The foundations of any natural, permanent garden plan are trees well suited to the local climate that send roots deep into the subsoil to bring up moisture and nutrients, provide shelter, shade and sturdy building material and yield tasty and nutritious fruit or nuts. We cannot begin in any other fashion unless we succumb to providing outside fertilizer of some sort or another to our garden plots.
Santa Monica is a beautiful climate for people, but not so good for fruiting or nut bearing trees. Most such trees require both hotter and colder weather than we customarily experience here on the Southern California coast. While we may get a few days each year in the 80s, and the occasional freak spike to the 90s, for most of the year the highs are in the 60s. Even in the summer, our highs average only the low 70s. On the cool side, we rarely see lows of 45, the typical line of demarcation for calculating chill hours required by most fruit and nut bearing plants. Thus, it is difficult to find trees that produce in our otherwise Utopian climate.
Lemon and lime trees are a notable exception although the fruits here are not so much nutritious as exotics splashed on foods to give them a spark of unique flavor. My lemon tree that I inherited when we bought this property is currently producing between 100 and 150 lemons each year and is typically in production virtually all year around.
Some orange varieties perform well also. The thinner skinned and generally lighter Valencias seem to outperform the thicker and heavier Navels. I have started an orange tree back in my plot, two actually but one appears to be dying off, but I have yet to harvest it although there are a couple of well formed, but not yet ripe, fruits on it. As I walk through the neighborhoods of Santa Monica and LA's westside, I have seen several productive orange trees, so I know that they can make it in our unique climate.
Figs are another fine performer in the generally pleasant climate here. A couple of my friends have fig trees and I wish I did too. A fig tree can become a vigorous producer and if you decide to plant one you had better have a long list of fruitarian friends who are willing to take your bountiful harvest off your hands. However, put me on your list because I love fresh, ripe figs and all you have to do is ask and I will be over a couple of time each week in season to keep your produce from staining any cars parked in your drive.
I have seen an Apricot tree growing and producing fruit in the neighborhood although I would think that they would do better with more chill hours than we typically get in Santa Monica. And a friend of mine a bit north and east of here has a low chill apple tree that produces, although I have to admit, I am not much impressed with the fruit. I have heard that Persimmons tolerate the climate, but I have not seen them here. I did see photos of a Persimmon orchard up toward Santa Barbara but I am not certain of the contours of the micro-climate in that orchard.
My next door neighbors have an avocado tree and fresh, ripe avocados are always a treat on my midday super sized salad. When the tomatoes come fresh out of the garden they provide a little zest over the leafy lettuce while the avocados give a smooth, creamy texture that eliminates the need for any processed oils such as olive oil. Mix in some radishes, carrots and chopped celery and you have a perfect, tasty and nutritious salad.
I have searched in vain for nut varieties that would produce in our climate but I am still looking. If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments section. I would love to find some nuts that I could grow on my own.
Trees take time. So as they say, the best time to plant a tree is 40 years ago. The second best time is today. Get out there and get planting.