I’ve taken on the task of turning part of the Polka Farm’s open woods into fruit production, a slow task if ever there was one since I (plus a very small tractor) represent the total labor force and there’s almost no capital upon which to draw.
Still, I managed to find a way to slow the process even more, by driving half-way out to the farm to plant blackberry plants the other day before realizing that while I’d packed the van with all the necessary implements, I’d neglected to pack the actual plants themselves.
It’s hell growing old sometimes.
Setbacks aside, however, a dozen fine blackberry plants are snug in their holes, which I shall inspect tomorrow because new transplants require a fair amount of water. It is my fondest hope that the deer and rabbits have not decided to eat the new blackberry shoots as they develop. If the critters leave them alone, berries should be ready somewhere in the neighborhood of June of 2014. That may seem like a long time, but it’s actually pretty quick in fruit years. A lot of fruit trees planted by someone my age are more for the next generation than yours.
Figs and citrus can give you something back pretty quickly, though, and I have plans for both. Tomorrow I’ll settle on sites for at least three types of figs, and maybe a Meyer lemon and a Satsuma orange. My son and I planted a scrawny stick barely 3 feet tall about five years ago. Today the thing is a 15-foot-high, 15-foot-wide monster, producing copious quantities of large, juicy yellow-green figs. Fig trees can start producing the second year after you plant them, with luck. Lemons may take until the third year, and Satsumas can take longer, but if you have a good variety, it’s worth the wait.
Meanwhile, I called a halt to the latest tomato experiment. This year I forgot to look for fall tomato plants until way past the safe time in which to plant them. I planted them anyway, then covered them with white greenhouse plastic every time the temps dropped below 50, so as to allow them to continue setting fruit. As the nights grew colder, I warmed the inside of the greenhouse tent with Christmas lights, and buckets of water that took on heat in the daytime, then theoretically provided that heat at night.
This method allowed the plants to produce tomatoes – but the late fall/early winter didn’t provide enough sun or warmth to allow the fruit to ripen. What my experiment did provide was the perfect winter environment for Helicoverpa zea, also known as the tomato earworm, corn earworm or cottonboll worm.
As of right now, I have a windowsill full of unripened fruit, a few of which are coloring up, but most will likely become fried green tomatoes.