Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association

From the Editor’s Garden

September 23, 2007

By Tami Schlies


Another season is over, with the golden birch and cottonwoods raining down their leaves in a forecast of the snow to come.  I sit at my computer once again, reworking in my mind all that has occurred in the brief summer since the last newsletter.

Spring seemed to take its own sweet time to begin this year.  It also brought many disappointments to my garden.  The Opal plums which bore fruit for the first time last year died completely, rootstock and all.  Last year’s opal grafts on American plum rootstock also died, but the rootstock survived.  Only one graft in a pot remains, and it never reached beyond a sickly yellow attempt at growth.

Severe tip dieback also appeared on all my Evans cherries in the orchard.  I think they may be getting too much nitrogen in the chicken yard, since the small, stunted one in the front lawn had no difficulties.  The cherry set was miniscule on all the trees.

The Shipovas, a natural mountain ash / pear cross out of eastern Europe, also died back to the snowline, including the promising swollen fruit buds I had high hopes for this year.  Strong growth asserted itself from the main trunk on one tree, but the other tree seems to have succumbed to fireblight, as did the Pom d’Or apple tree next to it.

Quite a few of my grafts from last year came down with fireblight, especially the pears.  The leaves literally took on a cooked green look mere days before turning completely black.  Entire grafts on young trees died, taking the rootstock with them, and I pruned out a few suspicious areas threatening the orchard.  Further investigation revealed that the willow and cottonwood saplings behind the orchard in the power line easement also were infected with the disease.

As far as apple crops go, the year was fantastic for Norlands and my Dawn apple-crab, but so-so for the rest.  Many trees didn’t even flower this year, or if they did have a few flowers, they set few or no fruit.  I suppose this means my orchard has decided to become biennial, and next year will again be loaded.

My kiwi vines have settled in well and put on significant growth this year.  I should have good fruit on them next year.  I purchased a variety called “Hero” from One Green World that is supposed to be semi-self fertile, so we will see if it survives the winter along with September Sun females and the Pasha male that have been in the ground two years.

Currant worms marched in to my yard this year, decimating currants and gooseberries alike, and forcing me to go out and squish nasty green worms all summer.  I refuse to use chemicals on general principal, but those worms may make me change my mind.  Even the chickens won’t eat them, so I’m not the only one who thinks they are nasty!

The rest of the garden veggies did amazingly well, winning me several ribbons at the State Fair this year.  I even got an overabundance of corn – enough to freeze a bit!  I think it was because I went ahead and paid for a professional soil test last fall (from blinc.com for only $16.50), and learned that my garden was significantly low in potassium (K), necessary for stem development and disease resistance.  All I added this year was greensand in copious amounts.

The homemade earthboxes for the greenhouse worked wonders once again.  They are so easy and carefree I sometimes neglected the greenhouse for a week, only to discover a few cucumbers or tomatoes had passed their prime in my absence and had to be relegated to the hogs.

Speaking of hogs, I have to brag on my son, David, for all his work with his 4-H hogs this summer.  His hog placed 8th out of 41 hogs, and he has great ambitions for next year.  The other hog he raised for us is quite the tasty treat, and he is proud to have provided for the family.  Next year he plans on broadening his 4-H horizons and growing a few cabbages and pumpkins to enter in the fair.  I am thrilled to have hog manure for the garden and raspberry patch, especially since I’m not the one that has to clean it out of the hog pen.

Well, that’s it for my garden year.  I wish you all the best extended harvest season and a moose-damage free winter.