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Douglas Bullock's Fruit Tree Recommendations for the Pacific Northwest

Kane Jamison


Joined: Aug 02, 2010
Posts: 104
Location: West Seattle, WA
I'm taking Toby Hemenway's Seattle PDC right now. Last weekend Douglas Bullock was the guest lecturer. He gave us a thorough list of the best fruit trees for the Seattle area. This seems to fit in the permaculture section better than the Cascadia section, but Moderators please move it if you see fit.

Original Post: Douglas Bullock’s Fruit Tree Recommendations for Seattle & The Pacific Northwest

At my permaculture design course last weekend the guest speaker was Douglas Bullock, of the well-known Bullock Brothers Permaculture Homestead on Orcas Island. Douglas was lecturing on the overall topic of soil, and specifically spoke about nitrogen-fixing plants, sheet mulching, microclimates, and last but not least, orchard design and his personal fruit tree recommendations for Seattle.

He gave me permission to pass along his recommendations for fruit to plant in the Maritime Northwest, which included best of breeds for apples, plums, peaches, pears, mulberries, kiwis, hawthornes, and figs. His recommendations were heavily focused on Seattle, however all of the varieties mentioned below would be pretty good for Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, and the rest of Western Washington, Western Oregon, and similar parts of British Columbia.

Apple Varieties:

Good Early Apple Varieties: Vista Bella, Oriole, Discovery, Gravenstein
Good Mid-Season Apple Varieties: Hudson’s Golden Gem, Zestar, Jonagold, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Splender, Sweet 16, Molly’s Delicious, Spartan. He also included Karmijn de Sonaville, with the provision that it needs a good hot summer in order to taste good – otherwise it’s not so great.
Good Late Season Apple Varieties (Savers): Melrose, Mutsu, Ashmead’s Kernel, Gala

Plum Varieties:

Good European Plum Varieties: Rhina Victoria, Bleu de Belgique, Italian Prune, Seneca (big, juicy and sweet), Elma’s Special, Red Washington, Damson (good for jams)
Good Japanese Plum Varieties: Beauty (very heavy producer that will break branches, but it doesn’t keep well), Shiro (also heavy producer, but no broken branches, and makes a great plum wine), and Methley

Peach Varieties:

Good Peach Varieties: Frost, Avalon Pride, and Q18

Pear Varieties:

Good Pear Varieties: Comice, Bosc, Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Orcas, Ubileen, Harrow Delight, and a new one that will be for sale soon called Suij (pronounced like “sigh”, it’s a half comice / half winter pear and it tends to ripen in March or April, so it’s great for fresh winter fruit)

Mulberry Varieties:

Good Mulberry Varieties: Illinois Everbearing, Lavender (good for drying), Persian (needs a very sunny spot, and interestingly has more chromosome than any other living thing)

Hawthorne Varieties:

Good Hawthorne Varieties: Super Spur Mayhaw

Fig Varieties:

Good Fig Varieties: Hands down, without a doubt, Douglas recommended Desert King Figs, because it has a high-quality first crop, which is rare among most of the breeds that are designed to have a great 2nd crop. The 2nd crop is OK down in California, but up here in the Northwest we never get 2nd crops, so we have to make the best of the first crop.

Nut Varieties:

Douglas’s recommendation was to call Burntridge Nursery and see what they recommended. He did say chestnuts were good if you had a squirrel problem – I can’t remember the reason he gave us, but squirrels avoid them for some reason.

Paw Paw Varieties:

He said there are few Paw Paw varieties that will ripen well in Seattle. If your goal is for good production and you don’t care about messing around with more experimental varieties, he’d recommend skipping on the Paw Paws.

Vine Choices: Hardy Kiwi, Fuzzy Kiwi, or Grape

He also gave a super easy guide to deciding between kiwi and grape vines based upon soil and sun:

Poor Soil, Good Sun: Plant a grape vine
Good Soil, Poor Sun: Plant a hardy kiwi
Good Soil, Good Sun: Plant a fuzzy kiwi

General Advice on Food Forests:

Most of the primary issues with fruit in Seattle are made worse by excessive moisture and crowding. Douglas advises to take this into heavy consideration when planning a food forest type orchard. He recommends looking into atypical plant and tree choices to avoid issues like apple maggot, and to give your trees good space. Also, keep a blank space in your mulch around the base of the tree, or you’ll run the risk of small rodent’s chewing the base off and killing your tree.


I'm Kane, I have a site called Seattle Homestead that focuses on urban homesteading.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Thank you very much for posting this info. 

This is my first year growing the Desert King fig and I am already impressed with the growth habit.  It was slow in coming in to leaf during the cold wet spring and dropped some leaves due to stress early in the Summer.  It has since put out an impressive number of leaves and is starting to set a few figs for the Fall.

I am in south-west OR, so we get more heat in the Summer here.  I expect good results from our other 7 varieties of figs, as well, but I am glad to see the Desert King recommendation once again.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Kane Jamison


Joined: Aug 02, 2010
Posts: 104
Location: West Seattle, WA
My pleasure. Douglas was very adamant that Desert King was the best choice in Seattle, if not the rest of the NW West of the Cascades.

As mentioned in the article, the first harvest is supposed to be of much higher quality than the first harvest of other varieties, and more plentiful.
Charles Kelm


Joined: Apr 30, 2010
Posts: 148
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
Kane - you mentioned crowding.  I am assuming you mean spacing between trees, but what about the different members of the guild, and how close they are to the tree?

Thank you very much for this info.  I just two trees and was thrilled to see them on the list you posted.


Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
Kane Jamison


Joined: Aug 02, 2010
Posts: 104
Location: West Seattle, WA
Charles Kelm wrote:
Kane - you mentioned crowding.  I am assuming you mean spacing between trees, but what about the different members of the guild, and how close they are to the tree?

Thank you very much for this info.  I just two trees and was thrilled to see them on the list you posted.


Hi Charles,

If I recall correctly, Douglas was referring to the spacing of the trees as well as the spacing of other guild elements. I think his point was that many of the suggestions made for food forests in books like "Edible Forest Gardening" lead you to fairly dense plantings, and those conditions are what leads to disease for many fruit trees in the NW. So, that might mean keeping guild plantings less dense, too.

The main takeaways I had from his forest gardening comments were:

(A) choose plant varieties very carefully. If an apple tree is likely to be crowded and need lots of babying to prevent disease, then perhaps the smart thing to do would be to plant a different fruit tree that doesn't have that problem.

(B) if you still choose to plant the tree that could potentially have disease problems, give it plenty of space, sunlight, and air in order to minimize the potential for disease.

I'm not the best resource for which fruit varieties are susceptible to disease around here, so I won't go further into detail because I don't want to be handing out incorrect information. I think if you research the plant varieties disease issues for your area carefully, and avoid the causes of most problems, you should be OK.
Charles Kelm


Joined: Apr 30, 2010
Posts: 148
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
Thank you.  You have been helpful.  Some of my guilds are pretty densly planted with yarrow, lavender, comfrey, plantain, celery, basil, onions, etc.  They seem fine, but maybe I want to back off a bit.
Kane Jamison


Joined: Aug 02, 2010
Posts: 104
Location: West Seattle, WA
Charles Kelm wrote:
Thank you.  You have been helpful.  Some of my guilds are pretty densly planted with yarrow, lavender, comfrey, plantain, celery, basil, onions, etc.  They seem fine, but maybe I want to back off a bit.


I think this is a situation where your mileage may vary. If it's working for you, no need to change. If you start having disease issues? Then open things up a bit, maybe.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
The disease resistance issue is interesting. 

I see the peach varieties listed are all good solid ones against peach leaf curl, but I think most of the apple varieties are pretty susceptible to the major diseases affecting apples.

I would think some of the more recent disease resistant varieties, like the ones from Purdue, would be good choices here in the PNW as they are in most of the US.
Charles Kelm


Joined: Apr 30, 2010
Posts: 148
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
I planted Liberty for it's disease resistance, and Honeycrisp for it's deliciousness.  Neither are near maturity yet.
Kane Jamison


Joined: Aug 02, 2010
Posts: 104
Location: West Seattle, WA
K.B. wrote:
I see the peach varieties listed are all good solid ones against peach leaf curl, but I think most of the apple varieties are pretty susceptible to the major diseases affecting apples.

I would think some of the more recent disease resistant varieties, like the ones from Purdue, would be good choices here in the PNW as they are in most of the US.


I think his recommendations were based on the idea that around Seattle, almost all apple trees will have the same issues of maggots & scab (this is speculation, I could be wrong about that). I got the impression that the apple recommendations were mostly based upon varieties that tasted awesome almost every year and in the case of late fruit, stuff that saved well.

Again, this is me speculating, but it seems like all of the trees I have encountered need maggot protector bags and chives or something else to fight scab. In case I didn't hedge enough yet, let me point out that I could be wrong...
 
 
subject: Douglas Bullock's Fruit Tree Recommendations for the Pacific Northwest
 
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