Small Fruits for the Garden

Saturday, 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.

Delicious Grapes

Monday, July 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Colorful petunias will brighten up any flower bed. Their purples, pinks and reds make a real splash when planted in groups of the same color.
    • Prune rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas to shape them now. If you wait much longer, you will be cutting off next year’s flowers.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool-season crops now. Transplant them to the garden next month and they will be producing for you this fall.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming well throughout the summer. Watch for pests and treat immediately to prevent infestations.
    • Feed annual blooming plants and hanging baskets every two weeks for prolific bloom. Keep dead flowers pinched off.

Tastes of Summer

Local grape grower and aficionado, Richard Jeske, is offering a dozen varieties that do particularly well in the Willits area. Most are American grapes rather than European grapes. American grapes have a looser skin that slips off the grape more easily with soft flesh and a distinctive aroma and flavor. American grapes are hardier; resistant to many insects and diseases (powdery mildew, etc) and mature earlier in the season, so they ripen in milder climates.

European grapes usually require a long, warm growing season and have firm fruit with nonslip skin and a smooth flavor. There are also many hybrids that are crosses between the two types.

Grapes can also be seeded or seedless. Many people prefer seedless grapes for fresh eating, but many of the best tasting varieties have seeds. The seeds, by the way, are good for you.

Himrod is a white, seedless grape that is dependable and delicious. Grapes are sweet and vines are very productive. Use them fresh or for raisins.

Venus is a blue grape that hangs in large, beautiful bunches. Very vigorous and productive, it is good fresh and for making grape juice. Glenora is another seedless blue grape with small grapes like blueberries. It is delicious for fresh eating.

Reliance is a productive red grape that ripens over a long season. It is very dependable and one of the best in our area. Eat them fresh or dry them for raisins.

Delight is the most popular European, seedless grape in this collection. It is a white grape, similar to Perlette but with more flavor. Eat them fresh or dry them for raisins.

Sweet Seduction is an appealing white grape with outstanding muscat flavor. It is a favorite in taste tests and is also good for raisins and juice.

If one does not mind seeds, Concords are of course a classic choice. But Muscat grapes are also very good in this area. Golden Muscat is a long time favorite for home gardeners. This white grape is sweet and juicy and a heavy producer. New York Muscat is a blue grape with an outstanding flavor. Use it fresh or for juice or wine. Muscat St. Vallier is another white muscat with great muscat taste.

Seneca is one of the first grapes of the season. This mouth-watering white, seeded grape is delicious fresh or for juice. And Suavis is one of the later grapes. It is a red, European grape with a unique and delicious flavor. Use it fresh or for juice or wine.

Grapes are a wonderful fruit for the home garden. They are easy to grow and very productive. Protect your crop from birds and other critters and enjoy the delicious tastes of summer.

Home-grown Summer Fruits

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool-season crops now. Transplant them to the garden next month and they will be producing for you this fall.
    • Penstemon are bushy, evergreen perennials that attract hummingbirds with their red, pink, lavender or purple trumpet-shaped flowers all summer and fall.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming well throughout the summer. Watch for pests and treat immediately to prevent infestations.
    • Fountains create the sound of moving water that is restful and cooling on the patio or in the garden.
    • Feed annual blooming plants and hanging baskets every two weeks for prolific bloom. Keep dead flowers pinched off.

The Fruits of Summer

Growing fruit in your own orchard is one of the delights of summer. Since you cannot buy fruit that is tree-ripened, the only way you can enjoy the full sweetness of summer fruits is by growing your own.

Strawberries begin the season, bearing fruits as early as May and producing their largest crops in June. Everbearers continue the harvest through the summer with sweet, tasty berries for fresh use or processing.

Raspberries produce bountiful crops in the home garden. June bearers produce a heavy crop of berries from June through early July. Everbearing raspberries produce two crops, one in June and another in the fall. Harvest daily or every other day for perfectly ripe fruit.

Cherries are the next to arrive in June. There are two types of cherries: sweet cherries and sour or pie cherries. Use them for baking, preserving or freezing when you can’t eat any more. They are both easy to can for winter use.

Plums begin fruiting in June and continue through September. You can choose black, red or golden yellow fruit with sweet or tart flavor. Prunes bear late in the summer with their sweet fruit that is so good for drying.

Peaches bear fruit in late July or August, depending on the variety, with some trees fruiting in September. As with plums, production will vary from year to year depending on the spring weather. But when a good crop comes in, it makes it all worthwhile.

Pluots are a relatively new fruit. They are a cross between plums and apricots with a firm texture and delicious flavor. Most varieties ripen in September. Some people are suspicious of pluots thinking that this strange fruit must be genetically engineered, but this is not the case. It is a hybrid that took several generations of cross breeding before the pluot we know today finally emerged. Enjoy their tasty flavor in fruit salads.

Blackberries ripen in August and provide a continuous harvest throughout the month. They are very easy to preserve by freezing.

Grapes ripen toward the end of August and on into September. There are dozens of varieties to tantalize your taste buds.

Apples and pears begin bearing fruit in August. Gravenstein is the first apple to fruit and Bartlett is the first of the pears. By carefully choosing varieties of apples and pears, you can have fresh fruit on through November.

These fruits are the most successful in the Willits area. Apricots are seldom successful and figs need a special hot spot to bear well. You can also try persimmons, which will be ready to harvest in November.

Don’t let your property be without some of these delicious home-grown fruits.