Sunday, May 29, 2011

Local Bees Working Hard

    I got a pleasant surprise a few days ago when I discovered my sweet cherries are setting fruit.  Last year it rained practically every day the cherries were in bloom.  I ended up with only a handful of Rainier cherries and not one cherry from my other seven cherries trees. When I say handful, I'm not exaggerating. I could literally hold my entire cherry crop in one hand.  We've had a fairly rainy spring this year too, but the trees bloomed almost a month later than last year.  There were just enough breaks in the weather by the time the cherries finally bloomed that my honeybees were able to do their job. All those blossoms turning into cherries is really a beautiful sight.

    While honeybees may be hardworking, they are not the most efficient pollinators when it comes to cherries.  I read somewhere that when a honeybee visits a cherry blossom there is only a one in thirty chance that particular blossom will set fruit.  Those are long odds.  Nature compensates in several ways.  First, a cherry tree produces many more blossoms than it needs for a full fruit crop. On the other hand, the bees bring such a large numbers of workers to the table that in good weather most blossoms get visited more than once.

    One of the reasons I have six different varieties of sweet cherries is as a hedge against our variable spring weather.  I have one each Lambert, Bing, Rainier, Hudson, Lapins, and an unknown variety purchased from Home Depot. It was labeled as a Montmorency pie cherry but turned out to be a sweet cherry.  I love sweet cherries and each year hope springs eternal that I'll actually get a good crop from them.  I usually get some cherries every year, but rarely do I get as many as I'd like and I've only had extra cherries to can one year so far.  The Rainier cherry is doing the best this year with the unknown variety coming in a close second. The poorest is the Lambert, but I never expect any cherries from it.  It blooms first and I don't think I have another cherry that blooms early enough to pollinate it well. Even the Lambert looks like it will have at least a few cherries on it this year..  However, in spite of the Lambert's consistently poor track record in fruit production I won't be cutting it up for firewood anytime soon.  It has the very important function of holding up one end of my hammock all summer long.

    My two pie cherry trees, a Monmorency and a Surefire, are just now coming into bloom. They are both fairly young trees. Even if they produce well this year I'll be lucky to get one cherry pie out of their combined crop.  The Montmorency has clear juice while the Surefire is a morello cherry with dark red juice.

      A brief rundown on the rest of the fruit crop is as follows:

      1.We'll have a light crop of Asian pears.  So far it looks like two of my four varieties have set some fruit.
      2.We can expect a good crop of plums.  The Shiro limbs ( my earliest plum) set very little fruit, but the two later varieties, Obilnaya and Santa Rosa seem to be making up for it.  I'm expecting to have sufficient plums to do some plum jam this year.
       3.We have expanded our strawberry patch again and the plants look pretty healthy with lots of blossoms forming. I'm hopeful that we'll have lots of ripe strawberries when all of the grandkids show up in late June for cousin camp.
       4. The blueberries are looking good with the exception of three plants (all Darrow) which appear to have caught some kind of disease.  I'm going to dig up the infected plants and burn them.  Last year we had fresh blueberries for several months and the grandkids never did seem to clean them out.
       5. Red and Black Currants will not be on the menu this season.  I've pruned all of the red currants so as to eliminate all fruit in an effort to get rid of my currant sawfly infestation.  I pruned the black currants way back too and I'm also going to pick all of the black currants while they are still green for the same reason.
       6. It is way too early to tell if we are going to have a good apple crop this year.  The trees blooming so late may help reduce our scab problems.  I have ten apple trees with seventeen varieties represented. (Akane, Ashmead's Kernal, Aroma, Chehalis, Jonagold, Karmijn DeSonnaville, Lodi,  Melrose, Mott's Pink, Pristine, Red Cort, Sansa, Spartan, Yellow Bellflower, Wealthy, and Winter Banana.)

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