Friday, 4 June 2010

First Fruits of Perennial Plantings

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

It's likely we'll soon see the first tiny harvests from several of the perennial plants we put in over the last couple of years.  We took just a very modest harvest of asparagus in April, since our plants are now only two years old and so cannot support a full harvest.  Cherries, blueberries, grapes, elderberries and pears should also grace our table this year - sometimes in very small quantities.

I counted seventeen cherries on our Mesabi cherry tree.  It's covered in netting to keep the birds away.  At this stage they look like Maraschino cherries.  I hope they darken a little more.

This will constitute our entire blueberry harvest this year, provided the birds don't get them first.  I pinched off all the blooms last year, the year we planted our first blueberry plants.  I probably should have done the same this year, to let the plants put all their energy into just growing.  A harvest of seven blueberries (there are a few behind the visible berries) is hardly worth the name anyway.

On the other hand, seven pears from our Collette pear tree is worthy of the name "harvest."  These beauties are so tantalizing.  I know there are still plenty of things that could happen to these fruits before they ripen.  But I'm hoping, against my better judgment.

One of our two elderberres is blooming, and another is getting ready to bloom.  Oddly, the blooms on this particular plant have little fragrance.  This plant died but then grew back from the rootstock.  So we really have no idea what qualities the fruit will have.  I've begun harvesting the blooms in stages, as they open fully, to make elderflower cordial.  I'll let a couple of blooms from each plant set fruit if they can, to see what we get from each one.  Again, removing most of the blooms allows these young plants to concentrate most of their energy on development of roots and branches.

The grapes have decided to produce this year.  We'll see if any fruit makes it to a harvestable stage.  My husband put in five wine variety grapes two years ago.  This will be our first harvest, and possibly our first small batch of real homegrown wine.

The figs are growing exuberantly in their self-watering containers.  No sign of fig drupes yet, so we may not get the promised small harvest this year.  But at least the plants look healthy and happy.  So do the hazelbert plants in the same containers; we don't expect any nut crop this year though.  That's one of my self-watering. potato buckets next to the fig, with shallots and garlic behind them.  The garlic plants are still sporting their scapes, soon to be harvested.  And almost totally obscured in the back right, some of our raspberry canes - more perennials.  These produced insipid fruit last year.  They're getting one more year to prove themselves since they were young and 2009 was a bad year for gardening.  If the fruit isn't much better this year, they'll be replaced with something else.

While I caution my eager gardener's heart not to count on these tiny first harvests, it is satisfying to see our work in establishing these edible perennials begin to bear fruit.  It has been a heavy workload over the last few years.  The motivation that I used for myself is that though the perennials take more effort to plant, they only need be planted once, and then will give returns for many years.  We're still not done planting all the perennials we'd like to have, so it's a relief to see the returns starting.

Any perennials in your garden?  Or plans for some?  What perennial food crop would you most like to add to your garden?


gardengrl said...

I have a dwarf peach tree, dropping lots of quarter size peaches, dont know whats up with that, asparagus, strawberries and several different herbs.
I would like to add more fruit trees and some type of bramble, maybe blackberry, and grapes. I have an acre, so space isnt a problem. Problem is I just dont know where to begin or how to care for the fruit once I have it planted.
Any Ideas?

ms lottie said...

I've ordered about 30 perennial fruit trees to plant an orchard this winter. Apples, pears, plums, figs, olives to name a few. Very excited - but a little apprehensive about all the work coming up.

Gardengrl - visit your library and see what you can find. Try and find a local organisation who can give you best tips for your particular growing area. That's the best thing I ever did.

Anonymous said...

I have 3 figs in pots that give me over 30 fruit each year, a mandarin,grapefruit,cumquat and strawberry guava in pots. They do very well. I also have a yellow version of the strawberry guava which grows like a shrubby hedge. I highly recommend both because they fruit prolifically, much better than the Indian Guava. Also apricot(only small), pomegranite, plum orange lemon strawberries gooseberries and apples espaliered. Want to get grape, mulberry, blueberry:) Would love to hear more about your Elderberry uses and recipes!

Sense of Home said...

Our strawberries and rhubarb are producing well and blueberry bushes are filling up. The mesabi cherry tree I planted this year has a small amount of fruit on it, but your comment of netting reminded me I need to cover it or I will not taste any of the fruit.

Anonymous said...

Strawberries, raspberries, black and red currants, gooseberries, rhubarb and tayberries at the allotment. Wild strawberries, white currant, an apricot and a peach, both espaliered against a south facing wall or fence (which are both fruiting for the first time this year!!), blueberries in an old tin bath and an Autumn Raspberry at home. A tiny kiwi vine is slowly growing against a bit more of the south facing fence- going to have to be patient for the kiwi fruit.

I've also got a Morello Cherry waiting to go in against a north facing wall. Apart from saving space, being wall trained should make it easier to keep the birds off the fruit. (Fingers crossed).

Rearranging the garden (moving the children's Wendy House) has opened up a bit more fence space, so I'm planning yet more wall trained fruit (my Fence Orchard); probably a plum and/or greengage, which will crop more reliably in the UK than the apricot and peach.

Finally, I'm persuading DH that there's room for a quince and/or a medlar in the front garden....


Sustainable Eats said...

Figs produce fruit before leaves so it's not likely you'll get any fruit this year. This is the second year for one of my fig trees and I got one fig - very slow going. It's the second year for most of the fruit trees and we are loaded with raspberries and blueberries, we have an established strawberry bed we've been eating from for weeks, rhubarb, 2 cherries, 2 columnar apples and 3 dwarf apples, 2 plums, 2 cherries, 2 grapes, 1 arctic kiwi and 1 fuzzy kiwi, black and red currants, jostaberries, cranberries, evergreen huckleberry, brand new pear & peach trees, almond tree, yuzu, rosa rugosa, 3 seaberries, saskatoon tree, aronia berries and 2 hazelnuts. In a few years we hopefully won't know what to do with this much fruit but it will be a nice challenge to have.

I also put in a sancho pepper bush, tea bush and hardy ginger this year. This fall I'll add an elderberry bush and 2 arbequena olive trees. Not bad for peripheral plantings on my 1/5 acre in city lot.