Eric Praetzel Southern Ontario Gardening and Fruit Trees

Local Information

Foodlink - Waterloo Region


Here are some good seed sources:

Here are some good books:

Here is a picture of my small yard. It's actually showing only 11 of my 14 fruit trees.
My back yard - summer 2000

I am located in Southern Ontario Canada aprox. 100km west of Toronto. The winters here can be very harsh. In 1994 we had 5 days of -30C weather that nearly killed my one nectarine tree (ie only about 1" of wood above the ground was left alive) and caused a fair bit of bark dammage on various other trees.

Useful Links


Yea this page is a mess!!

As of summer 2009 I have come to the conclusion that I don't like dwarf trees. Semi-dwarf are nicer - just prune them to the size you want. The dwarf sour cherries give a small harvest; but the apples are ok (if you don't mind worms).

Yes you can space dwarf trees about 2 meters appart - but don't do it as they really should have light and air to deal with brown rot and other issues.

I dry some of my fruit and have a web page for information about drying fruit

Our Garden

PH Measurements

In May 2008 we picked up some rolls of PH tape (measures PH from 1 to 12 in steps of 1; $10 for a double rool from our Chemistry Store at the local university) and start measuring things:

Fall 2008

Dec 12th - we are eating up the last of our rutabega, carrots will last a few more weeks and the frozen kale / will last (one to two meals per week) all winter.
We shelled some of our corn and put it into a coffee grinder - it destroyed the plastic lid. I then put the corn into a mortor and partially ground it and finished it in a coffee grinder and baked it into corn bread. The black, white, red and blue kernels made a grey colored bread that was quite good.

Nov 30th - we dug up all of our leeks and 5.9kg of carrots (in danger of freezing in a raised bed). We still have kale in the garden (buried under snow) but the kids have been riding toboggans over it. We're still eating pears from the one tree, we have enough kale, in the freezer, to have kale soup twice weekly all winter.

Summer 2008

June 1: We had a nice sorrel soup and lots of rubarb. We turned the mustard garlic (invasive weed) into a nice pesto meal.

June 23: Flea beetles killed my kale, brussel sprouts, kohrabi and radishes - very quickly.
My attempt to grow lambs lettuce/mache failed again. I saw nothing come up

The spring had a hot blast but it has stayed cool and wet. As of early June the lettuce is coming in bag by bag. Beans are suffering and it looks like flea beetles. Potatoes are doing well as are tomatoes (even though I let my tomatoes go dry twice and shocked them by moving them out too soon. My fava beans are doing well - lots of blossoms. The "brazilian peas" from my friend on Vancouver island are growing very strongly. My crop of peas is growing well at the community garden in one plot - but all other plots of peas are not growing that well. "Volunteer" kale at home is growing better than all kale we started indoors! Carrots (due to flea beetles?) are doing poorly. We did not get much spinach.

Summer 2007


Sept 24 - Squirrels from HELL! A squirrel discovered that there are seeds within squash and in mere minutes nibbled at or thru most everything we had drying/hardening and then it started on what was left in the garden!

Cucumber bettles are a problem with squash as is squash vine borer (they've pretty well killed all plants and much of the fruit). Light green worms 1cm to 3cm long are eating leaves from my brussle sprouts and some small critters have been eating off carrot tops (rust fly?) as well as kale and other leafy greens.

My morning ritual involved picking raspberries, cherries and now involves squishing green worms on cabbage family plants.

Comments, Plantings

July 1 planted Pixwell Gooseberry after taking out a cedar tree.
90cm to 2.4m spread 1.2 to 3m
page green fruit becoming pink when ripe; few thorns!!! (ha!)
white flower and fruit on old wood in mid summer, likes rich well drained soils

Our garden tested low to very low for N, P, K and there is no time to put in manure as it's mostly already planted (late April).
For the 2007 year I'm trying the following:

  1. Sorrel
  2. Covering the garden with plastic. This pre-warmed the soil and prevented frost from from setting in again during a cold snap in April. Plastic tubs are used to protect some plants.
  3. A variety of chard - Russian is being tested.
  4. More tomato varieties are being tested - Sweeties (OSC), heritage beefstake, "boars heart", a heritage plub from BC and some cherry tomatoes from U of Guelph.
  5. Pre-spouts of legumes. Peas and beans will be sprouted in a tray for 5 days before planting. This worked well in summer 2006 with a clay soil in our community garden and will help deal with slow germination in cold soils.
  6. Mache or Corn Salad or Lambs Lettuce. I'm trying a spring crop as well as fall and winter crops.
  7. Ton 'o' peas. We've put in around 150 heritage pod peas and even more "snap" peas. Most of those will be followed with a crop of bush beans while the rest are interplanted with carrots.
  8. Four brussel sprout plants were started 5 weeks before last frost. The rest are started 3 weeks before last frost (May 24).

Sept 2006, My mid-summer planting (kohlrabi, winter radishes) has been going poorly. They are currently 6 weeks old and very small in size. The apple crop this year is poor - birds are decimating the Matsu apples and they're scabbed and small as well. The red delicious tree is loaded and there are hopes for a crop. The red ever-bearing raspberries are doing well and coming in strong in mid september. The Ajou pears are all picked and eaten now and the Bartlett ones will be getting picked soon. Both pear trees were heavily loaded this year! Plumbs are still coming in. I can pick a few medium wooden baskets at once. Mold on the fruit is a massive problem this year as are squirrels. It's been over 4 years since I used a lime sulphur spray - this winter I'll trim the tree and spray it in spring.

May 29, 2006. After reading Square Foot Gardening and BioIntensive Gardening ( I double dug one of our gardens. Ie dig down 2 shovels and we loosened the lower soil by mixing in leaves. The results this spring were amazing. The garden was much higher and soaking up water like a sponge - instead of running off like it usually does.

After years growing things in our clay soil we dug up the garden, fall 2004) and replaced the soil with tripple-mix and doubled the size of the garden.

Community Garden - 2006

In 2006 we got involved with a community garden. The soil was a heavy clay that crusted over quickly after a rain. The roto-tilling was useless and so we turned it by hand, one shovel deep. Trying to dig deeper was impossible - too rocky! Also the managers started very late; we were already havesting peas and radishes at home!

We planted peas and out of about 100 seeds only 3 came up. We then sprouted bush beans at home and planted aprox 100 seeds in a 4 foot square patch. Over 90% of them came up and in late July we picked 5lb of beans on one day alone - several more pounds were ready two days later!

Kale and Swiss Chard also does well. The established red currents, mint and Jerusalm artichoke are doing well on their own. Tomato plants (primarily non-watery varieties for drying) are low and doing well.

2006 started out warming early and was quite dry - long periods between rain. July has been very wet with hot, but not exceedingly hot or humid weather.

Early Planting

As soon as you can turn the soil there are many things that you can plant. We plant the following (typically at the end of March):

When things warm up and the danger of frost is over then the tomatoes go outside and we plant zuccini, beans (sprout the seeds inside to give them a head start!) and other vegetables.

Mid-Season Planting

Read Square Food Gardening for ideas!

There isn't much to plant in our climate in the mid season. But this is what we do now:

My Views and Feelings on Fruit Trees

If asked about these sorts of trees I'd say:

Hold Vines and Fruit Upright

If you are growing vines or canes [raspberries, currents, blackberries] against your home you'll find that the brick quickly rubs thru and kills the branches. You will need to tie the branches to your home so that they can't rub. I simply built a wooden (cedar, not that poison, pressure treated, wood) rack for tying the branches.


The trees only bloom for a short period of time (ie a few days). Spraying of herbicidal oils should be done before the leaves open. You don't need to use special oils. A solution of 5% veg. oil with a bit of soap (to make the water & oil mix) does an excellent job of killing bark harbouring insects, aphids and many other pests.
In the summer you can spray with a light soap solution (ie 1 Tbl. spoon of soap per 2L or 2 quarts of water). Soap is a contact poison and will kill only on contact. It will also kill scale, catipillars, pear slugs and spruce bud worms.
Here is some information on Pear Slugs. They love to go after the leaves of pear and cherry trees.



I sprayed the tree trunks with 3oz (90 ml) of Lousiana hot sauce diluted with water [for my sprayer] in desperation in the winter of 2001. Due to deep snow the rabbits were chewing off branches and bark well above the plastic strips I had protecting the stems.
You must protect your fruit trees from these animals; in particular apple, cherry and pear. They will also eat 1-year old brances from apricots and other trees but generally avoid the older branches / bark.

Pear Slugs - Aphids

I have had problems with aphids, pear slugs as well as catipilars. The aphids and pear slugs are easily killed with a weak soap solution (ie 1 tbl spoon of Ivory soap in 1.5L of water). It also works on catipilars but not as well. Soap is a contact poison for many insects and it leaves no residue. Do NOT spray the trees in hot weather. Pick a cool time and rinse the trees after. If you do not rise the trees in warm weather the leaves _may_ yellow and drop off.
Pear slugs are a translucent to dark slug that eats the leaves of trees. It only went after my pear, sweet cherry and pear trees; none of the others.
A solution of vegatable oil with a bit of soap makes an insecticidal soap spray. I believe that it was about 5% oil by volume. Spray that on the trees before the leaves open and it kills insects that harbour in the bark. It can also be sprayed during the summer; but _AVOID_ hot weather.
Aphids seem to primarily go after my plum trees or apple trees and they prefer new leaves over all else.
Lime sulphur sprays must be put on before the leaves open. This solution is necessary for peach trees to prevent/control peach leaf curl (a fungus that stays on the bark).

Spraying Times

Fungal Problems

Yearly Comments

Picking Fruit

At times I have picked the fruit before it was ripe and put the fruit into the refrigerator (and left it there 3 to 4 weeks!!!). The plums did soften but the flesh clung to the stone. Meanwhile the fruit that I left on the tree was just as ripe and seperately from the stone perfectly.

Fruit Tree Information

Here is a list of my trees and how they have fared:

Growing Plants