[NAFEX] Novice grower report

William C. Garthright billg at inebraska.com
Fri Aug 8 13:37:29 EDT 2008

> I've been planting fruit for about 7 years now and this is the first 
> year we've gotten some real production!

I'm much more of a novice than you are, Deb, since most of my fruit is 
two-years old at most (the Concord grapes and the Northstar cherry - the 
latter which seems to have died - are one year older, and I've had black 
raspberries for a few years). I did get some fruit from the cherry, but 
not much. There were almost no bees around earlier this spring (almost 
none of my mason bees emerged, for some reason). And I was a little late 
with the netting, so the birds got some of the few cherries I had.

> Pluots
> Had 3 fruit set which later disappeared (wind?  critters?)  I think 
> this tree bloomed just at a bit of a spring cold snap, so that could 
> be the problem.  It's a 3 in one tree with three varieties (will have 
> to look them up.)

I planted three pluots last year, and they were full of blooms this 
spring, but I had almost no fruit set on. I've heard that they're shy 
bearers, but again, there were hardly any bees around then, either. And 
those few fruits have disappeared here, too. I did find one with 
squirrel teeth on it (these trees are outside my electric fence).

> Pears
> We love pears, pears hate us.

I planted a couple of Asian pears (New Century and Starking Hardy Giant) 
two years ago, and they almost died in that April freeze last year. But 
they did bloom this year, and I've got a whopping total of 6 pears set 
on. They look like they're doing really well, though. I completely 
ignore them, but they must like that.  :-)

I planted a couple of European pears this spring (Seckel and Ubileen) 
and, well, they're still alive, anyway. UPS broke the Seckel completely 
in half during shipment, but it had one low branch, so I bent that up as 
a new trunk. And that's actually the best-looking one right now. We'll see.

> Gooseberries
> Got a great gooseberry harvest (Poormans, Pixwell, Invicta, Hinnomaki 
> Red) all produced a bumper crop this year.  Plants are doing well, 
> even with the summer heat now that harvest is over.  Anyone ever try 
> the Black Velvet variety of gooseberry?  I might add that one next.

I've got a Black Velvet, but it's in a terrible location. I couldn't 
even get in there to pick the few berries, so I don't know what they 
taste like. I'm going to move it next year. Of the rest of mine 
(Poorman, Hinnonmaki Red and Yellow, Jewel, and Red George), all of 
which are two years old, the Hinnonmaki Yellow has been the most 
incredible producer. It's a smaller plant than the others, with a really 
prone posture, so it's a complete pain to pick. But it was absolutely 
loaded with gooseberries last year (most of the others didn't have 
berries at all at one year of age) and again this year. I thinned them 
twice for pie - wonderful pie! - and I still had tons on the plant.

But for flavor, eating fresh, I've got to say that Poorman was easily 
the best. The berries were larger than on any of the others, too, and 
the thorns fewer. Plus, it's more upright in growth (though the branches 
got weighed down considerably with the fruit). It didn't produce 
anywhere near as much as the Hinnonmaki Yellow, but this one is still a 
keeper. The others were OK, but the Poorman was one I *really* enjoyed 
fresh (I'd rather eat the others in pie).

> Red currants were annoying.  Berries seemed to ripen one at a time and 
> didn't get a great harvest.  Will have to look up the variety and 
> replace with something that ripens all together.

I've got a two-year-old Rovada red currant that was loaded with berries, 
and they all came ripe at the same time. It seemed to be struggling a 
bit last year, and was still small this spring, but it's really taken 
off now. I've also got a Pink Champagne currant, which was loaded with 
pink berries, all of which ripened in a bunch, and a Primus white 
currant, which looks good, but hasn't produced many berries yet. (All of 
these are two years old.)

My biggest problem is... what do I do with the fruit? They're a bit too 
sour to eat fresh, and I don't eat jam or jelly. I had my Mom make a pie 
out of the pink currants, but that wasn't particularly good (and it had 
an ugly color - the red currants would have been better for that). I 
don't think currants would be especially good on my oatmeal in the 
morning, either, would they? So for now, they're just sitting in the 
freezer. It was probably a mistake to plant them, but I was curious.

> Peaches
> Peaches started strong, and then PFFFT.  Have a four in one tree with 
> 3 peaches and a nectarine variety (Frost, hardired, Mary Jane and one 
> other variety).

Instead of a four-in-one tree, I've got four trees (Intrepid, Redhaven, 
and Reliance peaches, and Hardired Giant nectarine) planted in the same 
hole (well, in square 18" apart). Again, these are just two years old, 
and I probably wouldn't do that again (too hard to prune). But the basic 
idea is working, since they've been coming ripe one variety at a time.

I've had trouble keeping the squirrels out of them (I'll post more on 
that later), and I'm really struggling with the Oriental Fruit Moths, 
but they've still been delicious. Most of the nectarines dropped off the 
tree when very young, due to bugs (my plums had the same problem, but 
apparently the peach fuzz must keep some things away - though not the 
OFM). And I had a hard time deciding when they should be picked (the 
squirrels finally convinced me), since the fruit still seemed so hard. 
But they were very good.

The Reliance peach came ripe next, and this one really set on the fruit! 
I had to thin them like crazy (and then I knocked a bunch off the tree 
by accident). And the squirrels and birds got rid of some more. But the 
rest were really big and really good! I'm picking Redhaven peaches now. 
There weren't nearly as many set on, and they're a bit smaller, but 
still good. The Intrepid seems to be really late, but I had very few 
blossoms or fruit on that one (it's such a vigorous tree, too). I've got 
just a few small (very small) green peaches on that tree right now.

I did have a little brown rot (I think), since three or four peaches 
rotted on the tree, so I imagine I'll have to get to work on my spraying 
(and I know I will for OFM - those little moths are everywhere, and my 
pheromone trap didn't seem to help at all).

> Rhubarb
> I cannot get rhubarb to grow well for me.  I've tried it in several 
> locations.  It just remains puny despite dressing with composted 
> manure and keeping it weeded.  Sigh.

There was rhubarb at the NE corner of my house when I moved in 22 years 
ago. I've never done anything except pick all the rhubarb I could give 
away, and it still looks just as big and just a great as ever (although 
it doesn't like the heat this time of year). My house was built in 1906, 
and while I doubt the rhubarb patch is that old, it wouldn't surprise me 
to hear that it's 50 years old or more.

I keep wondering why rhubarb is so expensive in the grocery store. 
Rhubarb? It seems to grow like a weed here, and it's certainly not 
difficult to pick. It even shades out other weeds. And it's a perennial. 
It would be perfect if only I could eat it raw (I can, but only in tiny 
amounts, with a big bowl of sugar). I can only get my Mom to make so 
many pies,... and I shouldn't be eating that much pie, anyway. :-)

> Raspberries
> I had about decided to yank all the raspberries as they died to the 
> ground last year in the freeze.

I had a great year for black raspberries. The birds planted mine, a 
number of years ago, and I just let them spread. Some of the canes died 
in last year's freeze, and the robins ate ever berry before they even 
got ripe, so I didn't get ANY raspberries last year. But this year was 
great! Still, I think I need to thin the rows a bit. They were so 
crowded that the inner plants - the ones in the center of the row, died 
from lack of light. They just spread so fast,... and I hate to rip them 
up and throw them away. In fact, I hate to throw anything away. I ripped 
up some day lilies, and I even hated to kill them!

> Melons
> Once again I attempt melons.

I'm not much of a gardener either, but I did plant some watermelons 
(Crimson Sweet) this year. So far, so good. The plants have nearly taken 
over my backyard, and there are watermelons everywhere. Hmm,... I wonder 
if squirrels like watermelon? :-)

Two years ago, I planted cantaloupe - two different kinds. But they all 
came ripe in the same week in August,... and it happened to be a week 
when all my family was out of town. I ate cantaloupe until I thought I'd 
burst, and the rest rotted as I tried to save it. After that week, I 
didn't get a single other good cantaloupe. They all seemed to split in 
the garden, before they even got completely ripe, at which point the 
ants would get them.

> So that's it for fruit.  Next year I will be spraying for brown rot 
> and cherry fruit fly and plum curculio and bagging apples again if the 
> weather cooperates like this year :)

Yeah, I'm going to do all that, too,... just like I was going to do THIS 
year!  I was gung-ho this spring, and I swear I worked in the yard every 
day for MONTHS, but I just got further and further behind. I didn't do 
nearly the spraying I needed to do. And I just decided that it's getting 
too late for summer pruning, despite the fact that I haven't done 
anywhere near as much as I wanted to do. Hey, I'm just tired...

I don't know how you folks do it, those of you who do this for a living. 
I thought I'd plant fruit so I wouldn't have to work at it all the time! 
Heh, heh. I thought it would be easy, compared to a vegetable garden, 
for example. After all, you just plant a tree once, right? And then sit 
back and wait for the fruit?


I really enjoyed your report, Deb. I hope more people will chime in.

Lincoln, NE (zone 5)

Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty 
without any proof. - Ashley Montague

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