State of the fruit trees

The fruit trees we planted three years ago are doing very nice. There are apples on all five of the apple trees. One of the apple trees is so heavily loaded that one of its branches split.

The cherry crop this year is amazing. I actually had to move the chickens out of the orchard area as they would hop and peck off sour cherries on the lower branches of the Montmorency. By the time I got them moved only the top story cherries remained. I’m glad they hadn’t discovered the sweet cherries on the Lapins tree.

We have two Asian pear trees. The Chojuro tree is doing very well but the Shinseiki tree always looks like it is dying because it has so few leaves. The Shinseiki had a lot of fruit on it this year, but Lee stripped most them off so the tree could work on its health verses producing fruit.

The quince tree, Smyrna, has put on its first fruit. I was shocked when I saw it as the fruit is fuzzy feeling at this stage.

We have been looking for sulfur to apply to the blueberries. It seems impossible to buy it around here. We have checked four farm stores so far.

Of the 19 trees we planted, three have died. One pawpaw, Mitchell variety, was killed by cold weather during the first winter. It was the smaller tree of the two. The American persimmon, John Rick, died this year. There is a huge amount of gopher activity where it is planted, so I’m going to blame its demise on rodent-caused root damage. The third tree that died was an empress tree. We bought it as a test case for a biomass/firewood tree. It survived one year in a pot, and then died during the second winter after we planted it. I’m not sure what caused it to die. We also lost one of our twelve blueberry plants to the chickens. They scratched out a big section of it’s roots and we didn’t notice it until the spring.

We planted fruit trees during our first spring here, so we are happy to see them making progress. We may still be years away from having a proper orchard, but seeing fruit on almost every tree is a huge milestone.

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10 Responses to State of the fruit trees

  1. Fruit! It looks lovely.

    Do you spray? We’ve been reluctant to plant a lot of fruit trees because we’ve heard that it’s all but impossible to grow fruit on Cape Cod without heavy pesticide use. We have two fig trees (we wrap them in winter), but it’s too soon to know whether they’ll flourish. So far, they’re alive, and one has produced a few figs.

    I’ve heard that Asian pear trees are a good choice because our local pests don’t feed on them, but that sounds too good to be true. What’s your experience?

    • lee says:

      No, we haven’t sprayed any of the trees yet. I’m willing to spray with sulfur and other non-toxics, but I don’t plan to use any pesticides in the orchard. For apples I know that means we’ll have some bugs, but our goal for the apples has always been hard cider and canned pie filling. Robin and I don’t eat many fresh apples.

      Our Chojuro Asian pear has been problem free. I don’t see much insect damage on the plant, although this will be the first year we get fruit from it. We can provide an update later in the season. The Shinseiki Asian pear appears to have some kind of the disease. Many of the leaves are curled, spotted, or just plain missing. We need to take better photos and try to diagnose the problem online.

  2. Snowbrush says:

    Do you guys like persimmons? They grow wild in Mississippi, but were the only thing I’ve ever found that gave me something pretty close to an allergic reaction. Since I hated the taste, I didn’t mind too much.

    • lee says:

      Neither of us have eaten a persimmon, but they are a native North American tree and can grow quite large so we thought it would be a good fit for our property. We bought a female tree with the idea that we could add a male later to increase the fruit yield. Persimmons seem to be one of those fruit that people feel very strongly about (positive and negative). We figured that even if we hated them, there would be at least one form of livestock here that would eat them instead.

      Actually, we are raising quite a few fruit trees and shrubs without having tasted them: persimmon, quince, paw paw, mountain ash, and chokeberry. We have a mulberry tree which Robin has never tasted, and we’ve only eaten Asian pears once.

  3. Ann says:

    Your trees look great, and so do the blueberries. Why do you need to add sulfur, since you’ve got nice berries setting already? Just curious…

    I have one Asian pear tree, and I have to say, that thing is damn hardy. The fruit barely has time to ripen on the tree before our first frost though. Luckily, the fruit can be kept in a root cellar for months. We don’t spray any of our trees, and the fruit of the Asian pear is the only fruit that comes through unscathed. If we were smart, we’d plant a whole orchard of Asian pears…

    • lee says:

      We have had our garden soil tested, and it’s around pH 6.0. Blueberries really want the pH around 4.5 – 5.0. On our plants, the young leaves are yellow with green veins, which is a sign of pH problems. They have survived so far, but they are more like to thrive if we fix the soil acidity. (Blueberries are very well suited to Oregon.)

      I’m glad to hear you have had such a good experience with Asian pears. Short season fruit crops are a big plus for our climate too. Asian pears are probably the fruit we most wanted to cellar as opposed to canning or freezing.

  4. ..is sulfur the same as adding hardwood ash to the soil?..I know it takes longer to work on the soil balance but I hear it does a good job..and if you are burning hardwood you might want to dig into the ash pile…you think that those power poles you burned would leave anything harmful in the ash? If the ash does not work I suggest getting a dragon as they are an abundant source of sulfur…plus just think of the security upgrade!

    • lee says:

      Yes, both sulfur and hardwood ash affect the pH, but sulfur is an acidifying agent (lowers pH) whereas wood ash is an alkalizing agent (raises pH). Gardens soils are ideally around pH 6.0-7.0. We tested four areas of our property, and all of them had a pH right around 6.0. This is really fortunate, because most northwest soil is around pH 5.5 or lower. We are still using lime in our garden to raise the pH slowly, and we will definitely be spreading our wood ash on the pastures for the same reason, but most things grow pretty well here without any adjustment. (Soil acidity affects the availability of almost every soil nutrient, so driving your pH toward 7.0 is the cheapest way to make your soil much more fertile.)

      Anyway, it’s kind of rare to want to make your soil more acidic (especially around here) but that’s what blueberries, rhododendrons, and azaleas need. I think that’s why I’m having such a hard time finding bagged elemental sulfur. You can also use commercial fertilizers (such as ammonium sulfate) to acidify, but they have a limited effect and are more likely to burn your plants.

      And yes, a dragon would be great for security, but bad for our stand of highly flammable conifers. Also, based on the available feed store options, ours would probably develop a sulfur deficiency.

      Hmmm, is someone having “Game of Throwns” withdrawals? ­čśë

  5. ..and for the record I had planned a garden update that I am now putting on hold after seeing your garden progress..the weather here makes me depressed when I see all the gardens down south..and yes, Oregon is south. nice work again!

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