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Monday, October 24, 2011

My Top Choices in Fruit Trees for an Edible Landscape

I have been tracking how fruit trees have been performing at our Orchard in North Las Vegas for fruit quality and how good they would be dual purpose; ornamental and fruit production. Here are my choices for an edible fruit tree landscape.

Almonds in bloom
Almond. Garden Prince or All-in-One. Both are smaller trees than a standard almond and self fruitful, you dont need a pollinator tree. Garden Prince has a slight edge because its flowers have a purple tinge rather than all white. The nuts are fabulous in size and taste. Try using them as green almonds in salads.

Peach. Red Baron. On a five point scale (there are only a handful of trees that EVER make five points at our Orchard) this is a solid 4,0. What puts this tree "over the top" are its flowers. They are are a gorgeous almost neon red/orange.
Red Baron peach

Nectarine. Arctic Star. I don't care to grow apricots that much in the Orchard because of the potential scarring of the fruit by the Western Flower Thrips but this fruit scores a 5.0! OMG. It is hands above the other nectarines in the Orchard. We spray with Spinosad (an organic pesticide) to keep the flower thrips at bay and the Mario Batali chefs come out to pick it for sorbet. Try this with fresh mint sometime. Brix will hit over 20. Thin so fruits are four inches apart.

Wonderful pomegranate not quite ripe
Pomegranate. Wonderful. Wonderful has beautiful fruit color and aril (seed) color and it is a lovely plant if pruned into a single or multiple stem tree, not a shrub. There are other pomegranates to consider for the quality of the fruit but if you wait till Halloween to pick the fruit or later you will not be disappointed. Put the fruit in the fridge an extra week or two. Try it and let me know how you like it. Make sure you thin the fruit so that only one fruit arises from a single location. This will give you cannonball sized fruits on older wood.

Jujube 'Contorted'
Jujube. Contorted. Remember this is for ornamental value as well as fruit. So when the leaves drop in the winter the branches have this beautiful contorted form and the fruit is great as well. Remember, Jujube will sucker ten to fifteen feet away or closer to the mother plant. Anywhere there is water it will sucker. There are not lots of these suckers so take a sharp shovel and sever the suckers from the mother plant in the fall and replant them or use them for decoration.

'Pink Lady' apple
Apple. Pink Lady on M111. Another 5.0! Martha Stewart said of this fruit from our Orchard grown in the Mojave Desert "It is the best apple I have ever had!" This tree will stay pretty small if you keep it under control by winter pruning. We have kept it at 6 1/2 feet for 17 years. The fruit exposed to sunlight will turn red by early to mid November with Brix levels hitting 20! Thin to one fruit per cluster. If extremely heavy set, then thin by removing some fruit too close together so spurs have no fruit.

'Sensaton Red Bartlett' pear
Pear. Sensation Red Bartlett. The color of the fruit in the fall when it is ripening are a great red color and the flavor is phenomenal. When you grow European pears in the desert expect they will not be perfectly smooth skinned. That is what distinguishes a desert European pear from the tame pears of the Northwest and other locales. Thin to one fruit per fruit cluster.

Asian Pear. Chojiro. If you spend some time thinning Asian pears there is no reason you cant get the same size and flavor you could if it were growing in Japan. Thin to one to two fruit per branch very early for some very sizable Asian pear fruits.

'Fuyu' persimmon
Plum. Weeping Santa Rosa. We actually removed the weeping Santa Rosa plums from the orchard a few years ago because the weeping branches were getting in the way of harvest BUT the weeping form is beautiful and Santa Rosa plum is a very reliable and delicious soft plum for the desert.

Persimmon. Fuyu. Fuyu persimmon is nonastringent so you can eat them when they are still very firm and orange in color OR you can leave them on longer and let them turn bright red, like Christmas ornaments, after leaf drop.

A large fig at the orchard
Fig. Yellow, Kadota; Dark, Black Mission. Figs make a beautiful landscape tree and can be cut back in the winter to just about any size you want. Save the wood for grilling and smoking. It is great used with chicken.

Gold Kist Apricot on Nemaguard a Great Choice for Home Landscape

Q. Before I plant my apricot tree this spring, I would like to know how much space I should allocate for it. Does a Blenheim apricot lend itself to close pruning?

Gold Kist apricot on Nemaguard rootstock kept at 6 1/2 feet
for the past 17 years with very little pruning each year
A. The size of an apricot tree depends on the variety and what roots it is growing on. An apricot on its own roots can be quite large, over 20 feet tall and quite a bit more. When a variety is grafted onto a rootstock there is usually some dwarfing that goes along with that. Although in the case of apricots the rootstock is not usually chosen for its dwarfing characteristics.

The amount of space you allocate for your apricot depends on how you manage it. We keep all of our apricots at the orchard at 6 ½ feet in about 7 feet wide all of their lives. This size control is mostly done by pruning. You can do this with any apricot but some stay naturally small more than others.

An excellent selection is Gold Kist apricot grafted on Nemaguard rootstock.  This apricot on this rootstock stays naturally small and provides very high quality fruit.

Rhubarb a Real Challenge to Grow in the Hot Desert

Q. We had a cattle ranch in Glade Park, Colorado, at a 7,000 foot elevation and had a terrific stand of rhubarb that was estimated to be 50+ years old.  We sold the ranch in 2010 and transplanted some starts eventually to Mesquite, Nevada. We have seven starts now and none has produced any usable product.  Some of the starts grew a leaf about the size of a Frisbee but grew no higher than ground level.  The rest of the starts grew a single stock of about 4" high.  Now, the starts looked dormant. Is there anything we should do other than fertilize and water?
Compost pile at the orchard using horse manure

A. We also tried to grow rhubarb at our orchard. We did not have much success. Admittedly, we did not do a very good or thorough job in managing the plants so I was not ready to throw in the towel. The common agreement among gardeners and horticulturists is that rhubarb is out of it’s appropriate climate in the hot desert. This is very true. The common explanation is that the plant doesn’t have enough chill hours or our just too hot climate.
Compost added to plots in the second year
before tilling it in

Just because this is the common agreement does not mean that it is necessarily true. We have grown things at the orchard which are not supposed to grow here. There are some management techniques that we can try to see if we can get it to grow here. There is no guarantee that if we can get it to grow in the hot desert and in our soils or what the quality of the product might be if it is successful.

So the first thing to do is soil improvement. This would mean lots of additional compost added to the soil along with the right fertilizers. So make sure that any compost you use is the highest quality you can find.  This means make it yourself. If you can’t make it yourself, then purchase one that comes in bags that has a good reputation.

Don’t be afraid to add lots of it, over 50% of the blend in the backfill using a native Mojave Desert soil.  Mixed with your garden soil add a high phosphate starter fertilizer. I would also add a good quality iron chelate. This should get your garden soil up to speed. Garden soils amended from desert soils can take a couple of years of growing to get up to prime.
Hoophouse with 30% shade. It does not look like enough
shade but it is about right for flowering/fruiting vegetables
The next thing I would do is try to put it in an area that is not excessively windy and does not have a lot of reflected light or heat. The north or east side of the building would be ideal. I would try it first without any shade over it. If the leaves are scorching during the heat of the summer and the plant seems stunted I would put some shade cloth over the plant.

Do not use more than 30 or 40% shade when purchasing a shade cloth. With leafy crops such as leafy vegetables or rhubarb could go higher but certainly never go into the 60 or 70 percent shade level.

Fall and Early Spring Are Great Times to Plant Fruit Trees

Q. Is there a link on your blog that I am missing with all your fruit tree recommendations? How long will it be before a bareroot fruit tree produces fruit? Should I still be planting fruit trees in January if I am buying something at a local nursery?
My blog with the search engine you can use to find things

A. On my blog at Xtremehorticulture of the Desert there is a search engine at the top of the page. It says, “Search This Blog” with a long box under it. To the right of the box it says “Search”. Enter the words “fruit tree recommendations” in the box of the search engine and click “Search”. That should bring up my recommended fruit tree list.

If you can find the variety of fruit tree you want at a local nursery then please buy it. Our local businesses can use your help. However if you cannot find a variety of fruit that you feel will give you the quality of fruit that you want then you might consider buying a bareroot selection.

Arrival of bareroot fruit trees to the orchard in January from
Dave Wilson Nursery
The reasons the Orchard is involved in selling fruit trees are two reasons. First, local nurseries did not have an extensive supply of fruit trees we recommended. Secondly, none handled any bareroot trees. Bareroot plants grow more quickly when planted, will overtake a container plant in growth or production and are less expensive.

On the downside for the nursery, there are more plant deaths by homeowners because they do not handle or plant bareroot plants correctly which leads to unhappy customers. Plus nurseries have better profit margins on container plants than bareroot materials.

Bareroot trees come into production at about the same time as container plants because the bareroot plants “catch up” to container plants quickly and have less overall shock if handled correctly.

When a tree comes into fruiting or production depends on the type of fruit tree. Peaches and nectarines come into production about the earliest. Trees that produce fruit on spurs, like apricots, plums, apples and pears, are usually a year or more later. You can plant in January here, no problem.

My Pomegranate is Splitting; Should I Pick?

Q. My pomegranate fruit is splitting (early October), should I pick them now or wait until November?
This pomegranate has great color and is splitting.
Time to get it off the tree before it splits more and birds
and bugs get into it.

A. As far as your pomegranate goes, anytime they begin to split and as close to their harvest time it is a good idea to get them of the tree. A number of birds, insects and diseases will take advantage of the pomegranate fruit once it is split. Depending on the variety, harvesting can occur from September through November.

Early Leaf Drop (October) in Modesto Ash

Q. My 18 year old Modesto ash tree has been dropping green leaves for maybe 2 months now.  Unlike my other 2 Modesto ash trees that had entire branches die last summer and the dead leaves wouldn't even blow off. Any ideas?
Limb dieback for unknown reasons in Modesto ash

A. There could be a number of reasons for early leaf drop off but if your tree seems healthy and has been growing well then I would ignore it. Just make sure that it is getting deeply watered if it is in a rock landscape. Fertilize it once in January or February; there is no need to fertilize it more than that.
Probably the biggest problem is putting ash trees in rock landscapes. Modesto ash has problems of its own here in our valley so you may experience limb dieback at some point in its life. I do not recommend it for our valley anymore because of this.
Large ash tree in a lawn. You must overwater the lawn
so that large trees like these get enough water.

Also remember that as ash trees get larger they require more water. The amount of water required is not a simple doubling of the amount as the tree doubles in size. For trees, the amount of water the required is much more complicated than a lawn.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Order Your Bareroot Fruit Trees Now!

            The deadline for ordering bare root fruit trees for a January or February delivery date will be in about two weeks. They will be ordered from my recommended fruit tree list. This list can be obtained by emailing me at Extremehort@aol.com or here on my blog.