- Author: Trina Tobey
They plague every gardener's nightmares. Like something from a sci-fi movie, they are green with long legs and antennae and long piercing mouths with which they suck out fluids. They eat 100 times their body weight, and—worst of all—they multiply asexually by the dozens in a day!
My first experience with aphids as a beginning gardener was watching the leaves on my plum tree wilt. The flowers fell off and died instead of producing fruit. This prompted me to research what I could do to protect my fruit trees. Here is what I learned.
In fall it is time to start your preventative measures for aphids on fruit trees for next year. After harvest, a zinc sulfate application on plums and prunes will provide zinc to the trees as well as hasten leaf fall disrupting the aphid life cycle.
If aphids are a chronic problem in your fruit trees, you can apply supreme- or superior-type oils to kill overwintering pests during dormancy this winter. This helps to start the following season with a clean slate.
In the spring, start monitoring your trees for aphids as soon as leaves begin to bud. Check for aphids on the underside of the leaves on several areas of your trees at least twice weekly. Ants tend aphids and collect their honeydew and large numbers of ants climbing up your tree trunk is an indicator that you may have aphids. Over watering and over fertilizing can increase aphid populations so only apply the minimum necessary for healthy plant growth.
One excellent way to reduce aphid populations is to knock them off with a strong spray of water.
Several natural predators feed on aphids including lady beetles, green lacewings, brown lacewings, syrphid flies, and soldier beetles. Predators can be released onto the trees but often appear naturally in significant numbers when there is a significant aphid population. Where aphid populations are localized on a few curled leaves or new shoots, consider pruning these areas out. Drop the infested plant parts in a bucket of soapy water. If insecticide sprays are needed, insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils are generally the best choice. Avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides which will kill natural predators and consequentially could increase your aphid population.
In our area, it can help to keep weeds under control near your trees.
With these tips, you can save your home orchard from an aphid invasion like the Men in Black saved earth from an alien invasion and go back to sleeping soundly throughout the night. Good luck!
Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California (2019). Leaf Curl Plum Aphid. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r606301811.html
Flint, Mary Louise (2018). Pests of the Garden and Small Farm: A Grower's Guide to Using Less Pesticide, Third Edition. Oakland, CA: The Regents of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Gardeners often plant pears and apples in their yards so these fruits are relatively abundant. I usually find myself in receipt of several boxes of fruit every year from tree owners eager to rid themselves of excess fruit. While I appreciate the gift, what I would really enjoy is for people to bring me weird stuff. Like quinces.
I'm always surprised how few people grow quinces. Is it because they are barely edible? Or is it just a prejudice against irregular-shaped, yellow fruit? I bet that's it.
Raw, straight-off-the-tree quince is as appealing as a bitter-tasting rock. But think of it more as a hidden gem. Once cooked or made into jelly, quince is delicious and beautiful. You should try it!
There are many fruits in the rose family (apples, peaches, pears, etc.) but quinces are among the easiest to grow at home. They stay a manageable size, and have fewer problems with pests. A late-flowering tree, quince has few problems with late frosts. On paper, quince has all the same pest and disease problems that pears have, including codling moth and fire blight; however, I seldom see trees in the Owens Valley with serious issues. These omnipresent problems seem to be satisfied for now with making apples' and pears' lives miserable. You'll probably have some damage, but at a lesser scale than pears.
One mature quince tree will, in all likelihood, provide a family with more than enough fruit. Essentially any variety you find will work in our area, but don't confuse edible quince (Cydonia oblonga) with flowering quince (Chaenomeles species). They are not the same thing. Quince will set fruit without cross pollination. If you do have 2 quince trees, it will probably set fruit better. And you'll have more to share.
I've noticed that quince in Owens Valley seems content with part-day shade, making it an option in smaller yards. Deep shade won't work, but a small amount is not a deal breaker.
So, other than throwing it in self-defense, what can you do with quince fruit? In theory you can let it sit around for a long time and it will soften enough to be edible. That's called bletting. I've never tried it that way. I like making jelly with quince. (Recipe: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/quince_jelly.html ) Fun fact: the word marmalade originally referred to a jam made of quince. When quince is cooked with sugar, pigments are formed making for attractive orange and red foods, especially desserts. A quick Google search leads to many ideas like dulce de membrillo.
If you're thinking of putting in a few fruit trees, consider taking the road less traveled and plant a quince. If nothing else, you'll look smart answering "What kind of fruit is that?" questions.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Selecting Fruit Trees
Dustin Blakey, Inyo-Mono Farm Advisor
Fruits are always favorites in the garden. Eat a fresh peach or plum and you’ll be obsessed with getting your own source of ripe fruit that you can share with the crows. If you are interested in growing your own fruits, fall is the season to get started.
Impulsive acquisition of fruit trees and berries while out on a shopping trip often leads to disappointing results. Not every variety of fruit can be grown on the Eastside. Plants bought on a whim or chosen because you recognize the name may not thrive in our climate or produce the best possible fruit. I am always amazed by how many ‘Red Delicious’ apples get planted in gardens each year, yet I have never met a person who actually likes to eat them!
There are two tried and true ways to get fruits (trees or berries) for your garden: you can go to a local, knowledgeable nursery in spring and buy containerized plants, or you can order bare-root plants in fall for shipment in spring. If you elect to order fruits from a mail-order nursery, you should make your selections in fall. If you snooze, you lose! Variety choices become meager as spring approaches.
As a rule, bare root trees are cheaper and because you can choose from many vendors, selection is best. The nurseries know when to ship, and you will get your plants still dormant. The disadvantage is that you need to be ready to plant when they arrive or they may die.
Some fruits will need to be cross-pollinated. Most catalogues and websites will mention this and will provide a pollination chart to help you choose.
The following are helpful hints in selecting what fruits to plant:
- If they are adequately watered, brambles (canefruits) are probably our best fruit crop. Look into planting modern cultivars. You may reminisce about a certain berry you once ate in your youth—and it may be great—but great breeding work has been done on blackberries and their kin in the past 30 years.
- Stone fruits are the least reliable of our fruit choices. They tend to flower early and get zapped by cold. Apricots and almonds are especially bad. Try to choose late-flowering types; these tend to be late-bearing as well.
- Apricots, peaches, nectarines, and sour cherries do not require cross-pollination. Sweet cherries do. Apples, pears, and most plums need cross-pollination.
- Even if a crop doesn’t require cross-pollination, having more than one variety can extend your season and a few self-fruitful crops like blueberries do better with cross-pollination.
- Most table grapes do fine here. We don’t raise them, but muscadine grapes will grow here and are a unique treat. ‘Carlos’ and ‘Noble’ are good muscadines to start with.
- If you order figs and they arrive before nights are consistently over 40°F, pot them up and keep them inside until it is safe. ‘Mission’ is not reliably hardy here.
- In most cases, when you have the option to do so, choose a dwarf rootstock.
- Pomegranates are hardy in the Owens Valley but may have issues with frosts and too short a growing season, especially in Bishop, for some varieties. Plant with caution.
- Remember that grocery store fruit is not being grown locally. In most cases, the variety you should grow in your garden will not be the typical ones seen in the produce department.
- Common California varieties and growing information can be found at The California Backyard Orchard.