Fruit Tree Pollination

January 21st, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Bare root fruit trees are now available. Choose one tree or a whole orchard and get them planted while the weather is good for digging.
    • Strawberries can be planted any time now. Get them in early, and you’ll be picking strawberries this summer.
    • Primroses will give you the most color during this cold weather. Choose some pretty ones now for your boxes and beds.
    • Prune fruit trees, grapes, berries, and ornamental trees this month. Take in a pruning class and sharpen your shears before you start.
    • Delicious raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and blueberries are all available now for early planting.

Pollination Is Essential In the Home Orchard

The job of a fruit tree is to make seeds which will make more trees. The fruit is merely part of the package, from the tree’s perspective. But seed development requires pollination which can be done either by wind or insects. The pollination required by most fruit trees is performed by bees, wasps and hover flies.

For a successful home orchard, it is important to be aware of the pollination requirements of the trees you plant. Some trees are called self-fruitful. This means that their blossoms can be fertilized by pollen from another flower on the same tree. They will produce fruit even if they are far from any other tree of their kind. Most peaches, apricots, sour cherries and some apples, pears and plums are self-fruitful.

Partially self-fruitful trees will produce a crop on their own, but they will produce a larger crop, up to twice as many fruit, if cross-pollinated. Many apples and pears are partially self-fruitful.

Some fruit trees only set fruit when they receive pollen from another variety. Their own pollen is defective or sterile. Most sweet cherries, some apples and plums and a few peaches fall into this group. For example, if you plant a Bing Cherry, you must also plant a Van or a Black Tartarian or another pollinating cherry tree nearby.

For trees to cross-pollinate, they must bloom at the same time. Blooming time does not necessarily correspond to fruiting time. A late apple can bloom early, so check to be sure you are planting the correct varieties together.

A fruit tree that needs a pollenizer needs it close by. Trees should be planted within 50 feet of each other. This is because the bees that carry the pollen must visit both trees on the same trip. To protect those bees, do not spray pesticides while trees are in bloom.

To ensure good pollination, either plant the trees fairly close together, or plant a combination tree with several varieties grafted onto the same tree. You can also graft a branch of a variety with fertile pollen onto a tree that needs pollination. Crabapple trees often make excellent pollenizers for regular apple trees.

Even if you have compatible trees in place, other factors can interfere with pollination. One of the most frustrating foes of pollination is the weather. Flower buds can be injured by spring frosts or heavy rains. The more developed the bud, the more sensitive it is to injury. Fortunately, not every flower bud on the tree needs to survive to have a good crop. But each incident of frost further decreases the fruiting potential.

When you plan your orchard or decide to add a new tree to it, be sure to check on pollination requirements so you’ll be able to enjoy fruit and not just blossoms a few years from now.

Enticing Interspecifics

January 13th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Bare root season is here. Choose and plant your favorite fruit and shade trees now.
    • Spring flowers and vegetables can be started from seeds now on your window sill. Try pansies and snapdragons, broccoli, cabbage and lettuces.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Tree collards are delicious winter vegetables. Set out plants now.

Enticing Interspecifics

Many of the most outstanding new fruit varieties that we carry have been developed by Zaiger’s Inc. Genetics of Modesto, California – “A Family Organized to Improve Fruit Worldwide”. For over 40 years, Floyd and Betty Zaiger have spearheaded a breeding program that has produced outstanding fruit varieties and intriguing crosses.

Some of these crosses, like Pluots® and Apriums®, have been around for decades and the fruit can be found in grocery stores each summer. But the Zaigers have continued developing new kinds of hybrids such as NectaPlum® (nectarine-plum), Peacotum® (peach/apricot/plum), and Pluerry™ (plum-cherry). These hybrids are known as interspecifics, meaning that they are crosses between two or more different species, like plum and apricot.

There is no genetic engineering involved in these hybrids. In fact, a century ago, Luther Burbank hybridized plums and apricots to create plumcots, although they never became commercially successful. Stone fruits – apricots, peaches, plums, and cherries – are in the same genus, Prunus, and are closely enough related that many combinations of species are possible, though they are not easy to create.

In the late 1980s, Zaiger crossed plumcots with plums and created Pluots. Almost half of the plum-like fruits grown in California now are interspecifics, like Pluots. He also crossed plumcots with apricots and came up with Apriums.

The first NectaPlum introduced was called Spice Zee. It is a white-fleshed, nectarine-peach-plum hybrid. Skin is dark maroon at fruit set, and turns pale pink when ripe. Fully ripe the fruit has a delicious flavor, and both nectarine and plum traits are easily detectable. It is a taste-test favorite for its meaty texture, wonderful spicy-sweet flavor and plummy aftertaste.

The next major breakthrough in interspecifics brought us the first peach-apricot-plum for home orchidists: Bella Gold Peacotum™, a beautiful, delicious and unique fruit. The tart, slightly-fuzzy skin gives way to mildly sweet amber flesh for a delightful eating experience. It is an early bloomer and does well where apricots grow.

Two years later, the first plum-cherry interspecific, Sweet Treat™ Pluerry, was introduced to the home market. Much larger than a cherry, Sweet Treat™ delivers its sweetness with a zing and it hangs well on the tree.

Candy Heart Pluerry™ has dark speckled-red skin and the amber-red flesh that is slightly tart and very sweet, with a wonderfully unique flavor. Until recently cherry-plums were just a name for small plums. Now we have true crosses that incorporate cherry flavor into what looks like a plum.

The newest Pluerry™, Sugar Twist, has red skin and yellow flesh, with the sugar-sweet taste of a ripe cherry and a twist of plum.

For a delicious new taste treat, choose one of the new interspecifics for your orchard.

Small Fruits for the Garden

January 7th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fruit trees can be planted this month. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.
    • Roses should be pruned in February near the end of the dormant season. You can clean them up now, however, by removing all the old leaves on and around the plants.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.
    • Houseplants will brighten your indoor environment and clean the air during the winter months.
    • Fruit trees can be pruned this month. If you’re not sure how, take advantage of one of the fine classes being offered this month.

Small Fruits for the Garden

Wonderful fruits come from the home berry patch. In addition to fresh eating and luscious pies, cobblers and strawberry shortcakes, berries are easy to freeze and can be made into delicious jams and colorful juices.

Small fruits come in a wide assortment of colors, flavors, shapes and sizes. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, blackberries and grapes give us an enormous variety to choose from. Not only are they colorful and tasty, but most small fruits are easy to grow. They are very productive and most kinds bear a year or two after planting.

Grapes are one of the oldest fruits in cultivation. With just a few vines you can harvest enough fruit for delicious, fresh grapes, grape juice, grape jelly or raisins. Plant early, mid-season and late varieties for an extended harvest. Grapes must be pruned to get top production from your vines, and now is a good time to begin that job.

Raspberries and blackberries and their many cousins, are usually referred to as the brambles. They are frequently treated as gourmet fruit, not because they are hard to grow, but because they don’t ship well. But they are easy to grow in our climate, so choose some of your favorite cultivars now and start your own bramble patch.

The bush fruits include blueberry, currant, gooseberry, huckleberry and lingonberry. What you don’t eat fresh can be made into delicious sauces, conserves, pies and other desserts, or frozen for later use.

There are three types of blueberries: Northern highbush, Southern highbush and Rabbiteye. Northern highbush are the most popular home-garden blueberries. They will do best in locations with some ocean influence in the summer. Southern highbush and Rabbiteyes are ideal for warmer climates.

Currants produce generous quantities of tasty fruit with very little maintenance. Gooseberries are wonderful for preserves and refreshing summer wines. They will grow in full sun or partial shade. Huckleberry is native to our redwood forests and makes tasty little fruits that are delicious in pancakes!

The favorite home-grown berry is, of course, the strawberry. Picked ripe from the garden, they are rich and flavorful. Fresh strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream and strawberry pie are just some of the ways to use them. The plants are inexpensive and bear a full crop within a year of planting.

Berries of all kinds can be planted this winter for delicious harvests in days to come.