Fig Trees in Your Orchard

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • 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.
    • Choose rose bushes now from the many beautiful and fragrant varieties available in bare root plants now.
    • Asparagus, whose delectable spears are even sweeter when home-grown, are available now for planting. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • Apples and pears are the easiest fruits to grow in our area. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.

Fabulous Figs

Figs were brought to California by the Spanish missionary fathers who first planted them at the San Diego Mission in 1759. Fig trees were then planted at each succeeding mission, through California. The Mission fig, California’s leading black fig, takes its name from this history.

The fig is a picturesque deciduous tree, typically growing to a height of 10 – 30 ft. Their branches are strong and twisting. Figs that are completely dormant before severely cold weather arrives can tolerate temperatures down to 15 to 20° F with little or no damage. When temperatures drop below that, fig trees may be killed to the ground in the winter. When they re-sprout from the roots in the spring, they will often grow as a multi-branched shrub.

Figs are a very popular fruit and they grow best where the summers are hot and dry. Though native to the Middle East and grown throughout the Mediterranean region, there are several varieties that are worth growing in our climate.

Figs usually bear two crops a year. The early crop is called a ‘breba’ crop. These fruits form on wood that grew last season. Main crop figs form on the new branches that grow in the spring. Some varieties only have a breba crop or a main-crop.

‘Black Mission’ figs, with their purplish-black skin, strawberry-colored flesh, and rich flavor are a favorite the world over. The bear heavily and are a large, long-lived tree. The fruit is delicious fresh, dried or canned.

‘Brown Turkey’ is a large, brown skinned fig with pink flesh. It has a sweet, rich flavor, and is mostly for fresh use. It is widely adapted to both coastal and inland climates and makes a small, very hardy tree.

‘Celestial’ is one of the sweetest figs. With a purplish-brown skin, the pink flesh is of rich flavor and excellent quality and almost seedless. It is widely adapted with high yields and good cold tolerance, and bears two crops per year.

The ‘King’ Fig is a good variety to plant in colder, wetter areas. The light green ‘white’ skinned fig has strawberry colored pulp with a rich flavor and excellent fresh-eating quality. It has a large breba crop while the later crop is light in hot climates, heavier in coastal climates. It is also called ‘Desert King’.

‘Peter’s Honey’ is a beautiful, shiny, greenish yellow fruit when ripe with very sweet, dark amber flesh. It is superb for fresh eating, and good for drying and canning.

Fig trees need plenty of sun, at least 8 hours a day, and lots of heat to ripen the fruit. Near the south-facing wall of a building is a good location. Figs respond very well to heavy applications of manure and compost applied three times a year.

Figs are a healthful fruit that can easily be dried for winter use and they are worth growing in our climate.

New Fruits for a New Year

Friday, January 9th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • 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.
    • Primroses will give you the most color during this cold weather. Choose some pretty ones now for your boxes and beds.
    • Roses are the longest blooming shrub in this climate. Fill your garden with their colors and fragrances by planting bare-root rose bushes now.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.

Flavorful, Fresh Fruits

Each year the list of mouth-watering summer fruits grows longer with new hybrids introduced and sometimes antique varieties making a comeback. Home grown fruit is becoming increasingly popular as we learn the benefits of local food production.

Discovering new flavors and even new fruits can be an exciting taste experience. Here are some varieties that may be new to you.

A delicious new pear, introduced in 1999, called “Blake’s Pride” is now available. With a golden yellow and slightly russeted skin, the fruit has a sweet, rich taste and pleasing aroma. Importantly, “Blake’s Pride” is resistant to fire blight, a major disease of pear trees.

Just the word peach or nectarine starts my mouth watering. But how about “Flavortop” Nectarine. This beautiful yellow freestone is a taste test winner with a smooth texture and excellent quality. It’s skin is mostly red over a bright yellow background. “Independence” Nectarine is another red skinned, yellow freestone. It has rich, tangy and sweet flavor, and is rated one of the best.

“Elegant Lady” is a beautiful peach (“almost too pretty to eat”) with red over yellow skin and yellow flesh that is red at the pit. It is perfect for tree ripening because it holds well on the tree, and allows you to harvest the peaches when they are the most flavorful.

“Snow Beauty” White Peach is another beautiful fruit. This white-fleshed peach is low in acidity and high in sugar, and packs a tantalizing flavor.

The “Laroda” Plum looks like a classic plum in color, shape, and texture, but it has an extraordinary wine-like flavor, and has long been considered one of the best-flavored Asian plums. Purple on the outside and amber-streaked with red on the inside, it is very juicy and slightly sweet, with a touch of acidity; excellent for making jams and jellies.

The flavor of a good ripe plum has a sweet-tart balance. “Mariposa” Plum is a large, round plum with a glossy maroon skin and dark red flesh. The plum is extremely juicy with an excellent, lingering flavor and can be used fresh or cooked.

“Nubiana” is a large, shiny black to reddish purple plum with deep amber, moderately sweet and pleasantly flavored flesh. Sweet, flavorful, with very little tartness at skin or pit, it is a favorite in the fresh fruit market, and excellent for the home orchard.

“Celestial”, also known as Celeste, Blue Celeste, or Sugar Fig, is a small, dark fig with very sweet, high quality flesh. It has high yields and good cold tolerance. Delicious fresh, it is also excellent for preserved.

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.