Tuesday, August 6, 2013

2013: the fruit trees are bare

red and white currants- the only fruit from our yard this year.

I have, admittedly, been a bad steward of our little pieces of the earth this summer.  Our yard, our community garden plot, the yard at our little rental place- the weeds at all of them are growing faster than I can manage to pull them out.   We are, as usual, crazy busy in the summer so that hasn't helped.  But I still don't feel good about it.

In addition to the kids- who always want me to play with them (which I don't really mind), work is really busy again this year for some reason, the rental place needs lots of little repairs- and we have another project to work on- which I will get into in future posts- but for now I won't.  But it's eating up just about all of the time I would have spent gardening in a normal summer.  And the garden looks it.

Fortunately Gita took the initiative to pull out all of the spent spring and early summer plants one afternoon.  All of the peas and bolted spinach and bok choi that was turning yellow went into the compost and she replanted with cress and fenugreek and spinach for a nice late summer and fall crop. 

The community garden space is doing a little bit better.  I mulched the whole thing with 6 to 8 inches of leaves last fall and let the whole thing sit over the winter.  In the spring, the leaves had compacted down to a layer 1 to 2 inches thick, and I pushed them aside in the areas where I wanted to plant, and left the rest.

The result is a relatively weed-free garden.  It's surprising to me, even though I put the leaves there for that reason.  The peppers and okra are a bit on the small side- I think they want warmer, drier soil- but the tomatoes, beans, cukes and fava beans seem to love it.  Sheet mulching and lasagna gardening have won this round, at least in my mind.

I also built a trellis out of salvaged wood that I'll post a picture of some day when I actually get around to bringing the camera to the garden.   Maybe in December.

So our fruit trees, for some reason have completly skunked us this year.  Not a thing off of our pie cherry tree or the plum tree.  On the apricot- one little fruit hardly worth picking.  There were plenty of flowers this spring, but no (except for that one apricot) fruit to follow.

The plum and the apricot are growing just fine- they look great really- on either side of the steps coming up to the patio.  Great design aesthetically and all, but I kind of want to see them producing something.  It's their fourth year in our yard and it's time they started earning their keep.

I'm not sure what to peg it on.  The cold, rainy spring?  It was, but I think fruit has done well in previous springs like this one.  Pesticides?  None  in our yard, but bees forage over a pretty large range- a radius of several miles sometimes.  Maybe it's some other factor that I'm not aware of.  If I knew, I could do something.  Not knowing kills me.

The currants are doing great though.  One of the plants- a pink currant variety that I don't remember the name of- was sagging under the weight of all the fruit.  I kind of worried about it.  I'm hoping it has enough energy to make it through the winter after giving us so much fruit. 

So we made a big batch of currant syrup- a simple mix of red and white currants and some sugar cooked on the stove and filtered.  We made a batch of it last year when attempting to make currant jelly without pectin.  The jelly didn't turn out, but we ate the partly gelatinous stuff on pancakes and waffles and the kids absolutely loved it.  So did Gita and I.  So this year I didn't even try to make jelly- I just cooked it down into syrup.  It's beautiful stuff, and tastes like the essence of summer.  Not a bad way to use the one fruit we actually did get.

two half-pint jars of currant syrup made from the currants at the top of the post


  1. currants look so beautiful. I love eating currants with some flavor.

  2. I love currants too. Great post by the way!

  3. hey Jeff - Wondering where you have been! I had a ton of flowers on our cherry and plum as well, and very little fruit. I truly believe it is a pollination issue. Now that the bees are in my backyard, I am curious to see how things turn out next year - assuming the bees overwinter successfully.

    It really comes down to the fact that feral colonies of bees in particular, but pollinators in general have been decimated by habitat loss and poison. I am seeing wuite a few at my place, but I still think there should be more.

    The currants look great though! All of mine, gooseberries included, have put on a bunch of growth this year, and I think I should start seeing some real production next year. Hope all is well ...

    1. Hi Andy-

      All is well over here- we're in good health, but really really busy. In addition to the usual stuff I am working on the project which we had discussed earlier this year when swapping scion wood. All systems are go so far!

      I've been so busy I haven't even checked to see if any of my grafts took. They kind of got hidden when the trees leafed out.

      Glad to hear that you're seeing issues with pollinators too. Not glad that you're not getting fruit, but that you're seeing something similar. I think in the near future we're going to look back on our willy-nilly use of pesticides and wonder what we as a culture were thinking. I don't have the energy or ambition to manage a bee colony right now, but may have to in the future if I want to see fruit.

      In some ways it seems the culture is set up so that we can all live our own little semi-autonomous lives, free to do what we want, and free to ignore what our neighbors do- within limits- actually a lot of limits- but the elephant in the room is the fact that what my neighbor does can affect me pretty seriously. If someone a few blocks away sprays their yard with neonicotinoids for whatever reason, it may kill all the pollinators in the neighborhood, and my fruit trees won't bear any fruit as a result.

      And spraying with neonicotionoids is perfectly legal, and even encouraged in some ways. It doesn't require a pesticide applicator's license to drench your soil with Imidacloprid to try to save your ash tree (which also renders the flowers in the immediate area toxic to bees), but I do have to apply for a license to have a bee colony in my yard. It's pretty stupid.

      Anyway, hope all is well at your house and hope we can get together again sometime soon.


  4. Love this project! Looking good. You will love having all that fruit and great selections!

    Pear Trees & Cherry Trees