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Orchards and early spring gardening

February 25, 2011

Dear Friends,

I don’t know when we have had such a brown landscape around here.  Narcissus are usually showing off by now and the flowering quince and winter honeysuckle are in full bloom.  The color is coming though, and I’m looking forward to it after those freezing temperatures stayed with us for so long.  Our garden was hit hard, but carrots, spinach and collards made it through.  The red cabbage looks all right and one green cabbage didn’t freeze for some reason.  Fortunately it rained before the freezing temps, so it will be interesting to see what made it through.

There is still time to plant bare root fruit trees.  We have been trying to plant enough to have our own fruit most of the year.  Strawberries (planted in October) are usually first on the scene, followed by early peaches.  Peaches, apricots, and nectarines can be planned for May through August.  Apples and pears start in late July into August.  Figs and berries come in late spring or early summer.  The same goes for plums, but we have one that we are trying this year that should ripen in September.  Pomegranates come in autumn, and persimmons are so delicious after that first frost.  In recent years we have had some citrus that we have enjoyed about that time of year.  Kumquats and Satsuma oranges are the most winter hardy, but lemons, limes, and Clementine oranges do well if you can scoot them into a protected area when the temperature drops.  Blueberries like a very acid soil so they are not recommended for our area, but my friend Pat grows a nice crop of blueberries in containers every year.  Our grandchildren, that we share, happily gobble them up when they come to visit.

Fruit trees should be planted a little above the soil line because it is very important the trunk flare ends up above the ground.  When they are too deeply planted they don’t thrive.  Many times they will grow very slowly or not at all, and eventually decline.  If you have had a problem with your fruit tree suddenly dying, it may be caused by a root rot.  Innoculating with mycorrhizal fungi when the tree is planted may help.  Mycorrhizae increases plants nutrient uptake ability, water absorption and resistance to soil -borne pathogens.  Water well when planting and don’t let the tree stress for water during those dry periods.  The only soil amendment we recommend is a layer of compost spread past the drip line and a good mulch.  Keep in mind that you don’t want to raise the soil line with yearly applications of mulch.  A good organic fertilizer is recommended, as well as a good compost tea applied two or three times a year. 

Gardeners are anxious to get those gardens started.  Onions and potatoes should in the ground by the end of February, and if you hurry you may get another crop of cabbage and broccoli.  Carrots, radishes, spinach, lettuce can be planted ASAP, to beat the heat.  Warm weather vegetables like squash, cucumbers and okra need warm weather.  Tomatoes should be planted as soon as we can, but be prepared to protect them in case we have a late surprise drop in temperatures. 

It’s a joy to see so many people gardening whether they have big gardens, raised bed gardens, or container gardens.  It is surprising how much good food you can grow in a small area and there is nothing quite as good as your own tomato!  Let’s get started!   

                                                                                                                                Bonnie

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