The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

A stroll through the woody perennials

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on peach tree

This is my favorite time for strolling amid the perennials, supposedly checking up on how they survived the winter, but really dreaming of fruits to come.  (By the way, the bird above is a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher who is hopefully eating bad bugs on the kitchen peach tree.)

Peach flowers

All four of our peaches have bloomed prolifically this year.  A heavy rain Thursday night knocked off some petals and prompted leaves to start pushing out of the buds, so the trees are now past their prime from a beauty perspective.  From a dreaming perspective, though, they're still at their peak --- I'm working hard not to count any peaches until they're ripe.

Song Sparrow on apple tree

Apple flower budsMeanwhile, this may be the year of our first homegrown apple!  The Song Sparrow above is pictured on our Early Transparent, which only has a few flower buds, but the Virginia Beauty is loaded.  I'm hoping we'll see fruit set on the latter, and I wouldn't be shocked if we got one or two Early Transparents and Liberties too.

Our high density apple planting also looks to be loaded with blooms.  Since I just planted these dwarf trees last fall, I'm assuming I should pluck all of the flowers off (perhaps after giving them a chance to pollinate our larger trees), but I'm open to suggestions.

Blueberry flower buds

Honeyberry budsMoving on to small fruits, our brambles plug along with little need for concern, and are happily leafing out.  We had a lot of cicada damage in the blueberry patch, so only about half the plants have limbs old enough to bear, but those seem to be heavy with flower buds.  And the gooseberries are also looking good, although I didn't notice any flowers yet.  Finally, one of our newly-planted honeyberries seems to have come mature enough to flower --- I'll pick those blooms off along with the dwarf apples', even though I'm itching to find out what a honeyberry tastes like.

Nipped pear leaves

I also noticed that the two baby pears I set out during cold weather did get a little nipped, but are happily putting out new leaves.  Our bigger pears are now leafing out too, but I haven't seen any sign of budbreak on the scionwood I grafted onto their limbs.  I'm not overly concerned since buds on scionwood often don't open as quickly as the rootstock buds.

This post is already too long, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for highlights of nonwoody perennials and the vegetable garden.  I know it doesn't look like it, but I really did edit down the number of photos I was originally going to share with you today....

Our chicken waterer is the POOP-free solution that makes poultry easy and fun.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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This was a wonderful post and definitely not too long! This is the kind of post I like. Frankly, it's a bit frustrating to take the time to load a page to find it contains a picture and two sentences. :-)

Any pruning tutorials in the future? That is something I need to learn to do. I've read tons about it, but I feel like I need to watch a real person do it before I take a chance on butchering my trees.

Comment by Michelle Sat Apr 13 09:35:43 2013

First, why exactly are you considering pinching the buds? If you allow them to go to pollen, will it actually be beneficial afterwards? Now, on the length. I like the mix of lengths. You are usually lengthy and Mark is usually short. Kinda nice to have veriety.

This actually makes me feel much better about keeping several full mags at bedside at all times. Keep up the good work.

"Check out my Survivalist Blog at the Clever Survivalist and read daily Survival Guide content."

Comment by Clever Survivalist Blog Survival Guide Sat Apr 13 21:31:01 2013

Clever Survivalist --- I'd pinch the flowers for the same reason you pinch off strawberry flowers if you put in the plants in the spring and they bloom soon thereafter. Most plants need a bit of time to get established, or fruiting will cause them to perish. (This is a similar theory, also, to not picking your asparagus spears the first year or two.)

Letting the blooms open should be okay, since the plant has already put energy into making those flowers. And it will definitely be beneficial to our other Virginia Beauty apple tree, who has plenty of flowers but not many pollinators yet. But soon after being pollinated, the flowers would start to suck a lot of energy from the tree, so I want to prevent that.

Glad to hear you like the different types of posts. I know a lot of our readers prefer Mark's posts to mine (and others prefer my posts to Mark's), so I figure it's okay if everyone doesn't like both. :-)

Comment by anna Sun Apr 14 07:56:26 2013

Its cool that you grow a Liberty apple. Liberty does very well for me here in Florida. Its not very vigorous but fruit set is high. The fruits are nice and crisp too. And with its name sake it certainly does liberate the grower from any need to spray, nothing touches this tree.

I wouldn't be so hasty to pluck all the flowers off your young trees. I personally would wait to see how the fruit sets first and if its heavy then remove some. I don't prescribe to the need to remove all the flower buds on new trees. If the trees are leafing out nicely and putting on new wood any loss from supplying nutrients to growing seeds cant be to much for the tree. If you're worried about it, I say put some extra compost around the trees and let'em fruit!! If you go with conventional thoughts on it you would be pinching buds on your dwarf trees for years. Dwarf trees are good for one thing.... Making apples fast. So why stop them.

Comment by T Tue Apr 16 01:23:22 2013

T --- I put that sentence in there precisely because I was hoping you'd chime in. If you think the trees can handle a few fruits their first year, I'll go for it! It's true that I set them out in the fall, so they've had several months of potential root growth behind them.

We put in the Liberty after tasting some apples from a neighbor --- delicious! Plus, the neighbor hadn't touched the trees (even to prune them) for years, so clearly the variety has something going for it.

Comment by anna Tue Apr 16 07:27:20 2013

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