Bonita Fruit Trees (aka Bonita Creek Nursery) is a unique South Bay find. Located next to the Sweetwater Regional Park, they are a wholesale nursery during the weekdays, but on the weekends the public is invited to visit.
You’ll learn a lot about fruit trees when you visit this 10-acre ranch. The best part are their rare varieties of fruit trees. Just take a look at the sub-tropical, deciduous and nut trees. You can also ask the owner all sorts of questions about growing successful trees. When I visited, the friendly owner, David Archer, sat down to tell me more.
Owner David Archer
David Archer has been at this property in Bonita for twenty years. He grew up in San Diego (the Clairemont area) and his interest in both fruit trees and Bonita started because he cultivated exotic birds. In Clairemont he had a 6,000 square foot lot, which he outgrew. He then moved to a 10,000 square foot lot in University City. He was there for about a year and a half when he realized it wasn’t going to work. He needed to expand and started looking out at Jamul and Lakeside. By a stroke of luck, he was driving back from Jamul when he saw this Bonita property for sale. He bought some of the property in 1995 and then picked up two more contiguous parcels thereafter, which together made over 10 acres.
He was raising a variety of soft-billed tropical birds. David currently has about 20 Turacos, but at one point he had 13 species and almost 100 birds. It was one of the largest collections of Turacoes in captivity in North America.
Unfortunately, the birds were draining him financially. It was a tough decision, but he had to sell many of them. Not only were they extremely rare, but he had raised them from eggs or from chicks. They had been like his family.
A Thousand Varieties Of Fruit Trees
“I started growing fruit trees to help supplement the birds’ diet because at certain times it’s very hard to get the fruit that they want. They’re finicky eaters and so we were growing guavas for their supply of their food, and then amassing a collection of fruit trees. I figured I may as well open a fruit tree nursery. That’s turned out to be not only more profitable, but of more interest to the community. A lot of people are wanting to have their organic gardens and their organic home orchards.”
Nowadays, during the week, he either helps people design and establish an orchard or he provides consultations to those whose orchards are in trouble. “There is way more interest in the community for the desire to grow their own fruits and vegetables. There’s a lot of nurseries that sell the fruit trees, but they really don’t provide the necessary information on how to get the stuff to do well.”
David has over a thousand varieties of fruit trees, including over 100 types of mangoes. He also has cherries, which come in 6-8 weeks sooner than the first cherries out in Washington.
Bird & Fruit Tree Tours
“My projects keep morphing. At first it was this whole bird thing. I was going to open up a bird park to the public and have kids come and be like a little zoo, but our zoning is such that we can’t charge admission,” David says.
Now he gives bird & fruit tree tours and asks for donations.
“For me it’s a concern seeing that there is a lack of appreciation and understanding in the new generation and clearly they don’t understand a need for conservation. They don’t understand where their food comes from. As a kid, I grew veggies with my mom. We had a few fruit trees, so I’ve always had an appreciation for the work that’s involved to get the food from the ground to the kitchen.”
“So the next phase of our project, and we’ve been involved with this for probably 4 years, is trying to get areas cleared of invasive species down in the river, and grating out little terraces, so down that whole lower area where there is a spring and a seasonal creek that runs through that area, I’m turning that into a nature park for kids and an education program. There’s all these different facets. The first stage is a nature park for kids. We’re going to have some demonstration. Worm composting where we show kids how to grow worms and how their excrement is a really good fertilizer. How you can take kitchen scraps and compost that and use that for your trees. How mulch is important for your trees. We’ll have a little fishing pond. We’ll have some birds.”
Orphanages in Tijuana
David also donates trees to orphanages just south of Tijuana and just south of Ensenada. He provides the fertilizer as well and the knowledge of how to care for the trees.
To learn more, I highly recommend visiting David’s orchards. Thank you, David, for the tour!
Address: 3440 Proctor Valley Road, Bonita, CA
Hours: 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays only.