One is wise to cultivate the tree that bears fruit in our soul – Henry David Thoreau
Protecting the Harvest
Fruit trees can be a great addition to the garden if you have the space. But protecting the harvest requires just as much attention as other fruiting crops. The beginning of spring ushers in an abundance of beautiful pink and white fruit blossoms which transform into small fruits after the flowers wilt. This year, we noticed an abundance of fruit on our two-year-old trees by late April. However, a few weeks later we became aware that many of these young fruits had been hijacked. The main culprit was undoubtedly the many birds who we share the neighborhood with. So, we knew that we had to add a protective netting to salvage the rest of the fruit. But before we added the netting it was important to sacrifice a few more young fruits for the greater good – a process commonly known as fruit thinning.
Thinning the Fruit
From our research, we learned that it is important to thin the fruit on your trees so that each remaining fruit can grow to its full potential. Although it is not rewarding to sacrifice what seems like perfectly good fruit, we learned that it is necessary. When the fruit on the tree is grown too close together it stunts the growth of each fruit and creates a bitter taste. Therefore, a good crop necessitates the sacrifice of a few for the good of the many.
Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal’s book, The Essential Urban Farmer, is full of great advice on many subjects – fruit tree thinning being just one of them. Following the advice in the book, we trimmed the young fruit so that there is only one fruit per cluster, and that each fruit is at least five inches away from its neighboring fruit on the same branch. Then we covered each tree with a protective netting – also known as bird netting – to ensure that we will get to harvest the fruit when it is ready.
The remaining fruit is showing significant growth in the weeks since thinning and adding the protective netting. Instead of the birds swooping to to test the ripeness of the fruit whenever they fancy, the fruit has been given space to grow in peace. Both the apples and peaches are well on their way to becoming full grown and delicious!
The Beauty of Fruit Trees
Fruit trees are a great addition to the garden because they are perennial – they come back every year – and because they are relatively low maintenance. However, given space restraints they may not be practical for every urban garden because they take up more space and give fewer fruits then some other annual crops, such as tomatoes. Dwarf fruit trees are great alternative because they require less space than average fruit trees and also can be grown in containers. Our intention is to significantly add to our fruit tree collection by next year, but this year we are making strides in our knowledge of growing, pruning, thinning, and harvesting fruit trees.
Carpenter, Novella, and Willow Rosenthal. The Essential Urban Farmer. New York, N.Y.: Penguin, 2011. Print.