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Tag Archives: Dallas Orchard Planting

Protecting Fig Trees and Grapes

July 20, 2019

To protect your fig trees from hungry birds, cover the tree canopy with bird netting.  The netting operation needs to be completed before the fruit begins to ripen. Timing is critical. Generally the birds leave unripened fruit alone but once the fig or grape shows color they are all in for their feast and little will be left for you.

This was our project last week at Raincatcher’s. We were lucky enough to have Captain in the US Army and Dallas County Master Gardener, Jon Maxwell, leading us.

Netting for the fig was from Lowes; netting for the grapes was purchased on line as it needed to be larger, 28′ x 28′ vs 14′ x 14′ from box stores.

Jon’s tips for bird netting application-have a lot of help and keep your fig tree pruned short.

Above you see Jim Miller, Jon Maxwell and one of our Dallas County Master Gardeners interns at work.

Annette Latham is a steady help with the net in the top picture.

The netting was large enough to basically hang to the ground, so heavy objects were placed at the bottom  to help hold it in place.  Mockingbirds, who love figs and grapes, have been quite furious!!

Written by Ann Lamb as explained by Jon Maxwell

Pictures by Starla Willis


Looking forward to fig harvest? Here’s few fig recipes from last year’s Grow and Graze event

Don’t forget Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey and Gorgonzola Toasts.

By the way, if you are interested in the Dallas County Master Gardener program, call our help desk at 214- 904 -3053 or go to our website here. Classes start in January when it’s cool!

 

2019 Raincatcher’s Classes

Grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

 

We have three more events scheduled and more coming:

Saturday,February 16th, 10am-noon Grape Pruning and Growing class with Michael Cook, Viticulture Extension Program Specialist for North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Michael Cook, Viticulture Program Specialist – North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has been consulting with Raincatcher’s to maximize production on our two grape varieties in the vineyard. We planted ‘Carlos’ Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) and Champanel, (Vitis champini X Worden), an American hybrid, almost four years ago. All that hard work paid off last summer, when we harvested well over 50 lbs of grapes. Michael will demonstrating proper pruning and training techniques for the backyard grower and provide advice on how to care for grapevines throughout the growing season for a successful crop. The class is free and open to all! Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the class, please park in the west or north parking lots and come to the shade pavilion in the north garden.

Tuesday, March 26th,  10:30 am Growing vegetables in the home garden, Jeff Raska.

Thursday, April 25th – Plant sale and DCMGA monthly meeting

Details will follow and we hope to add more classes to the list soon.

All of the above classes qualify for CEU credits for Master Garderners.

All members of the public are invited.

Questions? Send us a comment.

For more education opportunities, check our Master Gardener website.

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

 

 

 

 

 

“Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates” Class and Lunch

 

“Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates”

Nature has been saving up all year for the grand finale.

You’ll be inspired by this colorful class on planting, growing and harvesting the fruits of the season.

Tuesday, October 16th, 10:00am – 11:30pm

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills * 11001 Midway Road

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

(The class is free – no reservation required. The public is welcome, and Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit)

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation in the church sanctuary, you are invited to join us in the Community Hall for a bountiful buffet table bursting with seasonal flavor. This will be a feast for both the eyes and the palate.

Lunch reservations required by Tuesday, October 9th * $15 Per Person * Limited to 60

Eventbrite Ticket Sales for Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates

Menu

Baked Brie with Roasted Persimmons

Cinnamon Candied Apple Slices

Butternut Squash-Pear Soup Garnished with Parmesan and Rosemary

Tennessee Ham Balls with Brown Sugar Glaze

Salad of Figs, Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pears with Pomegranate Dressing

Autumn Orchard Crisp, Persimmon Cookies, Caramel Apple Layer Cake with Apple Cider Frosting

Pineapple Sage Infused Water

Linda Alexander

Pomegranates at The Raincatcher’s Garden

The orchard was one of the first things planned when we started up at Raincatcher’s garden of Midway Hills.   Six different trees were chosen and then planted in  January 2015.  Most of these were purchased, but the pomegranate was brought over from our previous location. One of the things about planning and planting an orchard is to realize that it usually takes 3 years for the trees to bear fruit.  So we planted, pruned, and then waited.   The first season was as expected – we could see the growth pattern of the different trees, but there was no fruit.

Our Very Own Pom Transplant

Our Very Own Pom Transplant

The winter came, and the trees lost their leaves and once again we waited till early February – and we pruned according to the type of tree – pears wrap around and grow vertically, while plums and peaches are pruned to a bowl type shape.

The last 2, persimmon and pomegranate, are more shrub-like and were not touched by the pruners.   They were about 2-3 feet tall at this time.

By March new growth was appearing and the effects of pruning was taking shape — a few blossoms appeared on the plums and peaches, but fruit did not follow. The pomegranate, however, was a different story – it began to grow, — and then blossoms appeared in March and April with this beautiful orange bud which then became a flower – the bees came to pollinate ,  and then fruit started to form.  The shrub is now over 5 feet tall and is laden with beautiful orangey pomegranates  -Yes  it’s only the second year, but we will have pomegranates in the late Fall.

Pomegranate Flowers Followed by Fruit

Pomegranate Flowers Followed by Fruit

Pomegranates are ready to harvest about 6 months after the flowers appear, so come later October or November our pomegranates will be ready. They should be the size of an orange and the color will vary from yellow to bright red.     We are looking forward to  celebrating this harvest by making some pomegranate jelly !

Pomegranates Ripening!

Pomegranates Ripening!

Starla

Orchard beginnings here.

Berms and Tree Planting at The Raincatcher’s Garden

We are excited about our new orchard.  Peaches, plums, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, and grapes, figs, and blackberries will be part of our future crops and future recipes.

Dig in to this video to learn the purpose of a berm. We built berms around our trees in the orchard. This is also useful information for other types of tree planting.

 

Next Tuesday, March 3rd 10-noon, we will be awaiting the arrival and planting of large container grown and balled and burlapped trees. Last week a Ginkgo tree was planted. Next week: Chinquapin oak ,Mexican Oak, Lacey Oak, and Cedar Elm. All tree huggers invited!

Best cinematographer: Starla

Our recipe list here.

Ann

 

How to Plant a Bare Root Tree

The Academy Awards are over for 2014.  This film was not released in time for review. Watch our film, How to Plant a Bare Root Tree, and see if you agree it really has merit.  Remember Elizabeth’s article about our orchard and the selection of the fruit trees and why we chose Halford stock. TAKE IT AWAY ERIC!

 

Ann

Movie by Starla

Best Actor: Eric

DON’T GO BLACKBERRY BUSH PICKING WITHOUT THE BBQ

Jim and I share many things, a love of dessert, finding just the right pencil for his beloved Martha’s crosswords, and The File.

My life was simple before The File. No longer.

For the last six weeks, my tired brain has been filled with the minutiae of helping Jim pick out trees and berries for an orchard at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.   (We tried to have an orchard at the garden on Joe Field Road, but for various reasons, it didn’t come to pass.)

The File is a brown manila folder about 1½ inches thick filled with downloads, printed emails, notes from extension agents, a parts list for  a grape trellis, and receipts.

It comes with a complimentary bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol.

Jim knew right off the bat that he wanted the orchard to demonstrate pears, peaches, plums, persimmons, pomegranates, and “phigs.”  Grapes, blackberries, and asparagus rounded out the list.

Apples, too. Well, until we found out about the sex lives of pears, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Jim downloaded recommendations for North and Northeast Texas from Dr. George Ray McEachern, Professor and Extension Horticulturist with the Texas A&M Department of Horticultural Sciences.  This is the guy Texas Monthly calls when they want the inside scoop on the pecan industry in Texas.

We also looked up fact sheets on each crop by Larry Stein, Extension Fruit Specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.  The peach article alone is 14 pages long.

Peaches, plum, apples, and pears are fruit tree crops that require a certain amount of cold winter weather, measured in chilling hours, to end their dormancy and promote proper blooming and spring growth, according to Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac.  Chilling hours are the number of hours during which temperatures are below 45 degrees and above 32 degrees.  If you goof, and plant a variety that requires more chilling than it receives in your garden, the tree may not bloom fully—or at all.  Dallas-Fort Worth falls in the 800-hour zone.

Pollination is a big deciding factor, too.  Without pollination, a fruit tree may blossom abundantly, but fruit will not develop.  Some trees require pollination from another variety and are called “self-unfruitful.”  Other trees are “self-fruitful” and can produce fruit from their own pollen.  Then, just to make it more fun, some fruit trees can have varieties that are self-fruitful and-–don’t you just love this—other varieties that are self-unfruitful.  (Remember, the Tylenol is complimentary.)

Briefly, Jim’s first choice for a peach was ‘Redskin,’ a free-stone variety with yellow flesh that matures about July 20th.  With our high alkaline soil, we needed the ‘Redskin’ grafted on Halford Rootstock, which led us to barbecue in West Texas.  (More on that later.)

Abbe Planting Peach Tree

Abbe Planting Peach Tree

The number of peach varieties is mind-boggling.  Freestone, cling, or semi-cling? Ripening date? White or yellow flesh? The real basis of selection, however, is matching the chilling requirements of the variety with the chilling hours expected in your area.  ‘Redskin’ requires 750 chilling hours.  Peaches are self-fruitful.

Compared with peaches, there are very few varieties of plums adapted to Texas.  Jim chose ‘Ozark Premier,’ a large variety with red-and-cream streaked skin and yellow flesh that matures in late June. This plum is self-fruitful–but other varieties of plums are self-unfruitful.

Texas has a few native persimmons, but the Japanese persimmon is preferred by most gardeners because of its large fruit.  Jim picked  ‘Eureka,’ a self-fruiting variety recommended by Dr. McEachern.  ‘Eureka’ produces bright orange fruit as large as teacups in the fall.

We purchased a ‘Celeste,’ fig that is a smaller, brown “sugar” fig with sweet pink flesh and purple skin.  ‘Celeste’ matures in August.  Water is a big consideration with figs.  The trees will drop their fruit if drought-stressed and need heavy mulch and moist soils when developing their crop.  (Note to self: is fig on irrigation plan? I’m planning on fig preserves.)

Sarah brought the pomegranate from her backyard.  It was dug up and potted at the Joe Field garden, then pampered at Sarah’s for several months.

The big question with blackberries is, thorns? Or thornless? We decided to try a bit of both.  We purchased the time-tested thorned blackberry ‘Rosborough,’ the most popular of the TAMU releases.  It has a large berry, is disease resistant, and is widely adapted in Texas.  We will also try ‘Kiowa,’ a recent thorned blackberry release from the University of Arkansas.  Dr. McEachern noted on Neil Sperry’s radio show that ‘Kiowa’ was extremely vigorous and productive.

Our thornless blackberries, ‘Natchez’ and ‘Ouachita’ also come from the University of Arkansas.  They are known for their firm sweet fruit.

You would have thought growing grapes in Texas was easy.  After all, almost half of all grape species are native to Texas.  Native grapes are a cinch.  Wine grapes are another story.  Pierce’s disease and cotton root rot are some of the conditions that limit choices of grape varieties.  Womack Nursery, where we purchased our grapes, suggests ‘Champanel’ for prairie or blackland soils.  It has large black grapes that make a loose bunch, great for making jelly.

In addition to ‘Champanel,’ we decided to try ‘Carlos Muscadine,’ a grape variety used to make white wine.  Muscadines are the most disease-resistant grapes.

“If you only have one fruit tree, this should be it,” Dr. McEachern advised, when interviewed by Neil Sperry.  He was suggesting the ‘Orient’ pear, a variety that Jim picked for our orchard.  With pears—unlike fussy plums and peaches—the less you prune and fertilize, the more pears you get.  (More tree growth from fertilizer does not equal more fruit.)  We also picked a ‘Warren’ pear, since pears are self-unfruitful and you must have two varieties for good production.

Ana really wanted an apple in the orchard.  We realized at the last minute that both pears and apples need pollinators. Pears are much more disease resistant than apples, so the space in the orchard went to pears.

Judy and I looked at several area nurseries for fruit trees, but couldn’t find a place that had everything we wanted in stock.  One nursery carried the ‘Redskin’ peach, for example, but it was grafted on East Texas rootstock, rather than the Halford stock for alkaline soils.

The only solution was for husband Mike and I to have a road trip to tiny De Leon and Womack Nursery, “Your Texas source for fruit and pecan trees since 1937.”

Fruit Trees at Womack Nursery

Fruit Trees at Womack Nursery

Womack Nursery is often named as the premiere source for pecans and fruit trees in Texas by fruit and nut experts.  Traveling down two-lane Highway 6 between DeLeon and Gorman, you see a series of sheds and a small office.  The parking lot is filled with pickups—all white—as crews assembled orders.  Thousands of fruit trees, pecans, grapes, and berries were tucked in marked rows of sand.  Large boxes waited to be filled with trees and shipped to customers all over Texas.

In a few minutes, our order was packed in damp hay, wrapped in brown paper and plastic, and tightly tied, ready for the trip back to Dallas.

We weren’t quite ready for the big city lights, however.  Some of the best barbecue on the planet waited for us in Stephenville on our way home.

 

Elizabeth

Pictures by Starla and Elizabeth

More about blackberries here.

 

 

 

 

 

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