“This way, this way,” shouted LJ as he waved an orange flag to guide the truck driver bringing tree saplings into the parking lot. He pulled his cap down lower over his eyes; although it was early morning, the sun was already making its presence known.

LJ and his book club members were volunteers in Puttin Down Roots. This city-sponsored program gives fruit trees to area residents to encourage conversion from conventional ornamental lawns to edible gardens.

An older woman with a cart was the first in line. LJ approached her, “good morning; it looks like you are here for the tree giveaway?’

“I am. I don’t have a yard; I live in an apartment. I want a lemon tree for my small balcony if you have any. I borrowed this cart to bring it home.”

“We have the perfect dwarf Meyer Lemon tree. I’ll bring your cart if you follow me,” said LJ as he took the handle. “What made you decide on a lemon tree?”

“I grew up in Southern California surrounded by citrus groves, and I have never forgotten their sweet smell. Although Meyer lemons are native to China, they grow well in Planting Zone 9, where we live. My neighbors have a couple of the trees on their patio, and it’s fascinating to watch the butterflies and bees pollinate them.”

LJ chuckled, “I have the same situation in my back yard. So far, I have planted avocado, orange, mango, lemon, fig, and apple trees. He walked over to a small tree displaying several lemons, “what do you think about this one? It has flowers, buds, and fruit, which tells us it’s off to a good start.”

“I’ll take it. There’s something spiritual about watching a tree produce flowers, buds, and food. A productive tree represents the cycle of life and the healthy benefits of fresh fruit. By the way, I’m Helen. I love that our city is providing free trees. I hope to grow enough lemons to donate to the local food bank.”

LJ lifted it onto the cart, “Nice to meet you, Miss Helen. I can help bring this one back to your apartment.”

As they walked, she pointed out the number of fruit trees on the street, “my neighborhood committed to transitioning from grass lawns to edible gardens a few years ago. The city won’t let us plant fruit and vegetable gardens in front yards, so we plant fruit trees. They don’t take up a lot of room and are prolific producers, enabling donations to our free food programs. See that persimmon tree? It’s an American Persimmon tree, unlike the Asian variety. My neighbors planted it about eight years ago, and last year it produced one hundred pounds of fruit. We had fun introducing people to persimmons.”

“That is so cool,” said LJ. My book club volunteers with the free tree giveaway because we support our city’s goal of a healthy, clean air community. Trees, including fruit trees, don’t require much maintenance and can live for decades while improving the surrounding soil’s quality and water retention capabilities. Trees use sunlight and, through photosynthesis, process carbon dioxide, leading to the release of fresh oxygen into the air, which helps reduce respiratory ailments.”

Helen nodded, “Over there are a couple of apricot trees just starting to produce fruit.”

“My grandparents had apricot trees, and boy did the wildlife love them. I knew it was summer when I went to visit right after school was out, and the first thing I saw as we drove up their driveway were those beautiful trees. Seeing it was my sign that it would be a great summer. My grandmother’s ice cream topped with sweet apricots was my favorite dessert,” said LJ.

“Yes, trees make you feel good, especially fruit trees, for obvious reasons,” laughed Helen. “That’s also another motive to plant them because studies show children and employees are more productive and happier when surrounded by landscapes that include trees at school and work. Heart rates drop along with stress levels, and when you have fresh fruit to enjoy, that puts you in a good mood. Here’s my apartment. Thank you for helping me.”


LJ smiled, “you’re welcome. Let’s get this on your balcony and water it. One of the best ways to ensure your tree produces is cross-pollination from another lemon tree. It looks like you’re close enough to your neighbor’s trees, so that should work.”


“Yes,” said Helen. “Their trees pollinating mine and vice versa is symbolic of how we need each other to thrive and survive.”


“Indeed,” nodded LJ. “To plant a fruit tree is to believe in the promise of a healthy future for all.”


Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.


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