Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Backyard fruit

This year's been an interesting one for me in my efforts to build up a backyard orchard. I lost a couple of trees at the end of last year to the drought, but this spring replaced them and expanded and improved upon the number and variety of growing things I had in the ground, as I shared here and here. Our very wet spring has been good for my plantings--despite several instances of flooding (none that threatened the house) our property drains very quickly, so the trees and shrubs are happy. We went for three weeks in June with no rain and high temperatures, so I had to do a little supplemental watering for those trees that've only been in the ground since the crack of spring, but we've had a couple of nice rains in the past week that have added a nice injection of water to the soil. It's always nice when the inevitable return of the drought is put off by another few weeks.

Unexpectedly, I'm getting some fruit production this year. First up, the Dwarf Barbados Cherry bushes I planted out front not only flowered but are fruiting. I chose these for the front primarily because they're native and generally deer-resistant, but the fact they also produce edible fruit (although not a true cherry) did have some bearing on my decision. That's a photo of one above. The good news is that they're not bitter or sour as I've heard some Barbados Cherries can be. The bad news is they have no discernable taste at all. Astonishingly bland for something so bright and cheery. The plants are still young and small, so this may change in time, but I doubt many of these fruit will be eaten by anything that's not a bird. They bushes are quite attractive, though.

Next up is a Cherry of the Rio Grande. Again, not a true cherry, and the "Rio Grande" part of the name refers to a region of Brazil, not the river that comprises the Texas/Mexico border. I have two trees, both currently in pots with their eventual destination being an as-yet unmade bed on the south face of our home, where they and a handful of banana plants and passion fruit vines will theoretically form a vegetative screen to shade the house from the brutal Texas sun. I've read online that many people have found these reluctant to fruit, yet these trees--still small, maybe 4 feet high--have 8-10 fruit growing quite nicely on them. I took this photo a week ago and they've since swollen up to larger than a quarter and getting bigger. Plus, the bushes are flowering again. I don't know if they just like being potted, I got some that are less shy about fruiting or having two just increases the yield, but this early performance is encouraging. I hope they taste good.

Another addition that's bearing fruit this year is the Goji berry. I planted one last year that's grown quite well this year, but it flowered a lot last summer and set no fruit, meaning it's one of the non-self-fertile types. So I picked up another type, a named variety (can't recall the name) at Tractor Supply Co., of all places, and planted it next to the original. Turns out the newcomer is self-fertile. It's not grown much but it's flowering like there's no tomorrow and producing a lot of fruit. The fruit mature quickly, but birds were gobbling up everything until I set a plastic owl out there. I tried a couple of the red-orange fruit and was disappointed to find them mildly sweet but mostly bitter. Not sure if they were fully ripe or not, but will try again in the future. The larger, original bush I planted is growing well but has yet to flower this season.

The big surprise was found on my Li jujube tree. I guess it wasn't much of a surprise since the Li flowered last year and is reputed to be self-fertile, but I found a dozen fruit growing on it. Planting Black Sea and Shanxi Li jujubes on either side of it (they both flowered) this spring probably didn't hurt. I've never had a jujube, so I'm looking forward to trying some this year. Unfortunately, my local birds haven't had jujube either and seem intent on trying the fruit out--even though it's still mostly green. Several fruit have been nibbled on far too aggressively for my liking, so it looks like the plastic owl will be making a move in the near future.

Not pictured are the blackberries my Ouachita and Natchez produced this year without even being properly pruned and trained. The berries were plump and sweet, but I have to admit missing that acid bite one finds in dewberries. Still, the blackberries didn't last long and we even beat the birds to some of them. I'm definitely looking forward to next year when I expect more of my efforts to bear (heh) fruit.

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Chicken Ranch Central

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