Friday, April 11, 2008

Fruit - To Be or Not to Bee

"April is the cruellest month," said T.S. Eliot. That sure holds true for trying to grow fruit around here. The weather right now determines if I will get much of a crop this year. Last year, just as another wave of blossoms came along, so did the nasty weather. But nothing can compare to the taste of a tree-ripened apricot or peach, fresh-picked and eaten still warm from the sun, bending over right next to the tree to keep the juice from dripping down your shirt. So, even though I might only get a crop one year in every three or four, it's definitely worth the effort.

When we got married we eloped, combining two housefuls of things, so most of my extended family just sent money as a wedding present. We used all of it to buy little bare-root fruit trees, the hardiest ones with the highest chill requirements I could find. We now have quite the little mature orchard. We're situated nicely, comparatively for this area, to be able to grow fruit. We're a bit above the valley floor, so often the cold air will flow right past, sinking to the lowest point. The ground slopes down from the west so we get the first rays of the morning sun. We've had our problems - rabbits walking on top of a deep snowfall girdled quite a few trees one winter (but most sprouted back lower down where the snow had provided a protective cover, and now a wire cage protects each trunk), wind has broken a few branches, and often I have to festoon the trees with scare tape and salvaged CD's to keep the birds from getting everything.

Dare I say it? This year, things are looking pretty good. Both unopened buds and fruit already set can stand temperatures a bit colder than open blossoms. Plus, the apricot blossoms incrementally, the first blooms are withered and brown from the 25ยบ nighttime lows the past week, but a few more opening every day just might make it. It's always the first to bloom, therefore the most likely to freeze, so apricots are the rarest fruit from my orchard. The plums are now in full bloom, and the first peach and nectarine flowers are starting to add a touch of pink. Asian, then regular pears, will follow, then the cherries, and finally the apples.

Wind too, can wreak havoc with a fruit crop. If it's too windy, the bees and other pollinators can't fly. I've been watching for bees, and haven't seen too many - I hope we still have some around. I lost my two hives a few years ago - they just died off. That seems to be happening more and more all over the world, so I'm thinking I should try again to establish a colony or two. Carpenter bees, the big shiny black solitary bees, also make good pollinators. We usually have some that emerge from our woodpile each spring. I've started looking into raising them as well. That can be a topic for another post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Sadge, we have had similar problems with our plum tree this year. The blossom is always earlier than the apples but we usually get away with it. This year we had snow and frost just as the flowers were opening. I wrapped the branches I could reach with horticultural fleece so I hope I've saved a few plums. I'm with you on the taste of fruit straight from the tree especially if the sun has warmed it. YUM!
Love the blog.
Julie x. (UK)