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!

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Pear Trees Removed Because of Beetle Damage

Sadly, I had my pear trees removed this morning. I made the decision to remove the pear trees because the snout beetle, also known as plum curculio, had been drilling holes into and destroying all of my fruit. The damage worsened over the past few weeks, making it untenable to keep these 4-1/2 year-old trees. The greater presence of the beetles increased the risk that they would damage my apple trees also, of which only one is currently in fruit.IMG_3080

It had been very instructive to have these 3-in-1 pear trees, if only for a few years. During that time, I learned about how dwarf varieties of pear trees are kept small in size because they are grafted onto quince rootstock. I also learned that sometimes, quince can overtake the tree and transform a pear tree into a quince tree. I learned more about brown rot and snout beetles than I ever thought I needed to know. I was able to enjoy a few pears and even one Asian pear that grew from these trees, so the loss has been bittersweet.

I have not yet decided what to do with these now-empty spaces. I have a gardening project that I am finishing up and will post with more information very shortly, so maybe this empty space can be added on to that project. Or I may end up planting two new fruit trees. That small space is a blank canvas so I will have to think what might best go here, in the context of the other types of elements in the yard and my budget. I hope to come up with a happy solution soon.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

Quince Fruit: Culprit Drilling Tiny Holes Identified

Last year, I was quite saddened and frustrated at having lost almost every fruit of my quince trees to brown rot, a common fungus that attacks stone fruits. However, it did not occur to me that more than a fungus was at play here. Today, after pruning unwanted growth from my 3-in-1 pear trees (which now almost exclusively produces quince), I discovered the telltale signs of insect involvement. I found a brown, crescent-shaped scar on the outside of one of the immature fruit and several others with tiny pinholes drilled into them.IMG_3063

After doing an Internet search, I found that the culprit is the plum curculio (AKA Conotrachelus nenuphar). This tiny weevil or snout beetle drills holes into the fruit (also apples, nectarines, pears, peaches, and plums), lays eggs, which turn to larvae. The larvae burrow toward the center of the fruit and leave nasty dark brown trails as evidence of their feeding. When the larvae are ready to enter the world, they exit the rotten fruit through the same hole that their mother made. The tiny holes drilled into the fruit make the fruit more susceptible to diseases like brown rot.

At least in my garden, I now know that these two culprits are working as partners in destroying my fruit. Several of the immature fruits look intact but I will be checking on them weekly, if not more often. Knowing the vulnerabilities in my garden will help me to be a better gardener and maybe enjoy some quince this year. I loathe the thought of cutting down my two trees, especially since they are still quite young, but I may if their problems spread to my apple trees.

An excellent series of photos of these brown trails and drill holes can be found here: http://www.thekitchn.com/quince-report-good-news-and-ba-65559

More information on the plum curculio beetle can be found here:http://entoweb.okstate.edu/ddd/insects/plumcurculio.htm

How To: Treatment of plum curculio for the home gardener is to just remove fallen fruit but I just would rather not give the larvae a chance to hit ground and have a chance to reproduce so I cut the fruit off the tree when I spot beetle damage and throw it away in the covered green-waste bin several yards away from the trees. More information on treatment can be found here: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef202.asp

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

Female Purple Finches in a Pear Tree

There are two female purple finches in this photo! Check out the strong brown streaking on the breast and, as shown on the second bird, the deep notching of the tail. I saw some of the males feeding on the ground below. I have two of these trees and they are a very popular hang-out for many birds throughout the year, even when the leaves have fallen.IMG_3041 More information about these gregarious birds can be found here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Purple_Finch/id

Although this is a 3-in-1 pear tree, it (and my other pear tree) stopped producing pears a few years ago and started producing quince fruit instead (dwarf pear trees are the result of grafting onto quince rootstock). Earlier this year, I removed several smaller, criss-crossing branches to improve the airflow of the trees and hopefully have a smaller number but larger fruit (which were wiped out last year because of brown rot). This afternoon, as part of maintenance, I will be removing the new thin branches that have formed where the older branches were cut. The tree is fruiting, as shown in the photo. Hopefully, they will be healthy and edible when the time comes!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

Birds: Bushtits in My 3-in-1 Pear Tree

My 3-in-1 pear trees (which produced quince but no traditional pears this season)  are very popular with birds. For a long time, I’ve known that bushtits enjoy flitting to and from these particular trees but it’s been very difficult to capture them in photos, until today!IMG_2927

It’s somewhat hard to see but one of the acrobatic birds is the dark gray, small but plump blob in the center of this photo, underneath the long, thin horizontal branch. The head is a little darker than the rest of the body. Click on the image to get a better look.

They’re very gregarious and tweet a lot while they’re hanging out – I wonder what they are saying to each other?

Many birders strive to get the “perfect,” crisp, close-up shot of a highly colorful male bird, with its face pointed directly at the camera lens without any physical obstructions to block that perfect shot. That’s not often possible, nor realistic! Oftentimes, I will check my backyard and spot a bird and identify it by its song or view of its tail, etc. In other words, I like to see birds in situ. This photo brings me great joy, and to me, the capture of a lovely moment in time.

More information about this delightful and lively birds can be found here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bushtit/id

In the background, with its mighty sword-like leaves,  is one of my dragon trees, grown from a branch cutting, in a container.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

Quince Stricken by Brown Rot

Such sad news when a crop is wiped out. My 3-in-1 pear trees, this year, has been producing primarily quince fruits. The two trees have been stricken with brown rot, destroying the fruit. In the beginning, the fruits were growing seemingly normally. But then, small brown spots started to appear and take over the fruit.

During these past warm weeks, I have slept with the window open. I kept getting startled by the thuds of quince fruits dropping from the tree, one by one. Quite a gardening nightmare! When I would inspect the results the following morning, the ground was littered with quince, some still green with no visible brown spots, and others with large brown spots. With over 100 fruits between them, I think I’ve enjoyed just a handful of normal fruits – the rest have been wasted by brown rot.

By the way, it is a rather shocking event to cut into what looks to be a normal, unaffected quince and find that it has, in fact, been ravaged by brown rot. The photo on the right is what a clear case of brown-rotted fruit looks like from their exterior – an awful mess.

Update 10/26/2013: In my case, if the brown rot has just started infecting the fruit, it may not be obvious if you quickly pick the fruit.  The browning may be quite pale in color at that stage. Furthermore, as I later discovered, brown rot is a likely outcome if your quince are attacked by the snout beetle known as plum curculio. These beetles drill holes in your quince. The larvae eat through the fruit, making brown rot infection likely.

The following website provides excellent photos of what a quince, affected by plum curculio,  looks like from the inside out, and is exactly what I have seen with my own eyes: http://www.thekitchn.com/quince-report-good-news-and-ba-65559

Your quince fruit  is doomed and should be discarded if they look anything like what is in my photo, and/or if they are covered in tiny holes.

Cause of Brown Rot: Brown rot is caused by a fungus, Monilinia fructicola, and attacks not just quince and related apples and pears, but also stone fruits. I’ve not seen leaf damage, however.  I will have to find a suitable fungicide to treat my trees and hope that the next year brings happier, healthier news for these poor trees.

Update 10/26/2013: Treatment of brown rot depends on whether or not your tree is fruiting. If your tree is fruiting, physically removing brown-rotted fruit from the tree and pruning affected branches is recommended, being sure that this discarded vegetation is kept far away from the “treated” tree to prevent reinfection.

If your tree is not fruiting, remove blighted blossoms (which will be brown instead of white/pink), branches, and twigs (which may have cankers). You may spray the leaves (upper and undersides) and branches of your entire tree with a commercially available fungicide. Please note that these fungicides have different degrees of toxicity, so may injure your health (poisonous) if ingested. For that reason, do not spray fungicide on fruit or a fruiting tree.

More information on how brown rot affects  quince, apple, and pear trees can be found here: http://postharvest.tfrec.wsu.edu/marketdiseases/brownrot.html

Information on diseases of various fruit trees can be found on this helpful website, including information on disease control/treatment: http://www.wvu.edu/~exten/infores/pubs/pest/pcerti17.pdf

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

Asian Pear Growing on My Pear-Quince Tree!

Well, okay, then! My two 3-in-1 pear trees have undergone a dramatic transformation: initially, they produced traditional pears, then the pears were overtaken by quince (my dwarf pear trees are grafted onto quince rootstock to keep them dwarf-sized). I do not know yet the mechanism that caused the quince to overtake the pear.

Now, one of these trees has produced a single Asian pear! As mentioned in previous posts, I purchased my two pear trees as saplings, from the clearance bin of a local gardening center. The labels said “3-in-1,” which I took to mean three varieties of pears, but in addition to the labels, there were five additional plastic tags wrapped around each sapling. Asian pear was not mentioned. Quite the mystery! I really do not know how many types of fruits are possible on either of these trees. A grafting experiment gone awry?

But I am happy to report the presence of an Asian pear (unknown variety). I savored it and appreciated the delicious subtle flavor. It was still warm from the summer sun, crisp and very juicy. I do not know if this will be the only Asian pear that my trees will ever produce but I am grateful for any such delicious surprises in the future!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

Fallen Fruit, Orphan Vegetables, and Micro-Produce

Many gardeners  have experienced it:  a single fruit found lying on the ground, a single vegetable ready to cull. For fruits, it’s often the case that the wind blew off an immature fruit or a bird or animal tried to get at it, causing the fruit to fall. For vegetables and fruits, sometimes it’s a matter of different rates of maturity, where a single piece of vegetable or fruit ripens faster than the others on the same plant or tree. If this happens, what do you do?

If the fallen fruit or orphan vegetable shows signs of decay or insect damage, it’s best to throw it in the green recycle bin or compost heap. But if it is intact, why not use it? It had always been a frustration: visions of collecting a bounty of fruit or vegetables and using that large quantity in a dish that can feed a small army. But if that bounty comes one piece at a time, you have to be creative in making use of your good fortune. Don’t give up and throw it away!

My apple trees have been productive, but there have been occasional single apples found fallen on the ground. Some have been intact, others with a little bruising. For the latter, I clean the fruit, cut off the bruised part, and use the rest of the fruit,  chopped it up and added to salad, pancakes, muffins, and hot cereal (also good raw!), among many other ways.

Yesterday, I cooked a fallen, immature quince. The recipes that I have found for quince call for mature fruit. I took the chance and cleaned up the intact fruit, peeled it, chopped it up, and put in a small pan of boiling water and three tablespoons of cane sugar. The poached fruit was soft after about 35 minutes and was delicious, tasting of warm, soft pear.

My one artichoke plant produces few artichokes and they mature at varying rates. Consequently, I cook one artichoke at a time! It makes for a single side dish for a single cherished meal, but is delicious without doubt.

Sometimes, the fruit or vegetable is mature but is quite a bit smaller than expected. The micro-produce remains delicious, so think of ways to use them. The big tomato and mozzarella salad that you have been dreaming of? That dream can wait! The small handful of small, mature tomatoes in front of you can go into a lovely bowl of salad greens, dressed with a vinaigrette. I speak from experience on this one!

Most cookbooks and recipes call for large quantities of fruits or vegetables. When you have only one piece of fruit or vegetable, or a very small single fruit or vegetable, you have to let your creative juices flow. Instead of lamenting dashed “produce dreams” and saying, “I can’t do anything with this!” think of this as an unexpected but welcome opportunity to create something inventive and delicious. Focus on taste, not waste!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous 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

Quince Aplenty!

Wow! It’s been only a few short years since I have had these two lovely fruit trees. They are dwarf 3-in-1 pear trees, which means that they were grafted onto quince rootstock to keep the trees small.

In the beginning, both of these trees were producing pears. Now, they are awash with quince! I am not sure if or when pears will return. The quinces seem to have suppressed the production of pears. A similar circumstance is playing out right now with my hybrid tea rose, Sunblest. It is a yellow rose that was grafted onto the red Dr. Huey rose rootstock. Dr. Huey has  appeared this year on my Sunblest rose, but not overtaken it. Very interesting.

This year has been the most abundant ever, in terms of fruit production for these pear trees. Last year, the trees produced just a handful of quince fruits. From modest to bounty, indeed!

In the second photo, on the right-hand side, you will see bright green plastic gardening ties. I am using them to hold up some branches that are weighed down with fruit. Some branches are hanging low, near the soil, so I will have to keep adding supports to alleviate the stress on the branches and to keep hungry ground-dwelling critters at bay.

The second photo is what I see from my home office. Lovely! This particular tree is very popular with sparrows, bushtits, and hummingbirds, who enjoy hanging out on the branches. Mourning doves particularly enjoy sitting in the shade that the tree provides.

These wonderful trees have brought great happiness to my garden and home!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of the quince. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

Mourning Doves Under a Pear Tree

My 3-in-1 pear tree is covered with small quinces right now,  as well as many leaves. These mourning doves have taken the opportunity to rest underneath it.

Oftentimes, one would expect to find birds foraging, building a nest, looking for mates, and so on. But this is like a little slice of life. And this is not the first time that mourning doves have visited this tree. Spa day!

One of the great pleasures of gardening, for me, is that it allows me to indulge in birdwatching on a daily basis. I enjoy the opportunity to better understand their behavior and to look more closely at their features for identifying marks.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of the quince. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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

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