It's time to prune deciduous trees, so it means it is time for me to write about my trees again. In planning my annual progress report on my deciduous fruit trees, I had fun looking back at what I've written already about them. E and I moved here in the fall of 2008. That winter, I planted a row of bananas and an Owari Satsuma. In the early part of 2009, I planted an Elephant Heart Plum and a Bavay's Green Gage. I dug and dug and dug in 2010. That year, I planted three peaches: Eva's Pride, Mid Pride, and what was supposed to be a white nectarine but turned out to be a peach, White Tiger. I also planted two nectarines, Arctic Star and Desert Delight. Two low-chill cherries, Minnie Royal and Royal Lee, two apricots, Blenheim and Gold Kist, and another plum, Howard Miracle, joined their brethren in the front orchard. In the back, where most of the subtropicals live, I planted a Cara Cara orange, a strawberry guava, a Black Jack fig and a Kadota fig, and a Meiwa kumquat. In 2011, I took it easy: I removed the Bavay's Green Gage and replaced it with a Mariposa plum, added a third apple, a Lady Williams, and in the back, put in a Gold Nugget mandarin and a Nezemetz feijoa. Also, in 2011, I began sheet mulching under the front orchard, a process we continued late in the year. Whew.
So, now we're caught up. That brings us to examine how things are currently growing, and where I'd like to grow from here.
All of the cherries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots were single sticks in 2010. Here they are now.
|Minnie Royal (front) and Royal Lee cherries.|
|Mid Pride (front) and White Tiger peaches.|
|Desert Delight (front) and Arctic Star nectarines.|
|Desert Delight is blooming already!|
|Eva's Pride peach.|
|Gold Kist (left) and Blenheim apricots.|
Of the nine trees above, I received fruit this past year from five of them. The cherries need to cross pollinate, but only Royal Lee bloomed last year, so no cherries. Desert Delight nectarine bloomed beautifully last year, but the frost came and took all its baby fruit away. Gold Kist apricot didn't bloom.
But, I had a few deliciously jammy Blenheim apricots, a few sugary-tutti-fruity Arctic Star nectarines, a handful of juicy but too mild White Tigers, and one mediocre Mid Pride peach. (I'd like to graft varieties that I enjoy more on the White Tiger and the Mid Pride.) The stand-out winner was Eva's Pride, which tastes like what you'd dream a good peach to be: sweet and acidic, juicy, that rich peach funk that doesn't happen in every variety. Yum.
Here is the bed o' plums. They've struggled along in the last few years, and I have yet to receive any fruit from them, but the thick layer of horse manure, cardboard, and mulch, as well as the newly installed drip lines, should strengthen them this year.
|Elephant Heart, Mariposa, and Howard Miracle plums.|
|Golden Russet apple.|
|Lady Williams, with weighted clothespins to direct its young branches.|
This summer I made ceramic name tags for every tree variety, every graft I've put on a tree, and each tree's rootstock. I haven't attached them yet, as I'm still deciding the perfect medium by which to do so. It must be sturdy enough for the elements, but not damaging to the bark. Suggestions?
I'll be pruning in the next couple days and getting ready for the local CRFG chapter's scionwood exchange. The best resource I've found in guiding my pruning decisions is R. Sanford Martin's tiny yet extremely helpful book, How to Prune Fruit Trees. Though I am growing a high-density orchard and some of my trees need to be pruned a little differently because of that, this book still gives me so much valuable advice every time I pick it up.
Among the subtropicals in the back, the wind and dry weather have done their worst. The dog hasn't helped much with the smaller trees either; the kumquat has lost a few branches as he's whipped his way through them. The tree most affected by the dry weather right now is my Meyer lemon, a tree I happily inherited when moving into this place. With no rain to wash the buggers off, it has developed a nasty case of citrus scale. I first noticed something wrong when I saw the sooty mold.
|Sooty mold on the leaves.|
The sooty mold shows up because the "honeydew" the scale releases provides just the right conditions for it to grow. Another clue (though I didn't see any in this case) that a tree is infected with scale is the presence of ants. Just as they do with aphids, ants farm scale in order to consume the honeydew. To combat the scale, which sucks nutrients from the bottom of the leaves, I sprayed the entire tree with Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap diluted with water, making sure to completely drench the underside of each leaf. It's a large tree, and it took forever, but the process is worth it. This treatment isn't harmful to bees or other beneficials, yet it melts away the protective wax of the scale, leaving them to dry out or be consumed by predators.
After washing the tree down, I gave it a present, in fact, a whole container of presents. Watch out scale. Here comes your doom.
So, what's next in 2012 with the fruit trees? I have a lot more grafting I want to try on the deciduous trees up front. I need to mulch under the subtropicals in the back. And, I have one more tree to plant, a very special one: a Reed avocado. 2012, you're going to be a very fruitful year.