growing an ecosystem of abundance

Summer Fruit Season is Here!

Well it has been quite a while since my last blog post here, but I hope you have been following my twitter feed (last few tweets over there in the right column).

Summer fruit update:


Continued dry and warm winter weather had it’s effect on the health of fruit trees. Two very dry winters meant that there was no residual ground waterr stored in the soil. Being used to typical wet winters, many back yard growers did not irrigate enough and the trees are suffering. Please water your trees! Especially young trees need good watering. We are suffering in this drought, so do recycle graywater, and build yourself some rainwater catchment.

Adding to our problems was the approximate 50% of normal “chill” hours or units, affecting certain northern species like cherries, apples, aronia,  haskap/honey berry, among others. Chill hours are calculated in several ways, but it is generally: total accumulated hours of temperatures between 45F and 32F, between November and February.

Typical symptoms were obvious with my ‘Honeycrisp’ apple this spring: delayed and ongoing flowering (currently holding normal size half grown fruit, smaller marble size fruit, and flower buds just opening), delayed leafing out, with many branch tips bare, and new growth from lower branches. This is a great time to see which trees are actually low chill, and to consider increasing plantings of them.

The few rains we did have were timed perfectly to promote heavy fireblight damage. This bacteria thrives in warm wet weather in the spring, especially during flowering, with bees actually spreading the pathogen from tree to tree. I have had major losses of large, otherwise health pear trees, including ‘Bosc’, ‘Williams’/’Bartlett’, and asian pears. Fortunately my favorite pear, ‘Seckle’ is fairly resistant, and has been used in breeding of other resistant varieties, like ‘Magness’ (‘Comice’ X ‘Seckle’). Without many options to prevent, or cure, the only thing I can reccomended is to prune out damaged branches back to healthy wood/cambium, and planting resistance varieties.

Maggots in yor fruits? Cherry Fruit Fly and Olive Fly

I am getting used to maggots in my ripe berries, but was sad to find them I am early whit nectarine this year. Cherry Fruit Fly, or Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) attracts whole fruit not just rotten fruit, like most fruit flies. I will put out apple cider bottle traps for SWD  and for the Olive fly. With many wild untreated olive trees in our area, this fly causes about 90% crop damage most years. Trapping can reduce damage significantly, but commercial growers use a baited Spinosad product called “GF-120”. It is approved for use by organic growers, but is not so available to home gardeners. Instead I have been spraying a kaolin clay “protectorant” product called “Surround WP” (wettable powder). This can make egg laying difficult for olive flies, and coddling moth on apples. All my olive and apple trees are very white this time of the year! I will re-apply every 6 weeks until harvest, and will need thorough washing after.

To much of a good thing: Thin, thin, thin that fruit!

The dry spring weather made for an immense fruit set on many stone fruit and apple varieties. If you are greedy, and try to let all those fruit to mature you could have some serious problems: Breaking branches, (can be moderated by use of props, bands and straps), severe “alternate bearing” causing the tree to overbear one year and resting by producing no fruit the next, disease and pests are made worse with crowded fruit branches, quality of fruit is also compromised when crowded, with less sugar, less color and smaller. Please do not hesitate to take off all the excess fruit. Imagine a full size fruit on the branch, and allow room so the fruit won’t touch– about 4 to 8 inches apart.

Summer Pruning and Grafting

This season’s branch growth is becoming more woody now (hardening off) and now is a great time to do some summer pruning to control growth from the buds we left behind from our winter pruning. The bottom of this seasons growth is perfect for various summer budding and grafting techniques. We graft year ’round!

Summer Fruit Tastings Begin!

Andy’s Orchard had the first fruit tasting of the 2015 season. Held on Father’s Day, I attended with my son Ijah. Andy announced to a crowd of a couple hundred attendees that “this is our worst fruit harvest year ever”, with cherries having a 95% crop loss, mostly due to lack of chill hours. Though we did not taste as many as the 55 varieties as I had in the past, there were still many dozens of varieties of stone fruit to enjoy–including a dozen kinds of cherries and many apricots, plums, inter specific hybrids, peaches and nectarines. Find the schedule for the rest of the summer tastings at Andy’s Orchard website.

Keep it Juicy!


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