Thinning Apples and Pears to improve your harvest!

Thinning Apples and Pears to improve your harvest!

How to thin Apples and pear treesIt is that time of year again…you have a ton of pears and apples on your trees and they are getting bigger by the day!  Thinning your crop is a necessary task in order to make sure you have a good harvest year to year, reduce opportunities for pests and prevent limbs from breaking.  I hate doing it myself because those small little fruits go into the compost bin.  At least when you thin seedlings you can give them to a friend!  First of all lets go through the risks of not thinning before we go into the how! (more…)

Fruit Trees in the City: My City Orchard

Fruit Trees in the City: My City Orchard

We bought our first house almost 5 years ago and one of the first things I did was start planting fruit trees!  I now have a total of 8 fruit trees on my little city lot in Seattle!  Fruit trees in the city are becoming more and more wide spread.

My  City OrchardThe very first tree we got was a Craigslist special.  Someone wanted to get rid of it and was giving it away free. So I convinced my husband to go with me to dig it out of the persons yard and transplanted it into our parking strip (grass between road and sidewalk).  (more…)

Fruit Tree Caterpillars: The Tent Caterpillar invasion!

Fruit Tree Caterpillars: The Tent Caterpillar invasion!

The other day I was happily admiring my blossoming fruits trees when to my horror I found a web trembling full of caterpillars!  Who were these fruit tree caterpillars all over my apple tree???!!!  They were the dreaded tent caterpillars!

Fruit Tree Caterpillars

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How to grow watermelons in Seattle or anywhere else!

How to grow watermelons in Seattle or anywhere else!

I picked my last two watermelons from my garden…yes in November. Last year I picked my last watermelon at Thanksgiving and we ate it on Thanksgiving day!

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Most people believe you cannot grow watermelons in the Pacific Northwest or that they are difficult to grow in most areas…I would like to prove them wrong 😉 This is my 3rd year growing them and we harvested melons from early August to now. What are my secrets?

1. Full sun helps a ton. My front yard has no trees nothing so my plants basked in the sun 100% of the time in the summer.
2. Lots of water or if you can mulch mulch mulch so you can get away with minimal watering saving yourself a big fat bill.  You might get some snails visiting….they can leave cool imprints on your watermelons…

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3. If you have a rockery plant the watermelons right next to it…the rocks will keep the melons warm at night. No rockery? You could experiment with putting down some  pavers/bricks, they should absorb the heat during the day and release it at night. If you have a rockery make sure they don’t grow in the cracks or hide behind plants like these gems below!

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4. Knowing when they are done- this one is hard. Some say it is when they sound hollow. Others say it is the sound and when they turn yellow on the bottom. I have waited for both and picked unripe melons! So I error on the safe side and wait a little longer but before the vine dies. If you wait til the vine dies typically they are a little overripe. I also pay close attention to the seed pack as to how long it is supposed to take to mature. Maturity varies greatly.
5. If you want to enjoy watermelons for a few months plan 2 different varieties. I planted Seed Savers Exchange Organic Moon and Stars which takes 95 days to maturity.  Then I chose a shorter maturity plant Seed Savers Exchange Organic Petite Yellow which matures in 65-80 days.  Seed packets should last you a few years… my 3 year old Moon and Stars germinated just fine this year.

Now back to the watermelons I picked today…unfortunately I was about 3 days too late picking….temperatures dropped to freezing and I didn’t think about the melons starting to freeze!  See pic below.  Luckily only part of the rind froze- the part that was not resting on or against the rocks…yep those big ol’ rocks kept my melons from freezing completely.  Haha 🙂

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Prepping strawberries and fruit trees for spring

Prepping strawberries and fruit trees for spring

Sunday I spent some time outside since the rain took a break and it was almost 50 degrees!  I spent time cleaning out the strawberry patch so they don’t rot and pruning a couple of fruit trees.

The strawberry patch was full of runners and dead leaves…giving the strawberry starts from last year with no breathing room.  It is very wet here in the NW during the winter and spring so I have to make sure they don’t rot.  Here is what the patch looked like before:

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BEFORE

Everything jammed packed in!  I sat down and took a pair of scissors to the runners, now dead but fully intact and also cut out all the dead leaves.  Sure enough I found some slimy spots on plants because they were too crammed in there.   Advice: NEVER BUY STRAWBERRY PLANTS!  I got all of mine free off Freecycle last year and after one year have too many and are giving some away.  Ask a friend for some or look on Freecycle or Craigslist.  Same goes for raspberry plants.

Here is what it looked like after, I will still thin out some of the healthy plants later when my neighbor is ready for them. Plants should be at least 6 inches apart.  If you live in the mid-west you probably don’t need to do this until end of March or April.

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After

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Starts from runners that didn’t root well, giving to coworker.

Fruit Trees

Next I moved on to the fruit trees.  I have 3 fruit trees, all were planted in Spring 2012.  One is a muli-graft apple tree (4 varieties) that I got a local nursery.  This tree didn’t need any pruning this year as it really didn’t grow much.  The other two trees I got off Craigslist for free and are older- probably about 3 years old, the owners no longer wanted them in their yards.  I will be watching Craigslist again this year to see if I can score some more free trees, hoping for cherry, peaches, fig 🙂  The two older trees are Italian plum and a multi-grafted pear tree (4 varieties).  The plum tree I didn’t take any pictures of because I did minimum pruning pruning – removed broken branches and branches growing inwards.  The pear tree well is an interesting tree- here is the picture of it before.

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Last year I didn’t prune the pear tree except for cutting a big sucker off the very bottom due to the fact I wanted to let get rooted well.  If you look closely at the picture about you see a set of branches low on the tree, a good gap with no branches (about 1.5-2 ft) and then the top of the tree has branches.  Very weird looking tree.  The bottom bunch of branches is the grafted portion that gives the variety of pears.  The tree was probably about 12 ft here.  I decided I was going to head the tree- trim it down to about 8 ft.  This makes it more manageable for care and will let the tree focus on growth lower.  I will be able to spray it if it gets caterpillars again this year.  I also pruned off the branches that were pointing inwards to make sure the sun can get into the middle of the tree.  Here is what it looked like after:

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Still a goofy looking tree don’t you think?  Every seen a tree like this before?  If you have tips for pruning it let me know!