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It Bears Fruit: Tropicals in a Temperate Zone

As plums and apricots are ripening in the rest of California, mangoes are setting fruit in a backyard in California’s Central Valley, as well as other tropical fruit trees such as citrus, guavas, sugar apples, and longans.

What else is growing in this yard?

This early stage of fruit is fragile, as young or stressed trees may drop their small fruits to prioritize growth on the rest of the tree.

The creator of the YouTube channel, Tropical Central Valley, demonstrates gardening feats that many gardeners & horticulturists previously thought impossible: growing tropical fruit trees in the Central Valley. Ripe bananas, papayas, starfruits, and much more has already been harvested by this gardener, who prefers to remain anonymous (here on referred to as “TCV”), from trees growing on his land: a front and back yard of a suburban lot in Visalia, California.

TCV’s backyard jungle oasis is visibly lush, shaded by an Inca tree (AKA Ice Cream Bean Tree) that produces delicious fruit and drops nitrogen-rich leaves that protect and fertilize many young fruit trees growing in containers and in the ground of a yard lined with fences and surrounded by grass lawns, houses, pavement, and a sea of farms.

California has precedents of commercial cultivation of tropical fruit, including citruses (mandarins, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), avocados, passionfruits, loquats, and pineapple guavas. In recent years, mangoes and cherimoyas grown in the San Diego region have entered large scale distribution channels.

On the Tropical Central Valley channel, TCV shares his understandings, methods, and progress of growing tropical fruit trees in USDA hardiness zone 9B, where temperatures above 100°F and below freezing, a zone which also encompasses regions around Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

TCV explains that the exchange of nutrients between animals, plants and soil fungus (AKA the Mycorrhizal Network) is vital for life. 

Diverse growing arrangements of edible plants, such as TCV’s yard, is called a “food forest.”

Sugar apples, with varieties such as atemoya and cherimoya, were declared by Mark Twain to be the most delicious fruits on Earth.

Social media outlets have been instrumental for a new wave of tropical fruit tree growers in California.

On Facebook, groups such as the San Francisco Bay Area Tropical Fruit Growers, backyard growers share progress, growing tips, fruits, plants of diverse tropical fruit trees.

How do they do it?

 There are many strategies used to grow tropical fruit trees, but it can be hard to tell what our effect is versus the natural resilience of living organisms.

TCV’s plants fruit trees close together in his yards, which have irrigation that is on for 3 minutes each hour and a floor of around a foot high of mulch, not including the Inga leaves, to effectively recreate a forest floor. Mulch helps retain moisture and insulates plants from extreme temperatures.

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