Most backyard gardeners think a home orchard is a few trees planted in the landscape. But that notion is quite alien to Lou Tams of North Ogden, whose backyard orchard is fruit on a mega-scale.
Most people think trees for apples, peaches, plums and apricots will probably suffice, but that's only the beginning for this grower. Ask most people for a favorite variety and they could probably name it; ask Lou Tams and he wants to know whether you want the top 10, the fabulous top 50 or even the best 100.Tams' orchard is probably much like many would remember their grandparents' rural backyard. Silver Pencil Wyandotte chickens range around the lawn, looking to scratch up something tasty. Rabbit pens under spreading fruit and nut trees are filled with lazy black and white bunnies. Beyond these is a fruit extravaganza that is certainly the most interesting orchard I have ever visited.
His list of fruit varieties begins: 739 apple, 40 pear, 15 Perry pears that are cider pears from England, eight quince and 36 Asian pear varieties. Then the stone fruits: 86 peach varieties, 27 nectarine varieties, 48 plum varieties, 13 apricot varieties and 11 cherry varieties. Add 19 varieties of walnuts, filberts, pecans as nut trees.
And there are more. Add 15 currant varieties, 11 raspberry varieties, 11 kinds of gooseberries, eight blackberry varieties and 16 grape varieties and you soon see that the selection gets even larger. Then add the unusual fruit varieties such as six persimmons, four elderberries, cornelian cherry, serviceberry, saskatoon berry, josta berry. Finally add in a fig and some paw paw trees and it is readily apparent that Lou Tams loves growing fruit.
"My orchard is the remnant of the old Farr farm given to my grandfather in the 1800s. I call it his dowery farm because it came from his wife's family. My dad bought it from his dad, and then I acquired the last remaining parcel where I now have my farm," said Tams.
"I spent 30 years in the Bay Area and then retired back to Utah in 1991. I developed an intense interest or even a compulsion according to some who know me. From this obsession has come my little orchard know as The Farm on 1100 West. (Note: The Farm address is approximately 3777 N. 1100 West, Pleasant View, Weber County.)
"Unfortunately this year has not been kind to my orchard. The wet spring kept the bees from working like they should, and then we had a devastating hailstorm. I am not picking fruit to sell this year, but like all fruit growers I console myself thinking next year will be a better year.
"Obviously from the way I am doing all this it was never intended to be a business but more of a hobby and demonstration of many different varieties that could be grown in Utah."
Tamms says his orchard is quite small considering the number of varieties. It is only three acres, so the trees are very close. They are on dwarfing rootstocks so they do not get too large. The rootstocks include the Malling 26, 11, 106, 107, and Malling 9.
Tams has a special fondness for apples. He has collected many different varieties. Some have been around for many years and include interesting names like Huddlestons Nonesuch, Esopus Spitzenburg, Autumn Arctic, Black Annie, Cedar Cross, Cow Jersey, Crows Eggs and Coon Creek of Kentucky. Tams tells people that many of these antiques became antiques because better varieties came along and replaced them.
"I am growing many other varieties, and some are quite new and may not be familiar to most gardeners because they are so new," he said. "Personal favorites include the Crispin or Mutsu and many interesting and very sweet Japanese varieties. I also like Sunrise, which is an excellent summer apple, and Williams Pride, which is another good summer apple. I also prefer some of the white peach varieties."
The white peaches are not suitable to can but they are delightful for fresh eating because they are so sweet. Tams recommends White Lady and New Jersey 252.
Tams is on the board of directors for the North America Fruit Explorers organization that is dedicated to evaluating and educating on all kinds of fruit in North America. Those interested in growing unusual or new varieties can write Jackie Kuehn, P.O. Box 29, Lucernemines, PA 15754.
Once you are hooked, there is no turning back.
When I last talked to Tams, he was spending his evening scrutinizing catalogs, looking for some new varieties to include in his orchard. Apparently 1006 varieties is just not quite enough to satisfy such a fruit lover.
Tips for growing fruit
Do not make the mistake of planting trees that you don't have the time to care for. Fruit trees need regular and often time-consuming care. In addition to the planting, the training, the pruning, the watering and the fertilizing, they also need to be sprayed regularly and harvested. These can be overwhelming tasks if you have large numbers of trees. If trees are neglected, they just become areas for insects and diseases to breed and infest other growers' trees.
Select the varieties you like and will use. The red delicious apples you grow are not likely much different from those you buy. Some more unusual varieties are not as readily available but are very tasty. For an apple variety fact sheet, send a SASE to Larry Sagers c/o Deseret News P.O. Box 1257 Salt Lake City, UT 84110.