» Archive for January, 2011

New Fruits for a New Year

Friday, January 21st, 2011 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.
    • FREE Fruit Tree Pruning Class on Sunday, January 30 from 10 AM to 2 PM at Sanhedrin Nursery, 1094 Locust St., Willits.

New Varieties for the Orchard

Whether it’s a new variety for an old orchard, or an old variety for a new orchard, home-grown fresh fruits just can’t be beat. So consider planting some of these tasty fruits this year.

One of the most exciting new apples is called Honeycrisp. Developed at the University of Minnesota, it is now one of the most popular apples in the country. The red-over-yellow fruit is so crisp that a bite of apple almost “snaps off into your mouth”. It is very juicy and also stores well.

An unusual apple called Pink Pearl is named for its bright, pink flesh. It has a yellow-green skin, and a crisp, juicy flesh with tart to sweet-tart taste. It is a good keeper and makes a colorful, tasty applesauce. The profuse show of pink flower blossoms in the spring is an added bonus.

One of the very best keepers is called York. The greenish-yellow apple is very firm with crisp, juicy flesh that is very fine for baking and cider. Its late harvest extends the apple season.

A couple of interesting new pears are Magness and Potomac. Magness is a cross between Seckel and Comice and is a short-necked pear that is soft, delicately sweet, and juicy. It is almost free of grit cells and is described by some as “the best pear in the world.” Potomac is a small, sweet pear with buttery, fine-textured flesh. The skin is light green and glossy and the flavor is pleasingly tart. Both trees are resistant to fire blight.

Who can resist a new peach or nectarine? Donut peach has grown in popularity as it has become familiar in the markets. This odd-looking peach is white-fleshed with a sunken center, such that it resembles a doughnut. The seriously juicy flesh offers a delicious sweet flavor.

Baby Crawford is an antique variety that is considered the best-flavored peach by some. This small, intensely flavored yellow freestone has a golden orange skin with a slight blush. It makes a very rich dried fruit.

Rio Oso Gem is an old variety that is a favorite late yellow freestone. The fruit is large with sweet, rich flavor and it is excellent fresh or for freezing.

Cavalier nectarine is an attractive fruit that has orange-yellow skin blushed with mottled dark red. The medium-sized yellow freestone is firm and aromatic. It is resistant to brown rot, which can be a problem in the orchard as the fruit ripens. It is a hardy tree with showy blossoms.

Arctic Jay and Arctic Rose are two white nectarines that have been taste test winners. Arctic Jay is richly flavored with a balance of acid and sugar, while Arctic Rose is extremely sweet when ripe. Both are self-fruitful and highly recommended for home orchards.

The “Chinese date” or Jujube has reddish-brown fruits that are sweet and chewy like dates. These trees are hardy, drought-resistant and pest and disease free. Li jujube is self-fruitful.

Now is the time to plant fruit trees of all kinds from bare-root trees available at local nurseries. Be sure to add some of these tasty varieties to your orchard.

Gardening Resolutions for 2011

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool season crops indoors for planting outside in March.
    • Many fine varieties of flowering dogwoods, tulip magnolias, Japanese maples and other specimen plants are now available at nurseries for winter planting.
    • Fill your winter garden with color from primroses and pansies.
    • 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.

Gardening Resolutions for 2011

Beautiful winter days make gardeners anxious for the warmer weather that will allow us once again to get our hands in the dirt and watch new life grow. As you look out at the garden, maybe with garden diary in hand, it always feels good to set some goals, to make some resolutions for the season ahead.

Resolutions often depend on the experience of the gardener.  If you are a beginner, a compost heap may be in order, whereas a seasoned gardener may make a commitment to spread more of that compost liberally on the garden. In either case, tending the soil should be first on the list.

Grow more food! Rotate your crops from where you planted them last year and practice succession planting with things like peas, lettuce, beets, greens mix, basil and cilantro. Choose at least one new vegetable to plant. Variety adds different nutrients to our diet and is good for the soil.

Plant an extra row for Willits Community Services and Food Bank or to donate to Willits Daily Bread. If you are weak on cooking skills, take the “Nutrition & Cooking with LOCAL, Garden-Fresh Produce and Organic Staple Foods” at the Grange. Gardening is more fun when you can fully enjoy the tastes and flavors at your table.

Plant more annuals for color, cutting, and fragrance. Plant them in flower beds, pots and even the vegetable garden. They are food for the soul.

Plant a fall garden. In Willits, this means starting seeds in June setting out plants the first of August in order to give them time to mature before the weather cools down. Plan to pull out your spring peas and put in broccoli and Brussels sprouts for a fall crop. Plant cover crops early in September so that they have time to grow before the cold days of winter set in.

Plant a fruit tree this year. If you haven’t started an orchard, there’s no better time than the present. If you have a tree that isn’t thriving, pull it out and plant a new vigorous one. There are few things so rewarding as harvesting a tree full of fresh, ripe fruit. And there are few taste pleasures as satisfying.

Keep a garden diary. Each of us seems to live in a different micro-climate where temperatures, precipitation, sunlight and winds can drastically vary within a few miles. It’s hard to remember what happened from year to year, and after a few years, you may be able to anticipate the first frost or when the rose weevils arrive.

Share your love of plants and gardening whenever possible. Grow, celebrate, discover and enjoy your garden this year!