Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Garden Blogging: Pear Blossom Time

I've been having a long-running labor of love with the two fruit trees in our back yard. When we bought the house the pear and apple trees hadn't been pruned in years and were in horrible shape. Following my neighbor's advice (he grew up on an orchard farm), I schwacked the jeepers out of both during the first winter we were here. I got little or no fruit the second year, which we expected. What I didn't expect was a nasty batch of fire blight, forcing me to cut out even more of the already heavily pruned trees. The pear tree was especially hard hit -- and I discovered pear trees are highly susceptible to fire blight. Bah. The third year's crop was much better, especially following some advice I read in The Back Yard Orchardist, an organic guide to growing fruit trees. Instead of pruning the pear during the dormant season, I waited until I'd picked the fruit and the tree was starting to idle down. Fire blight hits tender growths; dormant pruning forces the tree to pop out a bunch of new growth during spring -- just what the blight is looking for. The third year's crop had no blight whatsoever. So there I was after two years of no fruit: a good looking blossom and set. The the squirrels arrived. They ate all but ONE fruit off the tree. I managed to protect that last fruit by using a combination of after shave-soaked rags hung in the tree and rabbit repellent scattered around the base. The sole remaining pear of the third year's crop grew and ripened into a lovely looking fruit. At least until I knocked it off the tree and ran over it with the lawn mower. Some days my life just sucks. Last year's crop was a bumper one, but got infested with scales, a nasty little bast I mean bug which eats a bit of the fruit and then causes horrible hard spots throughout the fruit. So with all that blabber, you may understand why I'm excited about having a terrific bloom on the tree this year.

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