Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stone Fruit Pruning Notes

When pruning cherries, plums, almonds, peaches, and other stone fruits you can cut off up to half of the expected leaves. Most of the stone fruits don't need that much. Only peaches need to have heavy pruning to promote enough new growth to give fruit the following year.

Almonds and apricots need some pruning to generating new fruit producing wood. But since the wood will produce fruit for more that one season, often just pruning for structure is needed. I know of a tree near where I live that is judged to be a hundred years old that is producing nicely with such basic pruning.

Cherries and plums only need structural pruning. They just keep on producing without regard to what we do to them.

Judging the expected leaves of a tree is the hardest part. You can't rely on guesstimating  based on a the before and after profile until you have a fair amount of experience. You can make a good guess by looking at the pile of limbs and comparing it to what is still on the tree. Just remember to compensate for how tightly packed the pile is.

And as a final note, remember that it is best to prune the tree less if you have any question. You can always prune more later if you need to, but you can never prune less.

Small Cherry on the left,
European plum on the right.
Before pruning.
And after pruning.

Asian plum. Before.


White peach. Before.


P.S. Feel free to ask questions!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Apple Butter

16 Apples
2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Cloves
1 to 2 quarts Apple Juice

Set slow cooker on low and cover.

The recipe says it will take 15 hours to cook. More apple juice will slow it down and make it sweeter. If the liquid does not reduce fast enough, take the lid off and turn to high for less than an hour.

Careful! Things can go quickly with the lid off.

The apples I am using are an unknown variety from one of my father-in-law's trees. They are supposed to be Jonathans, but most years they are too large and too green to be Jonathans. This year they look right.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Growing Nutritious Food

The western world is becoming more and more conscious of what it eats, finally. But we are struggling with deciding what is really healthy. While the long held definition of a nutrient is that the nutrient is required by the body for basic life, is good for some things, it is a far cry from a comprehensive definition of what is healthy.

Scientists are now looking at many naturally occurring chemicals and the affect they have on our bodies and trying to decide what is really important. Given the size of the task, it will be decades before we have a good foundation for what we really need in our food. Maybe centuries.

But if you turn away from the more complex science, the answers become clear. Healthy food will be food that is raised healthy. That should make sense even to a non-farmer or gardener.

Here are some of the more important factors:

Plant Nutrients 
Make sure the plants have balanced nutrients. This includes all the micro and macro nutrients. Most of the nutrients are more likely to be deficient, but two are more likely to be in excess: nitrogen and water. Yes water. Watch how much nitrogen and water you use.

Sunlight is the basic energy for plants. You can have everything else in abundance, but the plant won't live if it doesn't get light. Most common food plants grow best with full sun, but only a few are damaged by too much sun. Do your research and adjust accordingly.

Typically plants with more color have higher levels of nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. Choose species and varieties with higher intensity of color in the part that you eat. A good example is zucchini versus butternut. The butternut comes out way ahead for nutrition.

Organic Content of Soil 
This is another way of saying carbon in the soil. While there are many ways to get organics in the soil, including adding charcoal, the best ways are to add compost and plant based mulches. Soils with high amounts of organics grow better for a number of reasons, enough that I’ll have to cover that in a later post.

You will eat better if you grow your own food and will have better food if you plan ahead with these factors in mind.