I used to think I understood that phrase completely. It means being rewarded for hard work, right? After several years of growing fruits, vegetables and flowers, I’m not so sure it’s accurate – the fruits are the least labor-intensive of the bunch.
Take these blueberries, for example. They were planted years before I got here, at the upper edge of the pond. Thanks to centuries of decayed sphagnum moss (We do live in a reclaimed swamp, even if the reclaiming part was done in the early 19th century.) they have the acidic soil they love, plenty of moisture, and plenty of sun. All I do is make a few judicious pruning cuts each March to remove the dead wood, weed and mulch in the spring, and happily munch on them for the entire month of July. They’re so productive, I don’t even mind sharing with the birds – I still get plenty for the freezer.
We have 2 apple trees in the cultivated front-half of our property, along with a host of wildlings in the (mostly) uncleared back two acres. Well, actually there are three, but the dwarf tree at the end of the driveway isn’t sited as well, and never produces. The Big Guy’s been here for 20 years or so, planted by John as part of what was intended to be an alley of fruit trees along the driveway. He can’t remember the variety of apple, but they’re tasty. It’s mostly left to fend for itself, with an occaisional pruning. If I wanted more, or bigger fruit from it, there are other things that could be done, but it keeps us in fruit for months just the way things are.
My father’s comment the first time he saw the Little Guy was something like, “I have never in all my life seen a tree like that!” This espallier tree was purchased and planted about 4 years ago in the Kitchen Garden. It has 3 varieties (Gala, Fuji, and Liberty) grafted onto a single trunk in a three-tiered design. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but to get a good, full-body shot, I’d have to stand in the cucumbers. Not going to happen. It takes very light pruning in the winter, and again at mid-summer to keep it in shape, and thinning the fruit to keep the bearing spurs from breaking. More work than the Big Guy, but no ladder needed for harvest! Grafting and training are skills I don’t have, but would love to acquire. Just looking for a teacher.
Pity my poor pear tree. Or is it trees? Another survivor of the original alley, it appears to have begun life as a Bosc pear grafted onto a more vigorous Bartlett rootstock. At some point, the rootstock was allowed to grow a trunk of its own up alongside the Bosc. It’s now the healthier of the two. The Bosc is kinda’ sickly, but as it pollinates the Bartlett, and vice-versa, for what it’s worth, I can’t take it down until I can replace it with another, healthier variety. (pears are not self-fertile. They require pollination by a different variety to produce fruit.) Other than to pick the pears, I don’t touch this tree unless a branch breaks or dies.
Red- and blackcurrants are my kind of fruits. Planted last spring, browsed by marauding deer, and mostly ignored by me, they have given me a small but respectable harvest already. I will admit to throwing a bird-net over them. They set fruit last year after they were planted, but the robins ate every berry! This year, they’re for me.
That’s a quick run-down of our cultivated fruit, but it’s by no means the only fruits that grow here. I’ll share those with you soon…