Meyer Lemon Tree and Blood Oranges Brightening the Autumn and Winter

In my rather less lush (vs. warm months) food garden, it is a joy to see that my Meyer lemon and blood orange trees are fruitful! Taken minutes ago, this photo of my lemon tree has already gotten me to thinking about lemon curd, lemon bars, and more. The orange trees have me thinking about the wonderfully vibrant juice I enjoyed from them earlier this year. I have three of these orange trees and one lemon tree, both still young. I’ve not ruled out putting in one more Meyer lemon tree but, as always, the dilemma is, Where will I find the space in the garden?

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Destructive Gophers in the Garden

They’re single-minded, for sure. Gophers are a problem in my city, not just my garden, which makes gardening a significant challenge. In parkways and elsewhere, soil mounds and holes dot our city’s landscape. In recent years, they’ve started tunneling into my front yard as well. Their behavior greatly influence my decisions about how and where to garden. They made a recent attempt to expand their tunnels where one of my purple aeonium plants grows. The plant survived, thankfully, but I’ve lost dozens of rose plants because gophers enjoy eating those particular roots very much. They’ve also made two attempts into my raised row bed gardens but apparently didn’t find anything of sufficient interest to make further tunneling attempts, for now.

Another survivor is my Meyer lemon tree, where a few gopher holes appeared. I kept praying for its survival after it had been attacked and left the tree small and looking rather unwell. I dutifully watered and fed this tree and this year has a few fruits, albeit immature, appeared. That alone felt like a victory because I thought that this plant was near its end. Apparently citrus tree roots are not delicious enough for them as they’ve also ignored my kumquat and blood orange trees. In my garden, at least, gophers have ignored my apple trees, olive trees, dragon trees, tomato plants, lettuces, my other succulents, and pink breath of heaven.

As time goes on, it is clear that my strategy for gopher abatement will continually evolve and require multiple methods at once. It can be several weeks of inactivity, followed by a fresh round of tunneling. Especially in my food garden, a lush lawn is a pipe dream. Many of my plants are above ground in containers (although years ago, they climbed into containers and devoured quite a bit of the cabbage I grew) but the tunneling continues. It can be challenging to have to fend off garden-unfriendly creatures from underground and overhead, eyeing my crops as an endless buffet. The good news in all of this is that there are many crops that I enjoy that these creatures clearly do not. Chicken wire has been helpful for many years, but is also vulnerable. I’m likely to build some type of movable contraption that has parts that are impervious to strikes from its large, powerful claws. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Apple Tree Branch Cutting Is Alive!

Several weeks ago, I was trimming apple tree branches that crisscrossed other branches and branches that seemed not in keeping with the tree’s overall form set forth by the larger, older branches. I saved 2 of these cuttings with the thought that they were long and sturdy enough to serve as stakes for a surrounding tomato plant whose vines needed some support. I simply placed these 2 apple tree cuttings into the nearby large soil-filled container and watered that container (which is already occupied by a raspberry plant – many players here!) as usual each week. As it turns out, one of these branches has now sprouted new green leaves – it’s alive! I hadn’t planned on the cuttings serving as anything else but a support for a tomato plant – and a good way to repurpose a tree cutting. Without any extraordinary effort at all (just soil and water), I may have (we’ll see how it goes in the future) inadvertently propagated at least 1-2 apple tree saplings that may one day fruit. Wow! It’s from my 3-in-1 apple tree, so I am not sure which apple(s) might come from these 2 cuttings, but I’d simply be happy if they fruited at all. But now I’ve got to think about how and where to accommodate this and possibly the other branch should both successfully develop into apple tree saplings in their own right. I have a bit of time to come up with a plan. A lot of exciting activity is going on in my food garden right now!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Southern Belle Dwarf Nectarine Tree

After contemplating my backyard garden space, I came to the decision to welcome a new fruit tree, the Southern Belle dwarf nectarine tree. This genetic dwarf fruit tree, according to its label, is to grow no larger than 5 feet tall and produces very large, juicy and delicious (!) nectarines. I was so excited going to my neighborhood nursery this early morning and found my tree. It already has one very young fruit on it. I am hoping that it will enjoy its new home and stays healthy and will be productive.

I’m still thinking about how best to use my backyard garden space. I will have think about my future nectarine needs (!) and am actually looking for a space where a second of these nectarine trees might be realistically planted within the current backyard scheme. As you can tell, I’m very excited about this latest member of my backyard food garden!

Hope of Spring: Bare Root Peach Trees

The sadness of the loss of one of my apple trees has been soothed a bit by the addition of 2 bare root semi-dwarf, self-fertile peach trees: Desert Gold and July (Kim) Elberta. I planted these earlier this afternoon. About 4 years ago, I removed 2 quince trees (which began life as pear trees) since the fruit was attacked by plum curculio beetles (https://janedata.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/quince-fruit-culprit-drilling-tiny-holes-identified/), rendering the fruit inedible and increasing the risk for brown rot. This same beetle has been known to attack peach trees also, but enough time has passed and I’d like to give these trees a chance and see if peaches might survive and thrive in my food garden.

In the end, it’s always a bit of a gamble to see which plants survive in a garden. The premise of “grow what you actually enjoy eating” still rings true for me and I see no point in growing thriving fruits and vegetables in my private food garden that I don’t actually enjoy eating. Among other reasons, I like knowing that I grow the food that eat. The distance from “farm to fork” is shorter!

Saying Goodbye to a Tree

Nearly 4 years ago, I planted two bare root apple trees, Beverly Hills and golden delicious, with great hope that they would thrive in my backyard (https://janedata.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/apple-trees-golden-delicious-and-beverly-hills/), as has my 3-in-1 apple tree. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Both fell victim to cedar apple rust and despite years of treatment, the Beverly Hills tree has continued a downward trend, with a weak root system and producing fruit that would not survive to maturity.  The golden delicious has also been struggling, but has been able to produce delicious fruit to that survive to maturity. Although I’ll be keeping my eye on the golden delicious, today was the day I decided to say goodbye to the Beverly Hills apple tree and dug it out.

While it’s a sad event, it’s the nature of gardening – not every plant survives, despite efforts to keep it healthy. I’d probably kept it too long, but really wanted to give it a chance to turn things around, which didn’t happen. Investing in the care of a declining plant may be helpful in the short run if improvement in health is evident shortly after restorative efforts; otherwise, it’s better to put place efforts into the healthy, stronger plants. My 3-in-1 apple tree was also hit by cedar apple rust but has been able to fight back and produce quite a lot of apples. Loving trees as I do, especially fruit trees, I know the decision was right for the health of my entire backyard food garden. Goodbye, Beverly Hills apple tree.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Apples Are a Favorite of House Sparrows

Keep your eye on the sparrow! My 3-in-1 apple tree has produced apples that are proven winners to the neighborhood house sparrows and at least one very bold northern mockingbird. Apparently they are quite delicious! They are tearing through the fruits, almost daily so I have to stay vigilant so that I can still pick edible fruits for my own enjoyment. The rust-color specks on the leaves in the background are oxidized apple bits after the birds fed off of this one apple just this afternoon. The pecking must have been wild and a bit cartoonish! The apple in this photo was intact just yesterday. I expect that the birds will finish it off tomorrow. And it wasn’t even fully ripe!IMG_3307

Long ago, I accepted that in terms of my fruit trees, most of the fruit would go to the house (me) and some to nature (birds and critters). I think that’s right to some extent, to be a good partner with nature. But as seasons like this prove, this seemingly rabid feeding frenzy by these energetic birds has to be managed so that the scales do not tip the other way. This hadn’t happened in previous seasons much because the tree had not produced so many fruits before, and all at one time, so, in a way, it’s a signal that this tree is successful. I am very glad. In the future, however, I will need to be vigilant and prepare to do some bird abatement around my apple trees. I’m envisioning the use of inexpensive nylon webbing to create a bit of a canopy to significantly reduce apple loss. I will thin some of the fruit and will leave some in an area away from the tree for the birds to enjoy.

A bit of good news to report: The two newer apple trees that I have shown signs of improved health, as both have produced new green leaves and very young future apples! It’s been so disheartening thinking that I may have to consider removing one or both of these trees because they have been stricken with cedar apple rust and fighting against it. I’ve not applied any further fungicide this year. I just removed rusted leaves as they appeared and watered the trees – just a generous dose of tender loving care and it seems, as of today at least, that they have responded in a positive way. I hope this is the start of a healthy trend.

As with my roses, I do not want to prematurely sign a “death certificate” to my plants. I want to give them a lot of time to improve and have their health restored. It’s such a big decision to remove/kill a plant, for me anyway, since each plant is a member of my beloved garden community and I am looking at my garden with a long-term perspective. Should these trees survive and thrive, I know that I will be rewarded with a garden overflowing with delicious apples for many years to come. That’s a warming thought!

 

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

The Sweet Perfume of Freshly Cut Homegrown Apples

A sensuous experience! Believe it, all of these petite, wonderful apples will be part of my dessert for lunch tomorrow. It’s an 8-ounce container! They are courtesy of my 3-in-1 apple tree. In previous years, the tree produced fewer, but larger apples. And I’ve still not gotten into the routine of thinning the fruit, either, ever since I planted the tree. This season, the fruits are smaller in size, even though they’re blanketing the few relatively modestly-sized branches – many steps above a “Charlie Brown Christmas tree!” Still, even in its relatively young age, this tree produces such flavorful apples. Moreover, and it’s not mentioned enough, when you cut into a homegrown apples, the perfume. I had to close my eyes for a few seconds and repeated. This further reflects well on my decision to plant apple trees. Growing up at my parents’ home, we had one apple tree that never got very big at all and not very productive. Not until I gIMG_3306ot a home of my own did I recognize that I had dearly yearned for an apple tree. This one tree has been a dream come true. This is the one fruit that I can eat every day and not get bored, especially if they taste this good!

The two newer trees have been struggling a bit, fighting off cedar apple rust, and one, I’m anxious to say, might not survive it. It has neither leaves nor fruit currently. Should it perish, I would most certainly consider adding another apple tree in its place. The second of the other struggling trees is in leaf and I’m hoping that it will produce healthy fruit. Mentally, I’m prepared to sacrifice both of these trees if it looks like they’re too ill to make it, and pragmatically, to ensure the health of my garden as a whole.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

First Harvest of Sanguinelli Blood Oranges

I’m very happy to report that I made my first harvest from one of my Sanguinelli blood orange trees. I picked two fruits and the sweet-tart flavor was out of this world delicious! The medium-sized fruit also produced an impressive amount of zest. Pictured is the zest from just one orange; after I grated the second, wow! Thanks to my citrus grater, I am now enjoying a lovely tisane made with hot water and zest (housed in a ball infuser). In the past, when I bought oranges from the market, I’d simply eat the fruit and discard the rind – a lost opportunity. Now I plan to cull the zest from my homegrown oranges henceforth.

IMG_3202

In the weeks leading up to the harvest, I went to a local supermarket and bought a bag of blood oranges (Moro variety). I found the taste to be a bit too bitter for my palate. Even so, it was a delicious blood orange. Each variety of blood orange has its share of passionate fans. There are several more small fruits on my three Sanguinelli blood orange trees in different stages of maturity. Having planted them only last year, I am very grateful to be enjoying any fruits this season.

The flavor is very intense and fresh. It is a very happy moment when the crop you plant turns out to be more delicious than expected, which is certainly true for me. Decades from now, when my back yard is overrun with blood oranges, I will be very grateful for my early years of tender loving care of these great trees!

Meyer Lemon Tree Has Emergent Flower Buds

This is the last of my citrus trees to develop flower buds. I have had this young tree for less than a year and was concerned that this was the only one to not show any flower buds. When I purchased it, it already had several immature fruits (all of which developed into delicious lemons). After picking the last of the fruit, I kept my eye on any new growth. I am so happy that this lovely tree is developing as it should and am very much expecting to enjoy more Meyer lemons before too long!IMG_3173

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