I have been contemplating many changes on the farm. For the last several years our apples and pears, always have a good fruit set, but for some reason the Italian Prunes, aren’t as happy here. Italian Prunes are mostly self-fertile, meaning that they do not need an additional plum variety to cross pollinate.
Our plum blossoms are awesome, the trees are loaded with white flowers. But they start blossoming earlier than the apple and pear trees. The new weather pattern seems to be warmer earlier, waking up the trees followed by a cold snap. The new weather pattern for our farm appears to be not as favorable for early plum blossoms and fruit set.
I love Italian Prunes, but when they don’t pollinate and set fruit it is disheartening. Then the trees switch to growth mode and instead of growing fruit, they grow more WOOD! And as much as I love pruning and its peacefulness, pruning to prune is not a productive use of a farmer’s time.
We have been getting a crop every 3 to 4 years. I could spray pollen, but even that requires pollinators to spread it from tree to tree. And I am the type of farmer that works with nature and, if I need to manufacture an environment to grow something, I am less willing to do it. There are plenty of other crops that like to grow around here.
I think if my farm was on a hill, the plums may pollinate better. Farming in the valley bottoms is colder and damper and, maybe, the reason they are less conducive to an early fruit set. When Gary Lund at S & S Mowing was out this winter to mow the blackberries around the fence line, (no Roundup used around here) I asked him, “do you have bucket attachment for that mower?” If you know Gary, he got that smile and asked me, “Why?” At that moment the die was cast and the next day he dug up all 36 trees. Ten years of work gone in a few hours and all that was left was a pile of branches that would make every beaver west of the Mississippi green with ENVY!
When you farm, making choices like this come down to dollars and common sense. This year I am going to grow lettuce and cucumbers where the plums trees once graced our farm. It is good, a new chapter if you will.
And our first seedlings of lettuce are already up and will be ready to go out at the end of March. Let the growing begin!