Adventures in Ethics and Science

One of the fabulous things about living in our Northern California climate (zone 16) it the ability to transform our yard into a mini orchard. The biggest challenge so far has been patience, given that it takes fruit trees at least a few years to hit a level of maturity at which they produce fruit.

Even if we want fruit right now!

Currently, we have a lime tree, a pomegranate tree, and an avocado that are only making “practice fruit”. You can tell they’re trying, but they’re just not yet at the point where they can produce anything full-sized or edible.

We also have a fig tree which last summer produced literally a handful of figs. Maybe this is the summer it will shift gears and give us a bigger harvest.

Aside from our lemon tree (which is always happy to give us lemons), the other fruit trees in the Free-Ride orchard demand another sort of patience. Even when the tree delivers fruit, that fruit has a particular season. You can see it coming, but until you hit just the right time in the calendar, the fruit hanging from the trees won’t be ready to eat.

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There’s fruit on the apricot tree, but I think we still have a couple of weeks before the first apricots will be ripe enough to pick.

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The apples on the apple tree probably have at least another month before the first ones are ready to pick. With luck, coddling moth caterpillars will not have annexed the core of every single apple this time around.

There are also wee fruits growing on the Fuyu persimmon tree. Those should be ripe by October or so.

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Although they’re on a bush, not a tree, the blueberries are taking their time ripening. They’re a new enough addition to our garden that I don’t yet have a feel for their rhythms.

The year our avocado tree is finally ready to carry avocados to term (as it were), I suspect it will test the limits of our patience. Depending on the variety, avocados typically take 12-18 months on the tree to mature.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half and I are currently in negotiations about planting one more fruit tree in what might be the last suitable spot for one in the backyard. We’re trying to decide between a peach tree or a mandarin orange tree. Or maybe a cherry tree. There may be an outside chance of a Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, but I don’t know if they grow well in our zone.

Comments

  1. #1 Chris
    June 14, 2009

    Your apples look like they could use some thinning.

    Codling moth is not as bad as apple maggots, which is a problem further north than where you are. They create little tunnels throughout the apple, while the moths only stay in the core. Last week I covered my little apples with little footie socks (the type you use to wear when trying on shoes), which has been helping.

    Patience is definitely required for fruit trees. Last year my Fuyu persimmon finally produced fruit after about five years of waiting. The two years ago when it finally had flower, they fell off before the fruit got bigger than a nickel. Then the next year I got two persimmons. So watch for fruit fall.

    Oh, and if you think snails/slugs are bad: squirrels are just as bad. I had to pick my persimmons early and ripen them in the kitchen because the squirrels were taking bites out of the fruit in the tree.

    Also, the crows are grabbing my cherries while they are just going from green to yellow, before there is any pink. The tree netting from the garden store is worthless because the mesh is big enough for the birds to stick their head in. I made bags of sports mesh from a fabric store to slip over some branches to get some cherries.

  2. #2 Kim
    June 14, 2009

    I’d lobby for the Vegetable Lamb! What fun to watch them mature and ripen!

    Our Zone 3/4 fruit grove has 3 apple trees (all bought as supposed Mothers Day gifts) and a dwarf sour cherry tree (dwarf in name only). Due to our growing zone, we won’t see cherries until around the 4th of July, but the tree is so covered with fruit now that I’m working on the cherry recipe search. We usually end up with bag after bag of pitted cherries in the freezer that get devoured over the winter in compotes, oatmeal, and glazes for roasts, yum!

  3. #3 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    June 14, 2009

    Cherry trees are, alas, not a great idea.

    Fresh cherries off the tree are amazing, and my whole families adores them, so when I was growing up, we tried planting cherry trees – several different times, with several different varieties. It’s just impossible to keep the birds and bugs away from the developing fruit without an incredible amount of effort. We never managed to harvest a single edible cherry. :-(

    On the other hand, if your lemon tree is doing so well, the orange tree would probably do great.

  4. #4 blf
    June 14, 2009

    Note to Mr Berkshire: In the future, please include in your advice a suggestion to both read and comprehend the error message one gets when you post to the SciBorgs. It’s trying to communicate an important point, and if understood, will prevent one from looking like a total arse and irritating one’s fellow SciBorg readers.

    Advice on boiling alive the SciBorg’s technical staff (if said thing actually exists) until they start communicating (why don’t they have their own blog for announcements, a view from the inside, and feedback?), fix the problem, or ideally both, would also be appreciated.

  5. #5 blf
    June 14, 2009

    Oh good grief! The above “note to Mr Berkshire” was intended for PZ’s blog, and was posted concurrently with a completely different comment on this thread. For some reason, the above comment was posted to both this thread and PZ’s, and the comment intended for this thread appears to have vanished.

    Since I routinely Preview comments, I’m almost certain I didn’t make some sort of mistake. Of course, previewinngg doesnt’ measn I mistkeas not do muck.

    Thank very much, SciBorgs. Not. Now I suspect the needed advice on boiling alive the SciBorg’s apparently non-existent technical expertise really is needed.

  6. #6 Glasgow Gardener
    June 14, 2009

    A cherry tree is more hassle than anything. I recently cut down two cherry trees which where beside a driveway; the cherries made such a mess over it, and the cleanup every year was certainly aggravating. Good luck keeping the birds, and bugs away from it too.

    I vote you go with the orange tree. If your lemon tree is doing so well, an orange tree would certainly thrive.

  7. #7 Wilson Heath
    June 14, 2009

    Chill hours can be important for some fruit to produce. Here in Houston, only a few varieties of apples have low enough chill hour needs to produce. No cherries get enough chill hours here. I believe peaces need some chill, but most varieties need few chill hours. Get the lowdown for your specific area. On the inverse side, most common avocados aren’t cold hardy enough, though I hear some varieties are showing promise in tests.

    Peach trees are a pain because of the pruning needs and because the cloud of itchy fuzz that makes them unpleasant to work around. I’d go for satsumas or mandarins as an easier alternative, but then again you need to consider when they produce — do you want fruit in the fall and winter (citrus) or in the summer (peaches)?

  8. #8 Christopher Guerra
    June 14, 2009

    Hey Janet I also live in Nor Cal. This year it seems my fruit trees did better then last year. My cherry tree changed types. it went from the normal red cherries to the yellow red type. Anyways i have an infestation of these little brown and tan moths and it seems they like my veggie garden. I never seen so many moths like this before. I Spray on Sevin insecticide, but it has no affect on these little Moths. Do you know anything that would do a better job.

    P.S. On your snail infestation. Chickens kills snails with no mercy.lol

  9. #9 M. D. Vaden of Oregon
    June 15, 2009

    Wish you well on the blueberries.

    Not enough space in our yard for a good patch.

    Still remember as a teen, my mother took me to Ontario to visit grandmother there. Mom picked blueberries weekly in the wild passing through trees to find the patches, and Grandmother cooked them in a woodstove oven – 1970s yet. Awesome.

    Cheers,

    M. D. Vaden

    Beaverton / Portland

  10. #10 Chris
    June 15, 2009

    Christopher Guerra:

    I never seen so many moths like this before. I Spray on Sevin insecticide, but it has no affect on these little Moths. Do you know anything that would do a better job.

    Go to your local nursery store and look for Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt), which is toxic to the caterpillars. There are also traps specific to certain kinds of moths, and butterflies (the white cabbage moth is actually a butterfly!).

    Try to hold off on the general insecticide, and go for more integrative pest control measures. There are bug critters we like having around to help control pests (parasitic wasps and ladybugs), and of course the bees for pollination.

    Some Integrative Pest Management strategies include setting sticky traps, and traps with pheromones, using barriers and even releasing certain bugs into the garden.

    M.D. Vaden of Oregon, I live in a city a wee bit north of you on a 5000 square foot city lot, and I’ve always have been able to gro blueberries. Not all bushes are six feet tall, there are several dwarf varieties. Mostly you need to make sure you have two types for pollination, acid soil, lots of bark and water (oh, they need good drainage, but not too good, I had mine on the edge of the rockery and ended with mummy berry because the water drained too well! I moved them). They make a nice little hedge.

  11. #11 Uncle Fishy
    June 16, 2009

    I’d suggest a peach but only because I’ve taken a fruit tree pruning class and peaches need the most pruning. That apricot can be pruned too once the leaves fall.