Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates, nature’s grand finale!
Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service inspired us to start planting, growing and harvesting the fruits of the season. For Raincatcher’s, it was our last and final class of 2018 in the series. With an abundance of fall fruits ripe and ready for harvest, we gathered up our pens and paper for a very educational presentation. Highlights from Jeff’s lecture included the following:
General Information for Fruit Trees
Your first consideration should be selecting the right variety for our climate and soils. Plant trees during dormancy, January to early February in a slightly raised mound rich in compost and top-dressed with mulch. Bare root trees are preferred as they will outgrow a container plant. Want to know if you have a healthy tree? Scratch the root. If it’s the color of cooked spaghetti, it’s a viable tree.
All fruit growth happens within the first 45 days of fruit set (after bloom). At that time, the plant needs constant water (1-3” per week). The fruit won’t get any bigger or sweeter after the first 45 days, it just develops the seed.
In terms of “chill hours,” our Zone 8b previously was between 600-950 hours. Currently we are between 600-800 hours. Our winters are getting colder but shorter due to climate change.
Apples and pears need a cross-pollinator…another tree that blooms at the same time. Both trees grow spurs, short and stout twigs that bear the fruit buds year after year. That’s one reason you can espalier the tree and have fruit on those limbs. This is in contrast to peaches that bear fruit on new growth every year.
The second consideration is pruning. As a ‘rule-of-thumb’, if you can’t see the fruit then you’re not getting enough sun. Thin the fruit when it’s the size of a nickel. The goal here is to have only 3-4 fruits per limb, spaced about 6 inches apart. Each flower will produce one fruit; too many fruits on a limb will create smaller fruit and risk the branch breaking under the weight.
The third consideration is fertilizer. Instead of fertilizer, mix finished compost into your mound, then top-dress 1-2 times per year. Finished compost is homogenous. When you hold a fistful, there are no telltale leaves or twigs in it. If you do choose to fertilize or use chemicals, don’t use them before a rain event. Rain doesn’t wash the chemicals in, it washes them out. Mulch for weed control. Not only do weeds take nutrients away from the plants, they are a home for the insects that attack the plant.
Apples (Best varieties for the DFW metroplex, with chill hours)
Mollies Delicious (500-600)
Golden Delicious (500-600)
Granny Smith (400-600)
Aim for a variety that has about 600 chill hours. A tree that has more, or less, will live but won’t bear fruit. When is the fruit ripe? Look for green that is starting to add color, or if a bird pecks at it. If you cut it open and find a black seed, it’s ripe. If the seed is green, it is not yet completely ripe.
(Best varieties for the DFW metroplex, with chill hours)
Shin Li (500)
In addition to chill hours, these varieties are resistant to fire blight. *Bartlett is especially vulnerable to fire blight and strongly not recommended for this area. All the above varieties can cross pollinate with one another.
(Best varieties for the DFW metroplex)
Wonderful and Al-sirin-nar
The pomegranate is a part of the crepe myrtle family. It is a wild and unruly bush that needs to grow as a bush and fruits best when not pruned to grow as a tree. However, it can be trimmed to maintain an attractive form. It is self-fertile and doesn’t need another plant for cross-pollination. Pomegranates don’t ripen after being picked. Wait to pick until the fruit is ripe, it should give a little when you squeeze it gently.
(Best varieties for the DFW metroplex)
Eureka (a flat variety, less tannic and can be eaten when firm or soft)
Hachiya (this is the cone-shaped variety, very tannic and only edible when soft)
Based on the variety, persimmons can be self-fertile or need cross-pollination. Persimmon tree branches are thicker and can handle a heavy fruit load.
Immediately following Jeff’s presentation, members and guests were treated to bountiful buffet table bursting with seasonal flavor. It was a feast for both the eyes and the palate.
A few of the recipes that were developed for this special event will be posted tomorrow:
Baked Brie with Roasted Persimmons
Butternut Squash-Pear Soup garnished with Parmesan and Chopped Rosemary
Salad of Figs, Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pears with Pomegranate Dressing
Autumn Orchard Crisp
written by Lisa Centala and Linda Alexander from Jeff Rasks’s presentation