The Fruits of Summer

Friday, July 22nd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming through the summer. Watch for pests and diseases and treat as soon as you see trouble.
    • Zinnias love the heat and will add a rainbow of color to your garden and the deer don’t like them.
    • Plant fresh herbs from young plants. Basil, rosemary, thymes, mints and sages are just a few ideas.
    • Check for squash, or “stink”, bugs on squash and pumpkins. Hand-pick grey-brown adults and destroy red egg clusters on the leaves. Use pyrethrin spray to control heavy infestations.
    • Shade-loving begonias will add color and beauty in both planters and flower beds.

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. Everbearing strawberries 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.

Blueberries also give us delicious, ripe fruit from June through July. Size of fruit varies widely, so choose varieties accordingly. You may prefer smaller berries for muffins or pancakes and larger ones in fruit salads and as toppings for cakes and pies.

Cherries 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.

Mouthwatering Peaches

Friday, March 7th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other cool season vegetables can be started now from seed. There are many wonderful varieties available on seed racks.
    • Roses should be pruned if you haven’t done so already. Remove all old leaves on and around the bushes and spray with Neem oil to prevent early pest and disease problems.
    • Deciduous Clematis vines can be cut back to about waist height, to encourage bushiness, more flowers and a nicer looking vine. Do this now before the new growth starts.
    • Asparagus, horseradish and rhubarb are perennial vegetables that are planted now during the dormant season.
    • Last chance to spray peach and nectarine trees for peach leaf curl before the buds break open. Use copper spray for the best results.

Mouthwatering Peaches for your Orchard

Nothing compares to the taste of tree-ripe peaches. Like ripe tomatoes, you just can’t buy them in the market. Peaches originally came from China where they have been cultivated for over 3000 years? Today, in China, there are more than 1000 unique types of peaches!

We grow from 100-200 different cultivars of peaches in the United States. They can be divided into two types, the freestones and the clingstones. In freestone types, the flesh separates readily from the pit. In the clingstone type, the flesh clings tightly to the pit. Freestone types are usually preferred for eating fresh or for freezing, while clingstone types are used primarily for canning. Fruit may be either yellow or white-fleshed.

The main challenges to growing good peaches in our area are late spring frosts and a disease known as “peach leaf curl.” Selecting varieties that are both late-blooming and resistant to peach leaf curl will result in the best crops. ‘Frost,’ ‘Q-1-8’ and ‘Indian Free’ are excellent choices.

‘Frost’ is a delicious yellow freestone that bears heavily. ‘Elberta’ is an old-time favorite with classic, rich peach flavor. ‘Reliance,’ which is both cold-hardy and frost-hardy, has sweet, flavorful, yellow freestone flesh.

White-fleshed peaches have long been savored by home growers and connoisseurs for their sweet, luscious flavor, tantalizing fragrance and novel color. The flat ‘Donut’ peach, has caught the eye (and taste buds) of today’s white peach fancier. It is self-fruitful and produces a tremendous amount of fruit by the second or third year. These unusual fruits are flat and round, with a sunken center. The flesh is sweet and juicy, often described as having overtones of almond.

For some tastes, the unique red-and-white-fleshed peach ‘Indian Free’ is still unsurpassed among the white peaches. The intense aroma and sweet-tart flavor of a fully tree-ripened ‘Indian Free’ has to be experienced to be believed. It requires another peach or nectarine as a pollinator.

‘Q-1-8’ is a sweet and juicy white peach with a sprightly flavor from a peach-leaf-curl resistant tree and ‘Sugar May’ is also white and is very juicy with fine sweet flavor.

Standard trees grow 15 to 25 feet tall if unpruned, but can be kept to 10 to 12 feet with consistent pruning, especially summer pruning. The best standard rootstock for our area is Lovell, which has a vigorous root system that is tolerant of wet soil or heavy soil.

Peach trees require full sunlight. If possible, select a site with a raised elevation or on a slope, so that cold air can drain away from the tree on a cold night during bloom. Trees need well drained soil. Mounding can help if you have heavy soil.

A young tree will need only 5-10 gallons of water a week. Mulch around the tree and you should be able to meet its water needs with grey water from the house.

Peaches seldom a crop every year in our climate, but when they do a single tree can produce 200 pounds of luscious, juicy fruit. Let them ripen to peak perfection before picking them and enjoy their exquisite, mouthwatering flavors.

Peach Leaf Curl

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Liquidambar and Japanese maple trees can’t be beat for fall color. Choose them now while you can see their bright colors.
    • Tree collards are delicious winter vegetables.
    • Rake and destroy leaves from fruit trees that were diseased this year.
    • Tie red raspberry canes to wires; prune to 1 foot above the top wire or wrap the canes around the top wire.
    • There’s still time to plant spring-flowering bulbs, but don’t delay. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are still available.

Protect Peaches from Peach Leaf Curl

Probably the most irritating thing about seeing the characteristic warty red leaves of peach leaf curl is realizing that it’s already too late to do anything about the disease.

Peach and nectarine trees generally grow quite well here, but many varieties are prone to a disease called peach leaf curl. When the tree leafs out in the spring, infected leaves quickly become blistered and distorted and turn yellow to reddish in color. Gradually these leaves drop from the tree and are replaced by a new crop of usually healthy leaves.

The production of two sets of leaves decreases the energy the tree can put into new growth and fruit production. If leaf curl is uncontrolled for several years, the tree will decline and need to be removed.

The fungus spores of peach leaf curl live over the winter in microscopic crevices on the tree and are ready to infect young leaves just as the leaf tips are exposed in the spring. Peach leaf curl is worst when we have wet spring weather, so it is always good to apply a preventative spray.

Timing of dormant sprays is very important. In northern California, apply a first spray about November 15, or when at least 90% of the leaves have fallen. The most effective spray for the home orchardist is a fixed copper fungicide, which comes in a powdered form.

A second application should be made in late December or January. The third, and very important spraying should be made just before the buds swell, usually in mid-February.

Full coverage of the tree is essential. Leaves developing from buds that are not covered by fungicide will probably become infected. For maximum control of peach leaf curl, spray trees thoroughly with a copper fungicide three times during the winter.

If you do not already have peaches in your orchard, you might consider planting the newer, curl-resistant varieties. ‘Frost’ peach and ‘Q-1-8 White’ peach are both highly resistant and ‘Indian Free’ peach is also very resistant.

Peach trees are worth growing in this area even if you do not get a crop every year. In a good year, a single tree may give you 200 pounds of luscious, juicy fruit. Take care of your peach and nectarine trees and look forward to bountiful, healthy crops of delicious, home-grown fruit.