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.

Simply Scrumptious Strawberries

Friday, January 17th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Asparagus, whose delectable spears are even sweeter when home-grown, are available now for planting. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • Bare root season is here. Choose and plant your favorite fruit and shade trees now.
    • 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.
    • Delicious raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and blueberries are all available now for early planting.
    • Tree collards are delicious winter vegetables. Set out plants now.

Simply Scrumptious Strawberries

One thing that you just can’t buy at the store is a juicy, mouthwatering strawberry. Yes, they are big and beautiful but there is no comparison, when it comes to flavor, with fresh-picked, homegrown strawberries.

Strawberries are not hard to grow. Plants produce well for three to five years, then it’s best to compost the old plants, dig a new bed and plant fresh, disease-free roots from the nursery. New plants set out in early spring will give you berries this summer.

Strawberries do best in full sun with loose soil and good drainage. Dig in plenty of compost to make a loose, humus-rich soil. Because they multiply by runners, strawberries can be planted up to 18 inches apart and runners will fill in the gaps. They can also be planted on 8-inch centers to harvest more berries sooner.

When planting, dig a hold deep enough so the roots will not be bent, and make a cone-shaped pile of soil in the bottom. Arrange the roots over the soil cone and gently fill the hole with loose soil. It is most important to set the plants at the right height so that the roots are covered but the crown, where the leaves come out, is above the soil line.

Strawberries are divided into three types: Junebearers, everbearers, and day-neutrals. Junebearers produce a single large crop over 3-4 weeks in early summer. If you want to freeze lots of fruit at one time, plant Junebearers.

‘Sequoia’ is the earliest variety and the sweetest, with exceptional taste, productivity and pest resistance. ‘Chandler’ strawberry plants are very popular with commercial growers because of their high yield, brilliant fruit color, and excellent flavor.

Everbearers produce throughout the summer and give you berries for fresh eating all season. They produce fewer runners than Junebearers and so are easier to control.

‘Quinault’ is a great tasting, heavy bearing everbearer that gives high yields of large, deep red, sweet fruit from spring through fall. They are delicious for desserts, preserves and fresh eating. Plants are also very disease-resistant.

Day-neutrals are unaffected by day length and so they bear fruit from June through frost. Unfortunately they require pampering. They are sensitive to drought and weed competition. If you give them the care they need, they will reward you with a generous supply of berries throughout the season from relatively few plants.

‘Tristar’ bears a constant supply of delicious medium sized berries, that are sweet and juicy, throughout the season. ‘Tristar’ has been known to set fruit from June until frost. They flower profusely but make few runners, so they stay compact. ‘Seascape’ is a heavy bearer of high quality, very sweet round berries. Contrary to their name, they grow and fruit well in hot dry climates.

Whether it’s strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie or just red ripe strawberries that you love, there are none better than the home-grown kind.