Budding up for Spring

Fruit trees are fantastic planners.  Just as we humans start hunkering down in our winter-y way of life (turning on the heater, spending more time indoors, eating a little more), my fruit trees are also losing their leaves and looking their most bleak.  But under that stripped-down exterior something fascinating is already taking place.  The promise of spring, even when winter has just started, in the form of swelling buds.

Minnie Royal Cherry

Royal Lee Cherry

This being only my second soon-to-be spring with my 2 cherry trees, I’m realizing that their buds may have a head start on my other fruit trees, probably because they are the first to blossom and fruit.

Peach

Eva’s Pride Peach

And of course I have some other winter veggies here and there, such as carrots, lettuce and sugar snap peas.

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These two seem to be relying on each other for mutual support.

These two seem to be relying on each other for mutual support.

One of my flower pots with some extra room is now more beautiful for winter thanks to these beautiful lettuce.

One of my flower pots with some extra room is now more beautiful for winter thanks to these lettuce.

Here is a tally of my mini orchard to date:

  • Red Baron Peach-the matriarch of the backyard having been planted about 6 years ago
  • Minnie Royal Cherry
  • Royal Lee Cherry-these two require each other for pollination
  • Snow Queen White Nectarine
  • Gold Kist Apricot
  • Burgundy Plum
  • Thompson Red Flame Grape
  • Eva’s Pride Peach

This coming spring is one of my most anticipated yet because I think that maybe, just maybe some of my two year old trees (Eva’s Pride Peach, Thompson Red Flame Grape, Burgundy Plum, Snow Queen White Nectarine) will fruit for the first time.  And that would be the most bountiful with fruit my backyard will have ever been.

PS: My sweet Silkies started laying again after a two month hiatus about a week ago on my birthday.  Thankful!

Second-Chance Plum

A year and half ago I planted two bare-root fruit trees in my front yard.  The area where they were planted I now understand to be the barest of baren wastelands on my whole property.  Over the past year I’ve realized that NOTHING survives there…not even California natives or succulents.  So, determined to save the Burgundy Plum, I carefully dug it up, trying to avoid root damage.  What I saw when it came out of the ground was very telling…hardly any root growth and what had grown were tiny, string-like roots.  I gave it a new home in my backyard in a veggie bed next to the new pergola, where the soil is naturally richer and has had the advantage of amendment over the past 3 years.

Well Plum lost all her leaves almost immediately.  The only way that I could tell it was still alive was a slight scrape of my fingernail on a branch, which revealed bright green.  After a few weeks I could see new leaves start to bud out.  I was seeing a second spring.

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She’s still a meek thing, having been starved of nutrients, but I’m hoping that this is a second chance to thrive.  With patience I think that this plum will be a shade-providing, eye-pleasing tree for next to the seating area in the years to come.

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Tart-alicious Recommendation

Tall Clover Farm is one of my all-time favorite blogs.  Tom lives on Vashon Island in the middle of Puget Sound, near Seattle in a beautiful farmhouse.  Through his garden, orchard and baking recipes using his own fruit, he has inspired me to make quite a few of his recipes.  Apple Berry Custard Crumble Pie was the first recipe that I tried and it has already earned it’s place in my family’s book of favorite pies.  It is requested on birthdays and most recently, Father’s Day, by my husband and father.

When I saw Tom’s most recent post on a Sour Cream Raspberry Tart alongside an open afternoon with the house to myself, I jumped at the chance to create this beautiful, rustic tart.  Instead of raspberries, I used blackberries, which I thought worked very nicely!  This recipe requires a bit of time, but is worth every second.  It is simply amazing.  Click the link above to check out the recipe in Tom’s own words.

The sour cream middle also includes cream cheese, sugar and orange zest.

The sour cream middle also includes cream cheese, sugar and orange zest.

The tart crust baked so evenly and beautifully.  It's delectable!

The tart crust baked so evenly and beautifully. It’s delectable!

DSCN0534Thank you for another winner, Tom!!!

Sunday Family Dinner Harvest

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On the menu tonight is a summery salade nicoise for some family coming over for dinner.  Growing up my grandmother loved making this salad in the summer.  She always added capers to the typical ingredients of green beans, boiled potatoes and eggs, tuna, tomatoes olives and artichoke hearts.  Tonight I’ll also be adding basil and a side of grilled peaches with a honey butter glaze.

Lady-Like Carrot

My kiddo has been itching to pull a carrot.  Although I explained that they’re not quite ready, we picked one anyhow.  After seeing it’s size, I was told emphatically, “They’re not ready yet!”.  This little carrot may have been small, but it was as lady-like as they come.

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The pink mandevilla next to the chicken coop is in full swing.  What a show-stopper this one is.  I particularly appreciate it in it’s current location because it’s adds a softness and brightness to the coop area and surrounding dirty digs.

DSCN0386The Red Baron peach tree has moved into it’s hunched over look with the swelling weight of the many peaches.  A week or so more and I’ll be having peaches in my oatmeal, peach crisp, grilled peaches, peaches on my ice cream and peaches for a snack.  Lucky me.

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New Orchard Addition

I like to think of my small collection of fruit trees as my “mini orchard”.  I bought a struggling peach tree for dirt cheap (pun intended) from where I work.  It had been in a pot for a few years and needed to get in the ground and stretch it’s legs.  She is an Eva’s Pride, which harvests a full month before my Red Baron peach.  AND it requires even less chilling hours…only 100-200, great for areas like mine in coastal southern CA.

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Here's the Red Baron beginning to change from greenish/yellow to pink.

Here’s the Red Baron beginning to change from greenish/yellow to pink.

A fun lemon cucumber ready for picking.

A fun lemon cucumber ready for picking.

Indigo Rose is beginning to fruit and I swear I can already see that purple color.

Indigo Rose is beginning to fruit and I swear I can already see that purple color.

The Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato that I seem to grow every year is shaping up some nice fruit.

The Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato that I seem to grow every year is shaping up some nice fruit.

This evening's harvest!  Check out the Silkie trying to get a hand-out.

This evening’s harvest! Check out the Silkies trying to get a hand-out. HA!

Snappy Spring

When Spring comes, she doesn’t mess around!

The Red Baron Peach already has little peaches!

The Red Baron Peach already has little peaches!

The Gold Kist Apricot seems to be happy, with cute, heart-shaped leaves filling in.

The Gold Kist Apricot seems to be happy, with cute, heart-shaped leaves filling in.

Apricot close-up.

Apricot close-up.

Even the red Thompson seedless grape is leafing out.  I seriously had my doubts whether it was even still alive up until a few weeks ago.  "Patience, my dear," whispers the garden.

Even the red Thompson seedless grape is leafing out. I seriously had my doubts whether it was even still alive up until a few weeks ago. “Patience, my dear,” whispers the garden.

Loose leaf lettuce seedlings in a pot.  The mice and snails haven't seen them (yet!).

Loose leaf lettuce seedlings in a pot. The mice and snails haven’t seen them (yet!).

I transplanted all of my Rattlesnake and Alabama #1 green bean seedlings yesterday.

I transplanted all of my Rattlesnake and Alabama #1 green bean seedlings yesterday.  I have 18 green bean plants in all.  I’m seeing green bean casseroles in my future.

The following is an interesting comparison:

About a month ago I bought a few nematode resistant tomato starts at my local big box store (these are harder to find at real nurseries.  Weird, I know).  I bought them at the same size and planted them out on the same day.  The first photo is Park’s Whopper and the second is Celebrity.

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Quite a bit different, right?  Park’s Whopper has BARELY grown, while Celebrity has taken off like a weed.  The overall health, color, size and vigor of Celebrity surpasses Park’s Whopper by a long shot.  The difference?  Celebrity is in a grow pot.

Now, I know all the nay sayers will think, “The ground soil is not as good as the potting soil in the grow pot.”  And while that may be true, my ground soil is nothing to scoff at.  I have amended it for over 2 years with homemade and store-bought composts.  I believe that it is the grow pot’s excellent drainage, extra-heated soil from the black fabric, and air-pruned roots that make the difference…all things that ground soils could never truly duplicate.  The proof is in the pudding!

From the Kitchen Window and Beyond

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Dishes aren’t so bad when I have this Spring scene to gaze upon.

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Each of my fruit trees now has this flexible landscaping barrier.  Luckily my husband found it at a garage sale and it was long enough to cut for all 4 trees exposed to the happy, digging talons of our Ameraucana hen, Henrietta.  Unlike the vertically challenged Silkies, Henrietta can go almost anywhere she pleases with a flap of her caramel color wings.  A favorite hangout of hers had become the base of the fruit trees, which I’m sure had nothing to do with the yummy homemade compost and grass clippings that I’ve been layering around their root zones all winter.  And you’d be surprised how deep a chicken can dig!  These barriers seem to be effective at keeping her at bay.

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And there’s that chicken in question (bottom right), running away from the ferocious sounds of the play lawnmower.

Baby Mulberries

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My adored mulberry tree (it’s technically in my neighbor’s yard, but it might as well be in mine) has suddenly broken out of it’s wintry spell and produced baby berries right along side it’s first leaves.  The clear mulberry hair reminds me of those clear rice noodles used in Asian cooking.  A little over two months from now, this is what they turn into.

Is It Spring Yet?

I’m so excited for Spring, I’m posting a day early because I just couldn’t wait.  Who’s to say that it doesn’t already feel like Spring, what with the warmer weather and blooming trees and flowers around Southern CA.  My garden is ready, too!

IMG_9469What better first photo than a Rattlesnake Pole Bean seedling?  Due to my root-knot nematode situation, I’ve decided to stop fighting (it’s been almost a year) and go with the flow.  Many, many tomatoes have been developed to be root knot nematode resistant (the ‘N’ in VFN on seed packets and seedling tags), but not so many of the other veggies.  Almost none, in fact.  I found one pole bean from Hawaii, but of course it’s scarce and can’t be shipped to the mainland.  Thus, I decided to go with the advice of seasoned edible gardeners.  Within gardening discussions, I found talk of some pole beans that are not resistant varieties, but more so varieties that TOLERATE the nematodes and can still thrive.  Rattlesnake, Alabama #1 and Blue Marbut are all such pole beans.  Rattlesnake is fairly common and I was able to find the other two both through Sand Hill Preservation.

Diana Fig is coming to life.

Diana Fig is coming to life.

The Red Baron peach is nearly at full bloom.

The Red Baron peach is nearly at full bloom.

The Snow Queen white Nectarine is leafing out and has decided that she likes where she is.

The Snow Queen white Nectarine is leafing out and has decided that she likes where she is. (The netting in back is ready for pole beans!)

Welcome, Spring!  You are my favorite season…