» Archive for January, 2008

More Delicious Fruits

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • It’s bare root season, which means you can save money on fruit trees and roses by planting them now. A wide selection is now available.
    • Start an asparagus bed so you can enjoy their young, tender shoots straight from the garden.
    • Mulch established rhubarb plants with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • Witch hazels bloom in the middle of winter with their interesting and showy, fragrant yellow or red blooms. One might look good in your garden.

The Raspberry Patch

Growing a raspberry patch in your yard is easy, there is very little maintenance and you are rewarded with succulent berries year after year. By planting different varieties that bear at different times, you can have a steady supply of fresh raspberries all summer long.

There are four types of raspberries, red, purple, black and yellow, and many varieties to choose from. The red raspberry is first to ripen, followed by the black, purple, and yellow cultivars.

Red raspberries can also be divided into two types: summer-bearing or everbearing. Summer-bearing cultivars produce one crop in the early summer, while everbearing cultivars can produce up to two crops a year. The first crop is produced in late summer or fall and the second crop the next spring.

‘Willamette’ is the earliest to bear with dark red fruit and mild flavor. It is followed by ‘Meeker’, with medium red fruit and excellent traditional raspberry flavor, and ‘Newburgh’, which has light red berries with good flavor. ‘Tulameen’ has a large fruit with an excellent, non-traditional raspberry flavor, and a long harvest season.

Everbearing raspberries include ‘Amity’, which has medium red fruit of good flavor with almost no spines, ‘Heritage’, which also has good fruit but usually bears too late for our climate, and ‘Autumn Bliss’, which has large fruit that are highly flavorful and very productive.

Black raspberry plants tend to bear fruit midseason and are preferred by chefs because the fruit tends to be sweeter. ‘Munger’ is a small, blue-black berry with good flavor that ripens in July. ‘Royalty’ has a large, reddish-purple berry with soft, but sweet, flavor. It is a favorite for making jams and adding to pies.

Yellow raspberries are less common than the other two types but produce berries that are just as sweet and large. Most yellow raspberries are fall-ripening including ‘Fall Gold’. Its fruit is medium-sized, yellow with a pink blush, soft, but with an excellent, sweet flavor.

Raspberries need well-drained soil that is somewhat acidic and at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. Plant vines 2-3 feet apart in rows 4-6 feet apart, and construct a simple trellis system to keep the vines upright for easy harvesting. A summer mulch will help keep the area weed-free, retain moisture and keep the soil cooler.

Prune summer red raspberries after harvest by removing the canes that bore fruit. Fall-ripening varieties bear on new canes that grow in the summer. After fruiting, either cut these canes to the ground, or remove the portion that fruited and leave the lower canes to produce next spring.

Once everything is in place, your raspberry patch will provide you with many years of savory satisfaction.

Home Orcharding

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Blueberries are a delicious fruit that can be planted now from bare-root plants. Give them a rich, acid bed prepared with lots of peat moss.
    • Many fine varieties of flowering dogwoods, tulip magnolias, Japanese maples and other specimen plants are now available at nurseries for winter planting.
    • Strawberries can be planted any time now. Get them in early, and you’ll be picking strawberries this summer.

Marvelous Mulberry Trees

What a surprise it is to first discover a blackberry growing on a tree! Mulberries, these are, and what an interesting family.

The White Mulberry, (Morus alba), is native to China where the ancient silk culture developed using their leaves are the primary food source for silkworm larvae. It was transported to Turkey and then to Europe where it became naturalized centuries ago. It was introduced into America for silkworm culture in early colonial times. First sold to farmers, it has spread unchecked throughout much of the country. It’s fruit varies from white to pink and is sweet but mild-flavored.

In California, a fruitless cultivar is widely grown as an ornamental tree. The familiar “Fruitless Mulberry” is a male hybrid that makes catkins but no fruit.

Teas Weeping Fruiting Mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pendula’) is a beautiful weeping tree. It mounds up slowly to 10’ – 12’, and produces large quantities of juicy fruit. Its slender, weeping branches cascade down to the ground, making the red fruit easy to pick and a favorite with children.

The red or American mulberry is native to eastern United States, from New England to the Gulf coast. Although native, it is a threatened species because it hybridizes readily with the invasive White Mulberry. It has dark purple fruit with very sweet flavor.

A century ago, every farmer in the U.S had mulberry trees planted at his farm garden. They grew rapidly and made excellent shade and, planted near the hog lot or over the chicken coop, they were an excellent food staple for the farm animals.

Persian Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) is native to southwestern Asia and has been grown in Europe since before Roman times for its flavorful, purplish-black fruit. The tree grows 20-30 feet tall and spreads about 20 feet wide. It is very long lived, and develops gnarled, picturesque branches with age.

Black mulberries are also available in bush form. This plant is popular in England where the nursery song originated: “Here we go ‘round the mulberry bush…”

Mulberries are greatly loved by birds. Plant one to feed the birds, and or to attract birds away from other fruit trees. The fruit can stain patio areas and decks, so it should be planted away from outdoor living areas.

A good place for a Mulberry tree is in a lawn. This makes harvesting easy: just spread a sheet below the tree, shake the branches gently and the fruits drops onto the sheet for easy gathering. The fruits can be eaten fresh or used for making jam, jellies, pies, tarts, syrups or cordials. Dried fruits are used for snacks and in puddings, cookies, muffins and confections.

Mulberry trees have very attractive, dark green leaves. Although somewhat drought-resistant, they need to be watered in dry seasons, or the fruit is likely to drop before it has fully ripened. They are easy to grow and fun to eat.

Home Orcharding

Thursday, January 10th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Bare root season is here. Choose and plant your favorite fruit trees and roses now.
    • 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.
    • Spring flowers and vegetables can be started now from seed on your window sill. Try pansies and snapdragons, broccoli, cabbage and lettuces.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.

Planning the Backyard Orchard

Whether you have 20 acres or 1/4 of an acre, you can have fruit-bearing trees on your property that will give you mouthwatering, tree-ripened fruit as well as a sense of pride and accomplishment.

        In choosing the location for fruit trees, a place with as much summer sun as possible is best.  With a short season to ripen fruits here, we need as much sunlight as possible.  Fruit trees should not be planted in the vegetable garden.  Worse than root competition, the shade created by the trees diminishes the productivity of the garden.

        There is some advantage to planting early blooming fruit trees, like apricots, plums and peaches, on a north slope or the north side of a building.  The winter shade will delay the blooming of these trees and increase your chances of having a good harvest. 

Fruit trees should always have good drainage.  This is especially true for stone fruits (cherries, peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines), which will not tolerate standing water around their trunks.

        The question of whether to plant standard trees or dwarf trees is mostly determined by how large your orchard is.   Standard apple and pear trees should be set 20 feet apart and semi-dwarf trees can be spaced 12 to 15 feet apart.   In an area 100 feet by 100 feet you could plant 25 standard trees or 50 to 65 semi-dwarf trees at that spacing.

        Dwarf trees can also be planted in hedgerows 4 feet apart where space is at a premium.  They take a lot of care when planted so close together but will give you a bountiful harvest. Even standard sized trees can be kept much smaller with pruning. This requires summer pruning as well as winter “dormant” pruning, but it can be done where space is at a premium.

        You will also want to consider which varieties to plant for a long harvesting season.  Cherries are the first to ripen, around the first of June, followed by apricots, plums, peaches and pluots which ripen at different times through the summer depending on variety.   The first apples and pears ripen in late August and other varieties ripen through the fall months.  Persimmons ripen around Thanksgiving.  With careful planning you can have fresh fruit over a six month period.

        Not all fruit trees will bear every year.  Spring weather conditions frequently damage the crops of apricots, peaches and plums and even apples and pears have good and bad years.  Plant enough trees so that you will have more food than you need in the good years, and in the bad years you will still get enough.