|Smile! It's SPRING!|
Let the record show -- on this day -- May 1st, 2011 -- Mother Nature finally delivered the most beautiful, warm, wonderful spring day of the year. It's been a long time coming. Yesterday's windy conditions down here in the North Natomas riverbottom frustrated me to no end. But today? Today my friends -- as the photo will show -- today is a day for wide, colorful smiles.
Let the record show that -- on this date -- Bill & Venus Bird will fire up the Mantis Rototiller and get to work on amending the test bed for the 2011 corn, melon and squash crops. But it's a little early yet. The Mantis makes quite the racket. I'll let the nearby neighbors enjoy a bit more Sunday stillness before I intrude upon their Sunday quiet.
In the meantime -- big things are literally jumping out of the ground in the Bird Back 40. If you're a fan of home grown fruit? It's a sight to behold. The fruit tree trimming practices that Venus and I learned from City of Folsom Arborist Ken Menzer last year have been put into practice. The resulting yield has been quite surprising to witness.
He was right.
|Flavor Finale Pluot Tree|
There are two things from Ken's class that stick out in my mind. The first? "Fruit trees grow very fast," he instructed. That surprised me because it seems like I've been waiting eons for my backyard fruit crops to produce in the eye-popping numbers that I desire. The second? The second tip he delivered, which Venus and I have also put into practice, is to fertilize fruit trees on a monthly basis.
This doesn't mean you're required to get on your hands and knees with hoe in hand and scrape fertilizer into the soil around a base of a tree either. Nope -- his instruction was to take a small handful of fertilizer and just toss it under a tree once a month. In my case? I use a set of measuring cups that I keep in the garage. Each tree gets a 1/4 cup of fertilzer or less once a month without fail.
|Pluots on the Flavor Finale Pluot Tree-Year 2|
The advice that he delivered -- to prune every fruit tree branch after it has developed five leafsets -- plus fertilize monthly -- has produced some impressive results as you might be able to tell from the photo to your upper left. That, my friends, is the Flavor Finale Pluot tree that wifey and I planted during the 2010 bare root planting season. It had exactly three branches on it.
Today? A little over a year later? The Flavor Finale Pluot has about 30 branches. There is fruit all over the tree. It is growing like a weed -- as are the nectarine trees that we have planted out in the front yard -- in a small corner tucked against the home. The next door neighbor -- a retired farm-hand who worked peach groves all his life in Yuba and Sutter Counties -- warned me that "it would never work."
Today -- those trees -- also planted about one year ago -- trimmed and fertilized faithfully -- are approaching seven feet in height. Each of the three trees is loaded with nectarines. Unlike the peach trees planted in the Bird Back 40 -- which are suffering from a terrible bout of peach-leaf curl this year (Farmer Fred Hoffman has an excellent and informative posting on peach-leaf curl here) -- the nectarines are healthy and loaded with new branch growth. The neighbor -- who worked commercial farms for most of his adult life -- is quite fascinated with the growth show that is taking place and is considering his own patch of home-grown fruit.
|Nectarine Trees-Frontyard Orchard Culture|
See? This insanity cannot be cured.
Although the pluot is not part of a grouped Backyard Orchard Culture concept planting -- I am still treating it as if it is. This means trimming the tip off each branch after five leaf-sets have emerged. The Flavor Finale Pluot has reacted to this trimming party by growing at least two-to-three new branches from each branch that has been pruned. Once the new branches have unfurled to five or six leafsets -- they too are pruned back -- resulting in a tidal wave of branch growth.
I have already started the process of pruning the pluot for the first time in 2011. The new branches that emerged with the onset of a cold spring earlier this year have already unfurled to five or six leafsets. The trick to this pruning method is to prune at least three or four times per spring, summer and fall season. It's not hard -- but it does require an hour or so of time to locate all of the new growth and prune it back. Since the new growth is green and pliable -- it doesn't take much effort. You don't even need gardening shears. Fingers and fingernails work quite nicely.
|New branch (left) emerging from trimmed branch (right)|
I am not quite sure if the pruning or fertilizing routines are the reason behind this rapid and sudden growth. Like everyone else who prefers home grown fruit -- I can tell you that some trees are doing well and others not-so-well (see: peaches). But I can tell you that every tree that has been subjected to this trimming and fertilization effort has resulted in rapid, eye-popping growth. There's not a failure among the bunch.
So -- if you love it? WHACK IT! Remember? With each new branch that emerges during a summer of pruning? That's just one more branch that will result in a boatload of fresh fruit the following year.