When a Nectarine Blossoms...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Artic Jay, Fantasia and Flavor Top Nectarine Trees
I feel an extra special sense of joy when fruit trees begin to blossom. It means that fresh fruit season isn't very far behind. My gardening insanity reaches entirely new levels when I stand in the front yard - looking up at a flowering Santa Rosa plum tree -- hoping to find a sign of a bee or any other pollinator on tender blossoms that are now just starting to unfurl.

The neighbors think I've gone nuts -- AGAIN! But there is a method to my madness. If I spot a pollinator on the plum? I hope the same pollinator makes a similar trip some 75 feet away in the backyard to a Flavor Finale Pluot tree that is flowering for the first time since I planted it about a year ago during the 2010 bare root season.

Artic Jay Nectarine Blossoms
Pluots are special trees. But they require a pollinator to produce fruit. I have that pollinator in the form of the Santa Rosa plum. But is it planted close enough? Will the colony of bees that are now streaming daily in and out from the neon pink Hello Kitty Hive favor both blossoms during the same trip?

Questions, questions! Time will tell...

The gardening experiment known as Backyard Orchard Culture or "Orchard Insanity" as I call it is now in its second year in the front yard of our North Natomas fruit farm. The three nectarine trees that I planted in a corner of the yard last year are flowering to life again. The chilly nights and bone-chilling rain we received last week didn't seem to bother the Arctic Jay White Nectarine much. She was the first to open up. The Flavor Top and Fantasia yellow nectarines are not far behind.

Although I had my doubts about this planting concept -- it's working better than I expected. You can grow fruit trees in tight spaces after all. And although the hardest part of the procedure is hacking and whacking four-or-five foot tall trees back to knee level -- it doesn't seem to have caused much of a problem.

Center Cut, Arctic Jay Nectarine
You can easily see where I cut the Arctic Jay back last winter after planting in the photo to your right. It was nothing more than a single stick after I got done with it. But new branches emerged over the spring and summer -- and were pruned back carefully to limit growth. I never let any branch get beyond five or six leaf-sets before lopping it off with my Corona cutters.

But I noticed something both interesting and uplifting. With every cut I made? Two or three new branches emerged. Know what that means? It means two or three new branches to hold delicious, tree-ripened nectarines! That's what it means!

There are some gardeners who will allow fruit trees to grow for at least three years before allowing it to produce any fruit. That means any fruit that forms in the first, second and even third years is picked off and thrown away. The thinking behind this practice is that you give a fruit tree time to develop strong root and branch systems. The fruit will come later.

Personally? I think the people who think in this manner are as insane as I am. Not allow fruit to ripen? That's a crime against humanity. So -- any nectarines that do result from the blossoms that are now opening have a breakfast or lunch date with my kitchen table. We don't let any fruit or citrus go to waste here!

The nectarine trees that are now blossoming in the corner of my front yard will almost certainly grow at a much more rapid rate than they did last year. My thinking in this matter will not change. No branch will be allowed to grow more than five leafsets before it has a date with my sharpened Corona choppers.

Center Cut, Flavor Top Nectarine
By the third year these trees will have probably reached a height of six to seven feet and will not be allowed to grow any taller. They can most certainly spread out a bit and take advantage of the room they have. That much we will allow.

But -- I'm getting a ahead of myself. As of right now? We have blossoms. Let's hope that the wife that is Venus and I are munching on an Artic Jay White Nectarine later this summer.

What more could you ask for?