We haven't had much of a winter this year. That's both good and bad. Good, because I absolutely hate the cold. The reason I tolerate the brutality of August in Texas is so that I might wear shorts outdoors in January and February. On the other hand, it's not that great for my fruit trees, which need a certain amount of chill hours annually to produce good crops. That's not a big deal yet, because we've only lived at the new house about 18 months and the trees I planted last year are still too young (for the most part) to bear fruit. Last year we recorded almost 1,000 chill hours, which is a significant amount for this part of Texas, which is more than enough for any of the fruit trees I have growing. This year, even with the mild winter, I'm at 600 chill hours--a decent amount for most of my plants.This year, I'm sad to say, we're not even at a meagre 300 chill hours--just 293 at last reading--with little hope of gaining any more at this point. That is discouraging, to put it mildly. We had two big freezes this year, and one dropped down to 22F doing significant damage to some of my plants, despite the fact that I'd covered them and/or added heat lights. Last year we never had any hard freezes, but it stayed chilly for long stretches. Without sufficient chill, fruit trees won't produce. Most of mine are still too young to worry about that, but if this trend persists through the coming years, it will prove problematic. What's not problematic are my passion vines. That big flower bud above is from my potted passiflora vitifolia, aka the crimson passion flower. It's already bloomed once in February and has set a bunch more buds. Out in the yard, my passiflora incarnata, aka native maypops, are popping up all over the place after freezing back during the winter. So some plants are happy with the warming trend. Others have a chance to get an early start on the growing season. Below, you'll see the haul I got in from the T.V. Munson vineyard at Grayson College. For the uninitiated, Munson was a horticulturalist who set up shop in Texas back in the 19th century and bred hundreds of varieties of grapes. He's also credited with saving the French wine industry. Many of the grape varieties he bred used wild stock and are particularly well-suited to growing in Texas, where other domesticated grapes struggle due to climate, disease pressure, etc. Sadly, almost all of Munson's varieties are not available commercially, but the good folks at Grayson sent me cuttings of Elvicand, Ben Hur, Valhallah and Wapanuka. I treated the cuttings with rooting hormone and currently have them warming in moist sphagnum moss to encourage the formation of rooting calluses. In about a month I'll plant them in pots and if all goes well, should have a bunch of vigorous (and rare) grape vines growing by the end of spring. A&M pomegranate tasting earlier this year, and it was my favorite of the lot. Hopefully I'll be able to root a few cuttings.
Chicken Ranch Central