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.

Simply Scrumptious Strawberries

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies, with their bright faces, are impervious to cold weather. They even bloom under the snow. So plant some now for spring color.
    • Start an asparagus bed so you can enjoy their young, tender shoots straight from the garden.
    • Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other cool season vegetables can be started now from seed. There are many wonderful varieties available on seed racks.
    • Clematis that bloomed last summer can be pruned now. Wait on spring-blooming varieties until after they bloom.
    • If you’re short on space in your orchard, you can plant 2 or 3 varieties of the same fruit in one large hole. This will allow cross-pollination among apples, pears, plums, cherries and Asian pears.

Mouthwatering 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. ‘Hood’ is another fine berry from the Oregon. It has large berries that are intensely sweet and excellent for jam or fresh use.

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 heat, 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.

Small Fruits for the Garden

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Jenny Watts

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 two types of blueberries: highbush and rabbiteye. Highbush are the most popular home-garden blueberries. They will do best in locations with some ocean influence in the summer. 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.

Think about adding some berry plants to your garden this winter during bare-root season.