It’s Summer and Fruit-time!


How did we get to Summer already? It is still raining with thunderstorms here in NJ. We sort of gave up on the tilling in the veggie garden with rain nearly every day. I did plant a couple of German heritage tomato plants that I started in a hanging basket. Those seeds sprouted as the soil was not waterlogged.

Unfortunately, only one bush cucumber plant came up and a few bush beans. The rest of the seed of those rotted or washed away. The GOOD NEWS is that the cherries were good, no worms, and no cracking from all of that rain. I could not spray with the safe, oil spray due to the rain and a robin in the middle who made a nest.

About the robin, after she had her first brood, and they grew and left, she decided to have a second brood. I told my husband that the cherries were stating to turn red and she had to go. He reluctantly moved the nest of a couple eggs to the hedge. (Sorry, Mrs. Robin by we are NOT letting you and your relatives eat all the cherries.)

We covered the 2 small, espaliered trees with nets. You have to know how to pick the cherries. If you pick them by the berry, they get bruised right away and the stem end is open in the fruit. This means that you have to process then right away. Picking them by the stem and pulling in the opposite direction from how they are hanging, is the best way. You can save them a couple of days.

Each batch of cherries, that is enough for a pie, takes 2 hours to sort, pit, and stew with sugar and a little lemon juice. I did 3 batches and let my neighbor pick her basket. We just pruned the 2 trees severely so that I can redo the espalier to a better shape. With my parents’ deaths and construction 3 years in a row, they got out of shape.

That is the first crop here of fruit for the summer. Right after we are done with the cherries, the blueberries start turning and need the nets. They are ready to have some picked now. I’m going to prune them when they are done and move the 2 large plants to the end of the veggie garden. They will have more sun there and it will be easier to put the nets on them.

One of my small plants is a pink blueberry (that’s an oxymoron). The birds already got them. When it is larger, I’ll be able to mix pink and blue cultivars in one dish. The colors should be delightful. The best time here to pick them and get them is around July 4th. The berries are the largest in the beginning of the season, too.

With the thunderstorms and rain, picking the fruit is tough. If fruit is wet or even damp, you have mold. I had one batch of cherries that I had to lay out on trays and keep turning the fruit in front of a fan. They were fine later. Laying the berries out on trays on paper towels is a good idea anyway. Air can circulate until you pit them. When they touch each other in a basket, their life span shortens.

It’s nice to have these 2 fruits but I may put in the miniature apples and peaches. I started with apples and peaches in 1997 but they were standards and too much work to espalier on the lattice. The cherries are standard sizes, too, but not as much work to prune and train, spray and feed, etc. Each fruit grows better in a certain shape so that was too much time involved in taking care of apples, and especially the peaches. The peaches grew like weeds.

Interestingly, I was at Mt. Vernon one year and their apples, etc. were trained and tied to the supports using leather strips. They grow things there as is was done during George Washington’s day. The fruit are espaliered on the walls to the inside. In the pictures, you can see what they did.

Go to Longwood Gardens, or a large garden near you, and see how they espalier the trees. Espaliered trees take less room as they grow vertical and flattened against a wall or fence.
For more information on Espalier:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espalier

Back to the garden…

Mt. Vernon's espaliered fruit trees.

Mt. Vernon’s espaliered fruit trees.

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