Peaches

Our garden plot had a peach explosion in June.  Early June, small peaches lined our peach tree’s thin branches like strings of beads. It was bittersweet to pick the immature fruit, but necessary to allow growing space and branch support for some peaches to reach full size. By mid June many small peaches dropped on their own. The picked peaches were fed to our compost bin.

The dropped peaches were nibbled by mystery critters. I had to step around pits and half eaten peaches to pick the peaches off our tree. Many were too high to reach without standing on a ladder or bending a branch.  By the end of June, we had many ripe peaches that dripped sweet juice with each bite or slice. We are amazed that our once scrawny peach tree purchased on clearance at Home Depot a couple years ago was so productive this year.

 

 

 

First Peach 2016

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Our two year old peach tree produced fruit for the first time.  The two peaches we picked tasted amazing!  Juicy and sweet.  When I cut through the soft skin fuzz, the peaches nearly fell apart.  Juice squirted.  The peach flesh slipped through my fingers.  I gathered it up with a spoon and offered some to my son. Yummy and sugary!  There is nothing better than growing and eating fruit from your own yard.

In June, there were many small peaches on the tree, but by July we could only find two.  There were no peaches on the ground around the tree. The little peaches completely vanished.  It is a mystery.   Did birds pick the peaches off the branches? Did the peaches drop prematurely and a rabbit, squirrel or other fortunate critter eat them up from under the tree?

Now our peach tree has beetles eating through the leaves.  I shook the tree and several beetles fell to the ground.  The beetles are munching leaves beyond my reach.  What kind of beetles eat peach tree leaves? What is the best way to get rid of the beetles?  Did the beetles eat the little peaches?

I know our gardening season 2016 is off to a great start when both juicy fruit and questions are produced.

Help for Our Lemon Tree

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Our lemon tree is covered with fragrant white blossoms and tiny lemons.

In October, we brought the tree indoors to our west facing kitchen slider window, but it needed more light.  The leaves began to turn yellow.  We did not want a repeat of last year’s winter of bare branches so we added light, fertilizer, drainage, humidity and mobility.  Some tiny lemons are holding on and the leaves are getting greener.  Our interventions are working so far.

A grow light hangs above the tree shining light for 12 hours a day. Now our kitchen has a Florida glow to warm the cold mornings and evenings. Lemon trees are sun loving. The best indoor place for a lemon tree is a south facing window that lets in sunlight all day unlike our window that lets in only afternoon sunlight.    The tree is set on a pile of river rocks inside a wheel based stand to allow drainage, humidity and easy turning.  It is rolled around so all the leaves get natural sunlight, too.  We feed our tree Jack’s Classic Citrus FeEd (recommended by gardeners at Sun Nursery) during its weekly watering.  Lemon trees do not like soggy roots.

Our family study the plant daily.  We all look for tiny lemons and wish for a winter watching lemons grow.

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My Lemon Tree has Flowers

Lemon Flower Cluster

Our kitchen smells like a fragrant garden from my blooming lemon tree. It has at least 35 flower clusters. Last winter, I brought the tree indoors, but it dropped all of its leaves. Through Spring and Summer, it stayed on our deck and grew healthy green foliage but no fruit. Before Storm Sandy hit our region, my husband brought the tree indoors. He set it in a sunny spot next to a warm air vent. There was one small lemon already growing on it, but within a few weeks, it was covered with many white buds.  Since there are no pollinators or windy conditions in our kitchen, I must be the pollinator.  This is how to pollinate….

1. Brush anthers (yellow finger-like part) with brush or Q-tip to collect the pollen.
2. Rub pollen on stigma (tall center part) to cover it with pollen.
3. Repeat often.

I am hoping for many Meyer lemons from my indoor tree.

Garden Info Center Helps My Semi-Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree

Thanks to the Garden Information Center at the University of Maryland!

I emailed them my questions and in less than a week they replied with some solutions for my winter weary lemon tree.

My question:
I have a dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree. It produced over 15 lemons this fall. We brought the plant indoors and recently we noticed that the leaves started to turn yellow. Prior to that, some of the green leaves looked puckered and munched on. Do you know what causes this?

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The Garden Information Center’s answer :

The yellowing may be due to low light levels, nutrient deficiencies, and possible insect problems. During the winter the plant is dealing with low light levels and not actively growing. It is going through a rest period and older leaves may yellow and fall. You should also check for spider mites and scale insects(sucking insects) .

You should also check the root system and make sure the plant is not pot bound. You may see surface roots or roots coming from the bottom of the container hole. Repot with new potting mixture or top dress the mixture with fresh potting soil.

Do not feed the plant until the lighting improves in the late winter-spring (usually sometime in March). Provide at least four hours a day of direct sunlight. Place outdoors in bright light during the summer. Give an actively growing citrus a high potash, tomato type fertilizer every two weeks. Shorten overlong shoots of citruses by two thirds in early spring.

Looks like I need to let it rest in a sunny spot, spray it with Captain Jack organic insecticide, top dress it with more potting soil and feed it at the end of winter.
Thanks University of Maryland Agriculture Extension!

Candied Lemon Peel

Don’t throw away your lemon, orange or grapefruit peels! They are packed with intense citrus flavor perfect for a homemade sweet, crisp and chewy fruit candy. I followed an easy recipe for candied lemon peels on the LunaCafe blog. Her stunning bright yellow lemon photos inspired me to try her recipe.  I made a half pint of delicious lemon candy from four of our homegrown lemons. The candied lemon peels taste like a natural lemon gum drop.  They are not sour or bitter.  The candy will stay fresh for several weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

My Lemon Tree

The weather is getting cooler so I will need to bring my Semi-Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree into the house soon.  Its lemons have finally turned completely yellow after being green and the same size for over 3 months.  Sometimes I wondered if the tree was actually a lime tree.  But my husband knew it was a lemon tree.  He gave it to me this year for Mother’s Day.

This past weekend, I picked 5 lemons from the tree.  I squeezed one lemon.  Its juice was sweeter and its peel was thinner and more tender than store bought lemons.  I mixed the juice from one lemon with hot water and a few drops of Stevia to make a soothing vitamin C rich drink for my husband who was sick with a cold.

I discovered that lemon zest can be frozen and lemon peels can be made into candy!  I plan to try this recipe for candied lemon peel.  I will let you know if it tastes as good as it looks.

The lemons took awhile to ripen, but they are ready at just the right time for cold and flu season and holiday baking and candy making!

Making Apple Sauce

Last weekend we went to an apple farm in Biglersville, PA. It was apple heaven.   There were over 20 large bins at least 3 feet tall on pallets filled with many varieties of apples.  We only paid $10 for 2 overstuffed plastic grocery bags of apples (about  50 pounds of apples).   The Courtland and Golden Delicious apples were recommended for making applesauce so we filled one bag with only those two varieties.  We filled the other bag with Fuji, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome and Jonagold.

We canned 8 and 1/2 quarts of sugar-free homemade applesauce this week!   Our Kitchen Aid Fruit and Vegetable Strainer practically made the applesauce for us.  We cut the apples into chunks and cooked them in a 12 quart pot without removing the skin or seeds.   Once the apples were cooked down into a soft mush we strained them through our Kitchenaid Strainer and poof… applesauce without any skin or seeds! We still have lots of apples left for baking, snacking and making caramel candy apples on a stick.

My son reminded me that apples have a star inside.  He asked, “Mommy, which way do you cut an apple to get the star?”  Horizontally.  While I chopped the apples, my son learned the meaning of horizontal and vertical and I marveled at God’s beautiful design work.  Apples are an autumn star.

The Flooding Rain

rope holding up Rose of Sharon

In the last 48 hours we had over 8 inches of rain fall in our area! There are major roads flooded, old stone walls in historical areas toppled by rushing water, trees uprooted and rivers rising over bridges. Our hearts go out those who suffered loss from the flooding rain.

The rain impacted our garden a little. Our Rose of Sharon bush almost toppled to the ground. I wrestled it to an upright position, wrapped rope around it and tied it to our deck post this morning. We have not been to our community garden plot since all the rain, but the seeds we planted on Monday are probably all washed away. I am glad my broccoli and brussel sprout plants are protected with row covers. The fragile lettuce seedlings in our salad table were smashed by all the rain so I propped an umbrella over them and they perked up. Our potted lemon tree prefers hot, dry weather so I brought it into the house. Now, the tree’s branches droop less from the eleven golf ball size green lemons on it.

I hope it stops raining soon.

Harvest Monday – September 5th

hot peppers, sweet potato leaves and eggplant
This week we planted more than we harvested. We planted turnips, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, radishes and several kinds of leaf lettuces. We pulled out the last of our tomato plants and one pepper plant. Our gourd and sweet potato vines are spreading everywhere. We picked bags of sweet potato leaves. I plan to lightly saute the leaves, put them into quart size bags and freeze. I made a tasty Asian rice noodle soup with the sweet potato leaves. The leaves are thick enough to hold up well in soup.
cut figs

We picked more figs from our backyard fig tree.  I drizzled the figs with a sweet sauce of melted butter, honey, cinnamon and salt then baked them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. They were yummy on their own or on top of ricotta cheese.

Our Harvest Totals for this week: eggplant 2 pounds, figs 1.75 pounds, sweet potato leaves 2.5 pounds, hot peppers 1 pound.

Total Harvest this week: 5.25 pounds
Total Harvest this season: 262.35

Check out Daphne’s Dandelions, the host of Harvest Monday, for more harvest totals from other gardeners.