Last year, we had a very late freeze, which destroyed every blossom on every fruit tree on our place. We got nada for fruit. This year we had a normal cold winter with plenty of rain. We just missed a killing late freeze, and got our bees set up just in time for a major effort at pollination. All that to say, this spring we have had a truly awesome fruit set and promise of an overwhelming harvest. We have just harvested plums.
Never have I seen so many delicious plums on one tree. The secret? We did nothing. We don’t spray them with winter oil or any kind of insecticide, let alone fungicide. We lost one plum tree and one peach to borers, but we have nearly sixty-five fruit trees on the place. There are stink bugs on the rotting fruit, but no borers; and even the birds can’t make a dent in this harvest!
Each year we plant the trees that will take over the main production as the older ones turn into firewood and mulch. We have several varieties of plum to ensure vigorous cross-pollination. Our main producers are Methley and Bruce, but we
also have Santa Rosa and Wixson as well. All seem to love the sandy soil and sunshine. We do fertilize them in spring with either chicken litter or some triple-13 to provide some needed phosphorus for the blossoms. They are also mulched with hard wood chips. We have had to water them this spring because of the hot weather and being behind over 6 inches in rainfall.
Nevertheless, these four buckets of plum are one picking and we have had three pickings for storage. We eat as many as we can without getting sick—right off the tree! Nothing more gratifying than watching a grandchild stuff her mouth with juicy, entirely natural, home-grown fruit!
The not-so-fun part is pitting them and getting them ready for the freezer. We haven’t decided exactly what we want to do with them, except that it won’t be make jam. Not with all that sugar! We are leaning toward fruit leather and just a compote for breakfast and on desserts. As tedious and messy as the job is to cut up and pit the plums, a system like that shown in the picture allows two people to work and turn 50 pounds of whole plums into 25 or 30 pounds of pure fruit in less than a hour.