting and growing instructions for a variety of berry and fruit-tree crops, including pro tips like siting berries and fruit trees where they’ll get a full day of sun and can take advantage of reflected heat from a driveway, the side of a building or a masonry wall. Sugar needs sun and warmth to develop fully.

You’ll also find lists of Weaver’s favorite varieties, which she selected purely for flavor and performance in Pacific Northwest gardens. Like the delicious but extremely perishable ruby-red ‘Shuksan’ strawberries, a backyard grower’s cult favorite. And my new must-have, ‘Polka’ raspberries, an especially attractive everbearing cultivar from Poland that Weaver touts for its potent flavor and heavy production.

When I mentioned birds, slugs, squirrels and other pests, Weaver advised, “Grow more! I plan on sharing about 20 percent of my berry harvest with wildlife.”

Weaver is both an experienced gardener and a creative cook. Twelve master recipes in the book can be adapted to whatever fruit is in season. I think I’ll start with the one described as “fruit with a side of cake.”