Archive for Fruit

Pruning Kiwi Vines

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit, Pruning with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Hardy Kiwis are a treat and a somewhat unusual fruit we grow. Unlike their bigger and  fuzzy cousins (Actinidia  deliciosa) most everyone is familiar with, we grow the Actinidia Arguta, or Hardy Kiwi, which are smaller and are fuzz-less, about the size of a big grape. I think they have a more concentrated flavor then the big ones and are easier to eat (no peeling necessary) but I may be biased.

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Hardy Kiwi or Actinidia Arguta

I usually prune our vines in late winter, as soon as I have a day when I can work without  having to wear gloves to keep my hands warm. It takes a bit of detail work and lots of unwinding and de-tangleing the vines, so full dexterity is a must. We have cold snowy winters, so sometime in late February to early March is when it’s warm enough. In warmer climes anytime during the dormant season would be fine. I always try to get to them before the buds begin top pop out, all the tussling required will knock off a lot of the buds if they’re beginning to bud out, the new buds will make the growth that will have fruit on it for the current season.

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Kiwi Vine beginning to bud out

Our vines are on a trellis about six feet high with six wires about 10 inches apart, with the vines secured to the wire with plastic snap clips made for this purpose, the clips also work for grapes, raspberries etc. (see below) After a years growth the trellis is a mess of plant, kiwis are a vigorous grower and much of time it takes to prune the vine is devoted to untangling and organizing the vines.

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Kiwi Vines before pruning

The first thing I do is unsnap last years growth off the wires. Kiwis will fruit on two year old and older wood, but we’ve found that we get better quality fruit form one year old  vines. After I unsnap the two year old vines I cut them off back a ways, being cautious not to cut too far back yet, mostly to get them out of my way. Then I go about untangling the one year old growth, which is fairly time consuming, but these are the vines which will have this years fruit on them so be gentle and patient.

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The top two vines are one year old wood, the bottom are two year old

It’s easy to tell the difference between one and two year old wood, the one year old is smooth and the two has the spurs which had fruit on them last season. The new growth on the one year wood will make the spurs and flowers and fruit if all goes well. So basically we’re cutting the two year wood off back to where the the new wood comes out and then training the new down to the wires.

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The vines untangled and old wood cut off, but not yet trained to wires

I usually put two vines on one wire, sometime three depending on how much new wood I have work with. Having a lot of new wood is good, but leaving too much, and hence too much fruit, can stress the vines by over-production and result in less new vines for next year. Generally I figure that if I’m getting a lot of new growth and a good fruit load then the proportion of what I’m leaving is okay.

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Pruned and trained Kiwi Vine

After pruning and training it doesn’t look like theres  much left, but by next year it’ll be a fine mess, with plenty of growth and potential.

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Another view of trained vines AND the clips we use to secure the vines to the wires

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Elephant Heart Plums

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit with tags , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by Grouse Mt. Farm

It’s been almost five months since I harvested the Elephant Heart plums, September 18, 2012 to be exact. It wasn’t much of a harvest, often times it isn’t with this variety, for us anyway. We have three big mature trees that usually bloom prolifically but more often then not, just don’t set fruit. We’ve planted a few more varieties of Japanese plums to help with the pollination (Plums can be fickle this way) and when the weather is conducive to bees getting out and visiting the flowers, we have gotten good crops from these trees. The weather is a huge factor here too (as with most everything), it’s  often windy, cold and rainy in the spring, so bees don’t have a chance to get out and  do what they do. Other plums we have seem to never have an issue with setting fruit; Santa Rosa, Shiro, Burbank, all pretty much bloom around the same time and are consistent bearers. The Elephant heart is one of a few varieties we grow that customers ask us about when we get back to the markets in July, months before they’re ready, a favorite.

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Elephant Heart Plums, in January !

 

You might be wondering why I’ve chosen now to write about this illustrious fruit now? As I mentioned above, we didn’t get much of a harvest last fall, but we did get about a box (20+ pounds or so) which we kept for ourselves, and I’ve been eating them with my breakfast since, one or two every day. I just ate the last ones today; January 14, 2013, no foolin’! Not all were in great shape, they begin to break down with browning around the pit spreading to the skin, some of ours had browned a little, but still good to eat. Thats right, FIVE months since harvest, for a soft fruit! I wouldn’t attempt to market them this late, but to know they can last this long is a revelation to me. The longest we’ve kept them before was to just after the Thanksgiving holiday (late november) and then to just before Christmas, but into January now. Our method of storage is that I turn off the refrigerator unit in our walk in cooler when it gets cold out (November) and use the cold outside air to cool it, basically a refrigerator.

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This coming season, if we get any to set, I’d like to pick some a week or ten days before when I usually harvest them and see if they last any longer or hold up better in storage, and if they’ll ripen. It’s a bit of balancing act with fruit harvests, when a variety is destined for a long term storage it gets picked sooner then if the fruit is intended for immediate  consumption, but care must be taken to make sure the fruit is ripe enough to mature when taken out of storage and also not to pick it too ripe off the tree and too far along the ripeness spectrum as to be past prime. (Ever had a peach from the grocery store that never get sweet or ripen properly, they were picked to soon. Conversely, if you leave a peach on the tree just past it’s optimum picking window, it gets mealy and loses sweetness ) And of course it varies dramatically from fruit to fruit and also from variety to variety within the same fruit. But, Japanese plums in January that weren’t shipped halfway around the world, Yeah!!