In Alameda, It’s Always Tree-Planting Time

Marla Koss -- A Pineapple Guava tree in bloom.
Marla Koss -- A Pineapple Guava tree in bloom.

In Alameda, It’s Always Tree-Planting Time

June is here and winter’s endless string of storms are finally in the rear-view mirror. And as easily distracted by this year’s greenery explosion as we are, one could be forgiven for banishing thoughts of drought. Just the same, City of Alameda staff and members of the community have been hard at work on the Urban Forest Plan, formulating what will guide city operations to improve our tree canopy over the next decade, in accordance with Alameda’s 2019 Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP).

In the spirit of such a proactive approach to improving our local ecosystem and quality of life, and if there’s an empty spot in your garden, why not surrender to the current tree-planting vibe? With the earth below our feet having gotten a good dose of moisture and water use restrictions eased, there may never be a more optimal time to plant a young tree.

Although common gardening wisdom dictates planting trees in fall or early spring, Alamedans can take advantage of year-round planting. Young trees in containers abound at our local nurseries right now, and can be hard to walk away from when you see them leafed-out and spot the occasional dangling fruit. A visit to Encinal Nursery or Ploughshares Nursery is an excellent place to start.

The Right Tree in the Right Spot
With the exception of some fruit varieties, most trees can be easy-care when planted in the right spot and correctly pruned for size and shape from the very beginning. The two biggest tree-purchase choices to consider prior to a nursery visit are 1) sun and shade patterns and 2) soil health. For fruit trees in particular, deciduous fruit trees like apples, plums, cherries, pears, pluots and apricots are likely to fruit better, and provide sweeter fruit, when grown in winter shade / summer sun. Fruit varieties like citrus, figs, persimmons, pineapple guavas or pome or stone fruit labeled “low-chill” can take a spot in year-round sun.

Avoid planting in a hole where a tree, shrub or vine has died within the past three years, unless lots of fresh soil has been brought in to replace what was there; otherwise, plant at least 3 to 6 feet away. If a tree, shrub or vine died from Oak Root Fungus (Armillaria mellea), play it safe and plant only a resistant tree variety or tree with resistant root stock in the same general area (to identify resistant tree varieties, see If the soil is poor and extremely sandy, and any tomato, zucchini or other garden plants have wilted and/or had knobby roots when pulled up, root knot nematodes are present and will threaten the life of most fruit and nut trees. Figs are particularly susceptible.

Fruit Trees for the Carefree Gardener
For a nearly hands-off approach to growing a fruit tree, consider a persimmon, pineapple guava (feijoa) or fig tree. Except for the above-mentioned fig/root knot nematode issue, none are otherwise plagued by diseases or insect pests and can even withstand the Oak Root Fungus that lives in soil on much of the island, a remnant of the grand oak forest that once covered it. All can withstand a certain amount of drought once established, though a judicious watering schedule and/or winter rains do make a difference (note that “drought-tolerant” does not mean “drought-loving”).

A Timely Tip for Peach/Nectarine Tree Owners
Peach Leaf Curl (Taphrina deformens) has been particularly bad this spring, after all the rain. Spraying with a fixed copper fungicide when all the leaves have dropped in late fall will be particularly important with so much fungal growth this year.

Trees give us so much and ask for so little in return. Enjoy that apple that once was plucked off a tree in an orchard somewhere. Listen for the rush of wind through the tallest tree in your neighborhood. Wander through one of our beautiful city parks and draw inspiration from their quiet strength. Or perhaps resolve to adopt one today if space allows!


Alameda Backyard Growers is dedicated to teaching our neighbors how to grow food. We offer online and in-person educational programming. Visit us at to join our mailing list to receive our educational newsletters and information on classes and events, locate the Free Seed Library nearest you, or join Project Pick as a fruit picker or fruit donor. Contact ABG at