You Can Have Your Shade and Eat It Too

06/30/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Trees, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening

The title of this week’s column refers to fruit trees. Not all fruit trees are created for life in the mountains; some bloom so early that due to frosty springs they rarely produce fruit. Because this is not an issue with late-blooming pear trees, they produce fruit more reliably than apricot, cherry, peach, and nectarine trees combined. For bright yellow aromatic pears with excellent flavor turn to our mountain strain of Bartlett Pear.

This organic tree provides the sweetest, most mouth-wateringly tender, thin-skinned, eat-out-of-hand fruit that also is good for canning, drying, and cooking! Its glossy green leaves are thick and waxy, making it the perfect arid landscape fruiter to double as a shade tree. Easy to grow in our mountain conditions and the only local self-pollinating pear makes it the region’s favored organic tree. If you want shade and fruit at the same time look no farther than this pear.

Blackberry and raspberry bushes make excellent hedges or privacy screens while softening property and fence lines. If you want fresh berries picked from your landscape look to the local “Black Satin” varieties. These thornless berry plants love arid climates and produce super-sized fruits on silky smooth canes. New this summer is the Shortcake Thornless Raspberry, a bush form of raspberry that is easy to grow. It is hardy enough to grow in containers and raised beds exposed to full sun.

Grapes are popular for growing up over pergolas and slatted decks, as well on chain link fences, and up trellises. Many varieties of table, seedless, and wine grapes are surprisingly easy to grow successfully without many of the issues known to plague vines in other parts of the country. Can it get any better than sitting under the shade of your grapevine-covered pergola with large clusters of fruit suspended through the slatted roof? This is a garden feature seen on magazine covers and, with a little coaxing, well within anyone’s expertise.

Because fruiting plants have very deep roots, they won’t lift driveways and walls. More importantly, you can water them like any other tree or shrub. Just put them on the main landscape drip system where they will be happy with a once-a-week schedule during the growing season.

With the arrival of monsoonal rains this is not only a good time to plant fruit varieties, but also the ideal time to feed the entire landscape. This feeding is essential for fruiting plants as they have specific nutritional needs that encourage larger fruit formation. Get the food right and fruit production will increase impressively; get it wrong and your plants can drop this year’s harvest.

An organic commercial farmer shared some time on a fishing boat with me. Coincidentally, some of his expertise went into the creation of my organic “Fruit & Berry Food”. As the name reads, this blend is an excellent nutritional source for blackberries, raspberries, and all fruiting trees. It should be applied right away. Just sprinkle it around each plant and let monsoonal rains carry it to the roots. This is especially important for fast growers or heavy producers like currants, figs, and grapes.

Now through fall is the ideal time to plant fruit trees. Fruits for mountain home landscapes include apples, pears, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, currants, and figs. Do your homework or ask a horticulturalist to learn the various fruiting times at the higher elevations of Arizona. Ideally you want varieties chosen specifically for their taste, soil adaptability, and late bloom cycles. These factors increase the success of local harvests.

Garden Alert! – Unseen killers have been busy in our landscapes and gardeners are blaming themselves and their irrigation systems for the resultant devastation. Grubs are the bad guys, and they are really bad right now. Small C-shaped worms, they eat the roots off landscape plants, perennials, and lawns. It’s a critical issue if you see one of these nasty pests because it is only one of the hundreds in your garden. This week gardeners have come to me about mature trees, eight year-old shrubs, and large spots in their lawns, all with signs of grub devastation. Learn to recognize the symptoms of grubs at work because they are easily stopped in their tracks. Dig a test hole and look for physical signs of this deadly killer in the landscape, then treat it right away.

If these pests are threatening your landscape, you’ll need Grub Beater. It is one of those new magic garden solutions that keep grubs away for the year with only one application. Spread it like fertilizer in the yard where irrigation or rain can carry it deep into the soil and prevent all grub activity. Treat the infected area along with that entire section of the yard. Grub Beater is recommended for everything in the yard except for edible crops. Organic solutions to grub control exist, but they require some one-on-one time to explain properly.

Garden classes – Today’s hour long gardening class is entitled “Juicier Fruits, Grapes, and Berries”. As usual, it begins at 9:30 a.m. and will be held in the back greenhouse at Watters Garden Center. Next Saturday’s class topic will be “Super Heroes in the Summer Landscape”. Look for the entire class schedule on under the ‘classes for the taking’ link.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.