Saturday, May 08, 2010

Backyard Orchard

This time of year I feel very excited. We are almost to the statistical last frost date, probably far past it. Small fruits have formed on most of the trees. It's now time to prepare the fruit to optimize the crop.

Strawberries are not tree fruit, so may not count as "orchard". However, they are fruit, and have been very productive in past years. Currently neglected, but blooming like crazy, so I expect a good crop in a few weeks.

Ponderosa peach. This tiny tree is about 1 1/2 feet tall. It blood way to early - while the covering was still in place. It will have a few peaches, so I will get a taste.

I've learned my lesson. Don't be greedy. If a branch has 20 peaches, it won't support them, they'll be late, small, and not as sweet. I can't eat that many, anyway. I've been thinning them to about 4 inches apart. In general, the little branches are about 6 inches long, so I'm leaving one to 2 peaches per branch. That will still mean about 100 peaches per tree, if they all develop. I see in this photo that I missed some, so will need to go out and thin them. Initially I used scizzors to cut off the little peaches, but I found that it's easier to twist them off with my fingers.

You can see that peach leaf curl is present. The late rains, after I removed the covers, resulted in some leaf curl, but not too bad. I lost a few small branchlets on the peach trees, but overall they look great!

Sweet cherries don't need thinning. Each year, they set more fruit. Backyard Orchard Culture definitely works for sweet cherries.

Surefire tart cherry. This is its second year. The fruit set was much better than the sweet cherries, probably due to the later bloom, avoiding frost. There won't be enough for a pie, but we'll get several handfuls to taste.

Hollywood plum. Also in its 2nd season. It's a lot to ask, to get a crop at this point. The prolific flowers gave me a false sense of hope. But none set. Today I pruned, to open the center, and keep it small, the central tenant of backyard orchard culture.

Oh wait - a plum! One isn't much for most people to get excited about, but for me it will be a treat getting to taste it! Cool! The leaf:fruit ration is probably several hundred to one, so there is plenty of photosynthetic surplus to make it juicy and sweet. We'll see.

I wonder if the red leaves will fool the birds, keeping them away from the fruit? I'll cover it soon.

Grapes are getting ready to bloom. Still one of the most reliable and prolific fruits in my yard.

The new apple, Karmijn (see prior entries). Despite having few roots, here it is. I've noted that new fruit trees often have deformed leaves at first. It doesn't bother me, later leaves usually grow nicely. It's mulched with some lawn trimmings.

These small trees may take 3 or 4 years to bear. Gives me something to look forward to. I'm already thinking about what I'll add next Spring - there is room for a couple of columnar trees, such as Golden Sentinel or Scarlet Sentinel. There is still a long time to cogitate over it.

Honeycrisp apple. It had even fewer roots. It's growing. It will need water during the summer, sue to the small root mass. I'm happy to see it grow.

I've been thinning the apples to one per flower cluster. The clusters generally have 4 to 6 blossoms, most of which set fruit, so this means removing 4 or 5 fruitlets per cluster. I might be too early. It will take a while to thin apples on all of the trees. Again, I feel a little concerned I'm starting too early. I've bagged the apples with bags, bought from Raintree. These are like lady's nylons, maybe that's what they used to be! The idea is, the bags keep moths from laying eggs on the forming apples, so the apples won't have worms. It's another "we'll see" situation.

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