More Fruit, Please

I’ve been making daily phone calls to my favorite local nursery in anticipation of the arrival of their annual amazing, prolific and Southern California chosen bare root fruit trees. I had to pull out a meek palm in the backyard that always had bug problems, which happened to be behind a picturesque bench, screaming for a fruit tree to grace it’s sweet shadows over it from the summer sun.

I went yesterday with the purpose to buy a Double Delight Nectarine. This will be my second Double Delight since unfortunately the first was planted in what I now know to be one of the barren wastelands in the front yard.  When it did practically nothing for almost two years, I attempted to transplant it, which didn’t turn out so well. When I arrived at Green Thumb Nursery yesterday they were still setting up all of the trees in temporary soil, which was probably a good thing for my wallet and my husband because I only got to see the apple, cherry, almond and nectarine trees. Had all the varieties been poised for sale, who knows what damage I could have done. I do have a Snow Queen nectarine planted January 2013, but she has white flesh, so I had to get a yellow flesh nectarine. I mean come on, it’s obvious, right? When digging the hole we punctured a sprinkler line, but I now have my Double Delight in the ground. I like having a second chance, which the garden allows so many of. And boy is she pretty.

(Photos to come in Spring when it’s not just a stick in the ground.)

My Eyes are Bigger than my Backyard

The first fruit tree at my home was a peach tree, now about 5 years old and hitting her stride.  I then added a Diana fig a year later and a few citrus (which failed-citrus and I do not mix).  Then last January I bought my first bare-root trees.  A Burgundy Plum and Double Delight Nectarine.  At the time I did a post of my new additions and their planting.  I love bare-roots for two reasons: they’re cheaper and way easier to fit into my car.

Oh!  Gee!  It’s January again!  And I just happened to find myself at my favorite nursery with an amazing selection of bare-root trees from Dave Wilson.  I just went to browse.  Really.  And then I remembered research I’d done on two cherry tree varieties that were just developed a few years ago for mild winters.  Low chill varieties Minnie Royal and Royal Lee.  And……they pollenize each other!   Living on the coast of northern San Diego, we receive anywhere between 200 and 300 chill hours each year.  Fruit trees each have their own hour requirement in order to produce fruit.  So, it’s important in a place like mine to plant varieties considered “low chill”.  Up until Minnie Royal and Royal Lee came out, growing cherries in a warm winter area was not possible.  Until now!

The ONLY reason why I decided to buy these beauties instead of just admire was because of a little orange tag I read attached to each type.  It stated that Mazzard rootstock was used to graft the trees on and it just so happens that this type of rootstock is….wait for it….resistant to root-knot nematodes (see my post about how to identify and get rid of)!  Now that they are in many areas of my edible garden, I figured this would be a great way to manage the problem.  Plus, Mazzard is good for wetter soils, which I have.  As a rule, fruit trees like well drained soils.

But, I couldn’t leave with just two.  Oh no.  A low-chill Gold Kist apricot (300 chilling hours) somehow weaseled it’s way onto my cart!  Now, I’ve heard that apricots are a bit harder to grow than most other fruits (along with apples), but to me they are the holy grail of the backyard orchardist’s collection.  You can buy them at the grocery store or farmer’s market for a very limited time, but I find that usually they are picked to early and are hard and a bit sour.  So I thought I’d give it a whirl.  Ah the things I will do to taste the sweet, juicy flavor of a perfectly ripe fruit.

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When I planted the Burgundy Plum and Double Delight Nectarine in my front yard last year, I amended the soil and added homemade organic compost as a mulch on top of the soil (thanks to my sister-in-law).  They seem to be doing fairly well, but haven’t grown much.  The nursery specialist said that the first year you want bare-roots to be focusing on root growth.  The fruit will come in the second or third season.  I decided not to amend my native soil this go-around with the apricot and cherries in my backyard.  I’ve read that some recent studies concluded that adding compost or amendment can cause the water to pool around the roots.  In addition, when the roots grow beyond the amendment and reach the native soil, they tend to turn back around to find that amended soil again.  This can end up forming a huge ball of tightly formed, twisted roots that do not naturally extend outward.  Makes sense.  In order to still provide my beauties with food and nutrients, I’ve decided to use my sister-in-law’s organic compost again as a mulch on top of the soil and then cover that with shredded leaves and grass clippings to keep the good bacteria alive.  In this way the compost will infiltrate the soil over time.  Ok, enough talk, more pictures.

Here's what the roots of bare-root trees look like!

Here’s what the roots of bare-root trees look like!

Minnie Royal

Minnie Royal

Planted Minnie Royal cherry tree.  About 15 feet from the Royal Lee.

Planted Minnie Royal cherry tree. About 15 feet from the Royal Lee.

Royal Lee planted in the middle of my main edible bed.  This is a south facing area at the bottom of a slope, which receives full sun.  It's the coldest part of the garden, being at the base of a slope, which is great for chill hours.

Royal Lee planted in the middle of my main edible bed. This is a south facing area at the bottom of a slope, which receives full sun. It’s the coldest part of the garden, being at the base of a slope, which is great for chill hours.  The Diana fig is in the background.

I haven’t yet planted the apricot, as I’m trying to figure out the best place for it.  I’m running out of space!  We’ll see what I come up with.  On a side note, here’s Henrietta’s before and after.

Here's Henrietta a few months old in Sept. '12.

Here’s Henrietta a few months old in Sept. ’12.

Here she is this morning.  Nicely filled out and seemingly lighter in color.

Here she is this morning. Nicely filled out and seemingly lighter in color. 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Garden Tour


A Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato that is really taking off. Growing tomatoes from seed this year has been so rewarding and definitely worth it.

Sequoia strawberry is also stretching it's legs. That little white berry is my first ever home-grown strawberry!

Many heirloom tomato seedlings having graduated up to the next level and are now continuing their growth in larger recycled pots that I saved from some nursery purchases. These are destined to be Mother's Day gifts! They really start maturing just at the right time. 🙂

A rainbow cherry tomato. Remember that cherry tomato seed packet that I found with 5 different colored tomatoes all in one packet? Well this is one of those. It'll be exciting to see what color this one will be! White, red, orange, yellow or green. Cool!

Last year I tried seed saving for the first time and I guess I did something right because this seedling is from a seed I saved from my pole green beans! The longer you collect seed from any given plant season after season, the more acclimated the seeds/plants become to your particular conditions and the better it does.

There were about 6 shoots coming from this green seedless Thompson grapevine. I read that you should chose the two thickest, healthiest shoots and cut off the rest. The idea is that you train up one main shoot the first year grown from bare-root and the second is a backup just in case something happens to the first. Ever since I cut off the other shoots, the growth has greatly increased. The main shoot will then create it’s own shoots next year and those will be trained horizontally. By that time this baby will be out of it’s huge pot and in the ground.  I found a few helpful videos on youtube.

A future peach. I’ve seen a significant lack of bees this year and I wondered how many of the flowers would get pollinated to go on to form a peach.  A veggie garden blog that I follow (and would highly recommend) called My Tiny Plot in Bath, England recently made this post about how she hand pollinated her peach. It seems that somehow there are plenty of peaches for harvest this summer on my tree, perhaps around 50 for this one 5 year old tree.

The Diana fig seems happy. Just wish it would grow more! It's 3 years.

Can't wait! Figs are a unique favorite of mine and can be made into some elegant dishes.

A few of the Silkies poking around the new bed. The grass was dewy that morning, which slicks back the feathers around their faces and actually allows me to see their eyes! A rare treat!

A volunteer nasturtium cascading down the blueberry pot.

Here's what the Double Delight nectarine has been up to.

.....And the Burgundy plum.

Over the winter I took out some sad shrubs from this planter leading to my doorway and created a grouping of three brick colored pots which also match the front door. There’s a palm also in this planted and it’s roots have made planting almost anything in the ground here impossible.  I’ve planted some succulents around the pots, so hopefully they will manage.  In the  2 larger pots are tomatoes and the smallest some All Season Butterhead lettuce.

How could I overlook this beauty on my photo extravaganza?

California poppy I seeded last year.

I hope you all have enjoyed the tour.  I’ll be here all week.  Feel free to tip your waitress.

Bare-root on the Brain

I admit, I become a teensy bit obsessed with things.  Vigorous research, hours of thought, waking up early with new ideas.  Yesterday I visited my favorite local nursery with the most seeds, veggie packs, fruit trees and now bare-root fruit trees I’ve ever seen.  Green Thumb Nursery in San Marcos is my home away from home.  The wheels really started turning when I saw their gorgeous, healthy, large bare-root fruit trees, fresh from the grower.  Their selection and varieties are quite numerous.  Almond, peach, nectarine, cherry, pluot, grape, apple, plum, apricot, etc.  I keep thinking, “I just don’t have much room left in full sun for another fruit tree or 2.  I already have a Diana fig and peach in the backyard.  Granted my backyard is large for the suburbs, I just don’t want to sacrifice an already existing tree (ie: palms and decorative plums) which animals and birds use and I also enjoy just to make more room.

Then my husband, daughter and I were outside in the evening taking down our holiday lights and I had a thought.  My front yard, which is home to palms and primarily native Southern California plants, does have a perfect full-sun area for at least one semi-dwarf fruit, maybe 2.  In this area I have 5 Mexican Sage bushes planted, but in between these there is plenty of room with no neighboring trees.  It’s on the edge of my property, with a great view from the street.  Just think of that show of color in spring!  The soil is even somewhat healthy for our standards.  I’ve definitely decided on a plum, specifically Burgundy.  It has medium-sized reddish-purple colored plums with a deep red, mellow, sweet flesh. This self-fertile Japanese plum is good for mild winter areas, yet is cold hardy. The Burgundy plum ripens early July, but keeps well on the tree until mid-August. (250-350 Chill Hours)  It’s also a taste test top scorer!!!

There it is in all it's glory! The garden specialist pruned it back a bit to allow it to focus on establishing roots the first year. She said it still may set some fruit this summer.

I  dug a large hole, both deep and wide to allow the roots to spread out well.  I then mound soil in the middle of the hole to allow the center where the roots meet the trunk some support.  Then the roots go down the mound and out into the rest of the hole.  I also added soil amendment.

I decided that if there’s enough room to plant two, I should go for it.  I decided on a nectarine called Double Delight.  It’s consistently the best-flavored yellow nectarine – plus magnificent, double pink flowers. Dark red-skinned, freestone fruit is sweet, with unusually rich flavor — very high-scoring in taste tests. Heavy bearing tree. Harvest early-to-mid July in central California. Estimated chilling requirement is 300 hours. Self-fruitful.

Double Delight is in the foreground (also pruned) and Burgundy is further back, about 7 feet from each other. These can both be pruned to about 10 feet high.

I’ve learned through this process that chilling hours qualify for all hours under 45 degrees.  In my area of southern California and being only a few miles from the coast, I can safely plant anything requiring 350 chill hours or less.  I also chose these varieties based on when they ripen, aiming to stagger them.  Who wants all of their fruit trees ripening all in the same month??  This way you can spread the love. 🙂