I woke up late yesterday morning and jumped out of bed. We were going to be late for a workshop that I’d been looking forward to with anticipation for a week. We had an hour’s drive to Just Fruits and Exotics for a pruning class, and if we didn’t leave immediately, we were going to be late. I hate to be late. Setting vanity aside, we brushed our teeth, threw on some clothes, made some coffee, and hit the road.
It’s a beautiful country drive down to Crawfordville, on the gulf coast, and we could see signs of spring’s pending arrival around every bend. The fields and pastures were greening up, and the sky was bright blue and after weeks of rain, it was sunny. We made it to Just Fruits and Exotics with only a minute or two to spare, and I breathed a sigh of relief and hurried into the shop. The owner, Brandy, greeted us, and I asked where the class was being held. That’s when Brandy informed us that the class was on Sunday! We weren’t late at all, we were an entire 24 hours early. I tried to hide my disappointment and embarrassment.
But Brandy saved the day. A gardening savior, she is! Brandy kindly offered to walk us out to the fruit trees and give us a brief overview of pruning. And what began as a brief overview somehow continued into a wonderful educational tour of the orchards, gardens and greenhouses that make up this gardener’s treasure of a nursery. Brandy not only gave us a great pruning lesson, she shared some of her secrets for extending the growing season of fruits and vegetables, using passive solar methods and other ingenious techniques. If you should go and visit, and I recommend that you do, ask her about her secret technique to grow fresh, juicy tomatoes in January! We also learned about constructing a simple but very effective greenhouse (I see a project in our future) and some great tips on irrigation.
Another fascinating part of our tour was a visit to the citrus orchard, where the trees were loaded with beautiful fruits. There are samples of many of the fruits in the store, so you can actually taste them before you buy them. Brandy spent a great deal of time with me and Eric explaining how the special structures that they built around the citrus trees not only prevented frost damage, but dramatically extend the harvest season. This is information that every home orchard grower and farmer should learn, because the ability to hold the fruit on the trees without worrying about frost damage is a huge advantage. I sense another project in our future.
Just Fruits and Exotics is one of my favorite gardening places. One thing that makes it really unique is that they grow and raise most, if not all, of their stock right there on the property, using the same organic methods that we prefer to use on our gardens. I love knowing that stock that I bring back to the farm is grown locally and has been raised with love and care. I also love the fact that the Just Fruits staff is but a phone call or e-mail away if I have a question. This is a major advantage of local nurseries over big box stores. The big box stores just do not have the knowledge about growing that nurseries do, nor do they carry unique or specialty stocks.
If you are interested in learning about growing any type of fruits, don’t miss the Just Fruits and Exotics website, which is literally packed with information on raising everything from Apples to Quince (you may also mail order stock from the site). The excellent info sheets for each fruit are published in pdf format so that you can print them and take them right out to the garden with you. Here’s a sample one on growing figs that I use to care for our beautiful Alma fig tree.
So a day that began with anticipation and then a mistake ended up being a day to treasure and a great start to spring planting. We happily loaded up the Mini Cooper with a gorgeous Hirado Butan Pink pummelo tree, a Meyer lemon, some gorgeous Camerosa strawberry plants, herbs, worm castings, fish emulsion and enough new gardening ideas to keep us busy through fall.
Thanks so much to Brandy for a wonderful tour. We appreciate your time and the generous sharing of your in depth knowledge.
Please note: No compensation was received for this review. We are just happy customers!