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

The first tree flowers of 2014

Nanking cherry flowers

The Nanking cherries always lead the way, heralding bloom time for our woody perennials.  This year, one bush is completely coated in flowers, suggesting we'll have quite a crop of these small fruits (which we primarily grow for the chickens).

Apple and peach buds

Although I enjoy the cherry flowers, I spend much more time watching the buds on my favorite fruit trees.  While pruning six weeks ago, I saw a lot of dead wood on the peach trees, so I wasn't terribly surprised to notice that the flower buds weren't swelling the way they should have been in late March.  Most peach trees are rated to survive up through zone 5, but I'm now guessing that folks in zone 5 probably see many years with no fruits, even if their peach trees live through the cold.  A low of -12 this past winter nipped between 90% and 99% of the flower buds on our peach trees, and only time will tell whether the few flowers left are enough to produce even a scanty crop.

On the other hand, the apples were largely unfazed by the wold weather.  Plump buds are starting to open into flower clusters, although I reminded them that the coming week will be more seasonable, so they might want to slow back down.

Hardy kiwi buds

Speaking of slowing things down, the hardy kiwis are also starting to open their first buds.  Of all of our woody perennials, hardy kiwis are the most prone to being nipped by late spring freezes, but there's not much I can do about the situation other than to wait and hope.

New strawberry leaves

One task I did add to my agenda for the week to come is to get the strawberry beds weeded and ready to go as they start thinking about blooming.  The first new leaves are opening over the plants and I can already see the flower buds pushing out of each plant's core, so I want to hurry up and weed before my efforts would risk breaking off precious blooms.  Unlike with fruit trees, where you thin many flowers off, every single strawberry bloom could turn into a fruit, and I want them all!  We're still enjoying strawberry leather and jam from last year, but are quite ready to taste fresh, homegrown fruit again in less than two months.

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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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Have you ever thought about throwing a quick hoop over one of your strawberry beds to bring it on earlier? I've learned/seen (The Victorian Kitchen Garden Series) that they used to have strawberries in the cold frames as well as in the open garden, with the cold frames coming on a bit earlier. I will have to watch the series again to see when they planted them out into the cold frame, which would give an indication when a quick hoop would be erected. I would think that January or February, to bring the flowering on a few weeks earlier.

Of course unseasonably cold would still slow down even a quick hoop, but it could be an interesting experiment to jump start spring fruit for a dedicated fruitivore.

(We still haven't had fruit on our two cornelian cherry trees (which the deer have made into piddly bushes), but they bloom in early February - beautiful winter color. They are the first blooms in our garden/orchard.)

Comment by Charity Sun Apr 6 10:38:42 2014
Charity --- Our local strawberry farm does something a bit like that --- they cover the plants with row cover fabric, which gains them a week or two over our uncovered plants. On the other hand, since we get lots of late frosts here, they have to use sprinklers to keep the blooms from freezing, something we don't want to get into. So, possibly we could do it, but it might be too much work and heartache when the early flowers get nipped. I tend to go for dependable rather than early in most of my gardening endeavors.
Comment by anna Sun Apr 6 14:01:09 2014

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