What a swing - it was in the low '80s late last week, and now they're predicting a hard frost tonight with lows in the '20s! Growers across New England is worried about their crops, especially on fruit trees that flowered early and are in danger of coming up empty this year.
I'm not worried about our apple trees, which have started to sprout leaves but not yet flowered. But our "Raritan Rose" white peach tree is about halfway into open flowers, and I hope it will be ok. I have faith that all will be well, as I've read that the biggest danger is to trees that have already dropped their flowers, not those whose buds are just peeking into pinkness.
I thought about putting a blanket or something over the peach tree, but everything we had either seemed too flimsy (insect shielding garden fabric) or too heavy (even our most lightweight blanket). So the little guy is on its own, warmed only by the concern of its caretaker....
Sigh....Soon enough we'll be back to the warmer side of this wacky spring, able to enjoy such sweet things as this:
My garden never ceases to blow me away. Almost the hot second that I pushed "publish" on my post lamenting my tall, healthy, but flower-less sugar snap pea plants, what should I see sprinkled all over the top foot or so of the plants? And thanks, Nell, for urging me to "just wait." Wise advise inceed!
Oh, and guess what's happening in the orchard?
A bona fide peach! Yes, sir. Things happen in gardens.
I always start with the Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea that we planted by the garage. It's greened in nicely. Now all we need are some flowers!
Next stop, after breezing by my shady hosta bed along the side of the house, is Raised Bed #1, which is a particular point of pride because every single thing in it (excepting that sage plant I've perched in the center, waiting for after the radish harvest) was grown in that soil, from seed. Peas, parsnips, onions, spinach, Swiss chard, nasturtiums, parsley, beets, lettuce, or radishes, anyone?
Next up, Raised Bed #2, our "summer bed" in which we just planted 6 kinds of tomatoes (including one called Mr. Stripey!), zucchini, acorn squash, eggplants, and cucumbers. Rows of basil seeds will be sown between the tomato plants.
Next, you guessed it, is Raised Bed #3, in which our "red, white, and blue" potatoes are happily hilled and greening beautifully with some intermittent onions tucked in between, and a strawberry patch is well under way.
Then I cross the sunny green grass and inspect my potted herbs. I sweep my hand up the long stem of my mint plant so I can smell that bracing perfume.
Then I peer through my rhododendron at the thyme seeds that have popped into a lovely, vibrant plant just waiting to season chicken and fish and veggies on the grill.
Next stop, lily patch, where my mystery bulb (the globetrotter allium) is now glowing in the sun after its purple petals have dropped off. Six lovely lilies have (so far) survived the chipmunk who seems to just luuuve that spot.
A few steps away is the bed in which we transplanted our cloned "New Dawn" roses and relocated 2 bleeding hearts from the front of the house.
What's that on one of our (still tiny, but encouragingly green) roses? Hello, little budling!
Here's the whole Liberty tree, and the Crimson Crisp apple right next door.
Our sour cherry, which I had worried was being irreparably eaten by a mystery bug, is putting out some promising new growth!
And the white peach tree is sporting a fuzzy orb that I can only imagine is the beginning of a peach! Next decision: do I pluck off the young fruits in the first year, like I'm doing with my strawberry plants, to give the roots a better head start?
After a pause to enjoy the relaxing, inviting purpleness of our petunia-flanked front door...
...it's a deep breath at the radiant rhododendron by the side door, and then back inside the house--refreshed, inspired, and amazed as always that such bounty can all be seen in a 10-minute circle around a house on 0.13 acres of land!
Our dwarf fruit tree orchard is cooking along, I'm happy to say, and now that we've settled the trees into their new homes and tucked them in with a chunky mulch blanket, they seem to be putting down roots (final to-do setup item: install stakes next to each tree).
As I observed a couple of weeks ago, it has been amazing to watch these trees coming to life and putting out their very first leaves.
Today, though, something is eating away at that feeling. Literally.
Our Liberty apple is the glorious exception. Just look at all of those flowers and un-nibbled leaves! Even a friendly neighborhood pollinator stopping by for a visit!
But its sister (brother?) tree, the Crimson Crisp apple, is not so lucky. It's soft, fuzzy leaves are the largest and most robust of the four trees, but here and there someone's been snacking:
Our Montmorency sour cherry, poor soul, is the worst hit, making me think that it's the least "pest resistant" of the bunch. We actually pulled off and squished some green worm-y things that I'm thinking might be the problem, but the tiny brown dots on the eaten areas make me worried that someone's been laying eggs.
Our white peach, the Raritan Rose, is faring decently so far, a lovely pink-and-green site for sore eyes.
So here's my question - what is eating my fruit trees, and what can I -- organically -- do about it? Please help!
While we could have bought 4-5 year-old, already-fruiting fruit trees for our side-yard dwarf apple/peach/cherry orchard, there are many reasons we're glad we didn't. Reasons like, we get to shape the trees from the their first year. We get to treat them organically and not have to detox them from four years of synthetic sprays. And--best of all--we get to witness the moment when these slender trees make their very first moves toward putting out leaves, branches, buds, and blossoms.
There will be a time when these trees, God willing, will be heavy with sturdy branches, thick-trunked, and laden with luscious fruit. But today, they're just starting--and I get to watch.
Folks, this, to me, looks an awfully lot like a miracle.
The most exciting thing about starting a new garden in a new home is that you really get a sense of beginnings--an empty space today is filled with a growing thing tomorrow. It's exciting, a little scary (I always get this "this is my last chance to realize if this is a big mistake" feeling), and kind of magical.
Ever since we took this seminar at UMass about fruit tree growing and pruning, we've eagerly awaited the arrival of the 4 trees we purchased from Adams County Nursery in Pennsylvania (the pomologist who taught the class said that fruit trees are one category he does not recommend you get at your local garden center). And yesterday, they finally arrived!
What was empty, only marked by the stakes we shyly laid out in anticipation...
...is now planted with the 4 characters who will populate our dwarf orchard. May I introduce them to you? This is our Montmorency sour cherry, who I'm calling Slim because she's tall and slender:
This is Sunny, my name for our Raritan Rose white peach. Doesn't she look like she's reaching toward the sky?
This Crimson Crisp apple, I'm calling Pokey, because new green growth is already starting to poke out of the ends of her "central leader" top and side branches.
And finally, Grumpy, our Liberty apple. In all her branchless glory, doesn't she look like the tree equivalent of someone glaring at you with arms crossed, sighing "Humph?"
Fruit trees, we learned, are an exercise in mindfulness and patience. So don't panic if you're reading this thinking we bought sticks instead of trees! They're in the ground, and just you watch what they can do....if we jigger this experiment just right, that is. Onward!