I'm sitting on my porch swing, taking a breather. I was just thinking, now I know what that saying, "fruits of summer" really means. After years of watching little twigs grow into nice thick tree trunks, this season culminated in not only a bountiful peach harvest, but also brought us buckets of apples and plums as well as pails of strawberries and blackberries. The interesting thing about it is, that all of this fruit ripens within a three week period. That means you have to harvest fast and furiously or it all goes to waste. It's as if you must capture a whole year of growing before it gets away. You need to be ready to pick, peel, freeze or bottle, and that takes time! I am not complaining though. It's actually all very exhilarating to watch and wait for the fruit to plump up and turn the perfect, rich shade of ripeness.
Now that the harvest has come to an end, (only the August Pride is left to ripen), it's time to replenish the trees. We empty the compost bins once again, turning in about 4 inches of well -aged organic compost around the drip line of the trees and give them a good deep watering, (at least three feet deep). Make sure to water out as far as the branches spread. In the next few weeks we start our summer pruning. Our two and three year old trees have doubled in size, and they definitely need thinning. We are still not experts at this art, but we're getting more confident as we watch the trees grow. Where there are three new branches growing, pick one and cut the others out. You have to step back and look at the overall shape of the tree. Decide how tall you want it to grow and trim so you have space between the branches. This allows antiquate air circulation and lets sunlight through the canopy. It's important that you establish the size and shape of the tree while it's young. I like what David Masumoto, of Masumoto Family Farm (featured in Martha Stewart Living, July issue) has to say about summer pruning. "A properly trained fruit tree resembles a goblet, its major limbs trained upward from the trunk, not too straight up like a champagne glass but rather angled outward with the gentle curve of a wineglass." Mr. Masumoto is one of my heroes. He and his family have struggled to keep their heirloom peaches growing for three generations. Even though my small urban orchard does not compare to the production and work that goes into acres of farming, I am honored to participate in the change that is happening across the nation and in our local communities. Clearly, each tree planted, not only brings luscious fruit, it brings our food source closer to home.
Stay cool this summer!