Instant Gratification and Gardening

Friday, February 1, 2013

Feed Your Citrus Trees! Feed Them!
Instant gratification and gardening do not mix. The words instant gratification and gardening, when used in the same sentence would represent an oxymoron. There are no quick results when it comes to digging in the dirt. There are only successes and failures.

If I had to compare gardening with anything, it would probably be a turn at a Las Vegas craps table. Sometimes you hit it big -- real big -- know what I mean? And then, at other times, you're informing the wife that is Venus that she'll be making the house payment this month. And perhaps the next...

Owari Satsuma Mandarin-Bird Back 40
I bring this up because even an experienced gardening screwup like Bill Bird can still make some fairly basic mistakes by expecting to see too much in too little of a time. Case in point? Growth on the citrus and stone fruit plantings that currently dot the Bird Back 40.

I harken back at this point to some wonderful advice provided to us by Ken Menzer, the arborist employed by the City of Folsom. Ken is known to provide classes from time to time on various subjects that include fruit tree trimming and other tips and advice.

Long Gone Blueberry Planting-Bird Back 40
Yes, it is Ken Menzer who told the wife that is Venus and I to plant blueberry bushes beneath our fruit tree collections. Sadly, that experiment failed. I would later come to discover that both have different pH requirements and a couple of Southern Highbush plants would go on to kick the proverbial bucket.

But -- I must say that Ken's advice about planting strawberry plants beneath fruit tree groupings was spot on the money. His other advice that I took to heart and would later abandon? Fertilize fruit and citrus trees once a month -- every month -- without fail. "It doesn't take much," I recall him telling us. "Just a handful here and there every month."

Apple Trees and Strawberry Plants in Winter
At first? At first I followed his advice to the letter. I dutifully purchased bags of fertilizer for my many citrus and fruit tree plantings scattered across our North Natomas backyard. Every month -- without fail -- eight table grape vines got a little something. The same with those peach trees over there -- and the nectarines in the front yard -- they got the same treatment. Nobody got the cold shoulder.

But at some point in this journey -- I can't place exactly when -- I sort of fell out of this practice. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I got a little disappointed when the fruit trees failed to "take off" after six months of loving care? Perhaps it's when Capital Nursery went out of business, taking that supply of fruit tree fertilizer I loved so much.

Dancy Mandarins! Yum!
I can't remember when I did it. Point is? I did it. I stopped when I should have continued. Why? Because last year those fruit trees that I'd lovingly cared for suddenly sprang to life. One peach and one pluot tree doubled in size over the course of a summer. The three nectarine trees started acting like they had ingested some of Jack's "magic beans." The Dancy Mandarin delivered a whopper of a harvest this year -- the largest ever.

The same can pretty much be said for most fruit and citrus tree offerings scattered in and throughout the Bird Back 40. I had one of my best production years ever. I ate table grapes until I was sick of table grapes. Sick of table grapes? That's a crime!

Fruit Tree Fertilizer (now gone)
Even after one whopper harvest or growth spurt after another, I still failed to put two and two together. I never have been the best at math, I will admit. But this equation is fairly basic. As the Scotts Fertilizer pitchman once begged: "Feed Your Lawn! Feed it!"

It wasn't until just recently -- fairly recently I'm ashamed to admit -- did that proverbial light suddenly snap on in the rather darkened spot between my ears. This wasn't some mistake. Last summer's growth spurt and good harvest was probably due to Ken Menzer's good advice. And, unfortunately for me, I'd stopped following it at some point.

Improved Meyer Lemon After Frost Damage
I'm happy to report that I'm "back on the wagon" again. I'd committed the gardening sin of expecting instant gratification from my garden. Worse yet, I'd abandoned a practice that had served up some mighty fine peach cobbler desserts over the course of a summer.

The $64 question is -- did I wait too long to resume what had served me so well? I can tell you this much: I won't go expecting instant results...

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