Fruit Crops: Good News and Bad

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The good news is that my two old apple trees have been covered with blossoms this spring — the most I’ve seen in the three and a half years I’ve been here. Possibly this is due to my diligent pruning over the last couple of years. Last year I was puzzled when I ended up with only about a dozen blossoms on both trees combined. Only later did I learn that many apple blossoms in the area had been killed by a late frost. I guess I was focused on other things at the time and never noticed.

Anyway, the abundance of apple blossoms has been especially comforting since I’ve had a major disaster with my blackberries. They were looking great just a few days earlier, then I went out one day and found most of the shoots dying back at the tips. Whole sections of the canes were dead while clumps of leaves here and there had wilted, and ants were crawling everywhere. Consulting my Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, I concluded that they probably had cane blight. I took some cane samples to the county extension office to have them analyzed, and the lab confirmed that was what it was.

Meanwhile I had cut down three of the four plants, since all the canes were affected, lest the problem should spread to the one plant that still looked healthy. Fortunately that one still looks fine almost a month later. Interestingly, it’s the one I got free at a seed swap, while the other three were purchased at a garden store. And now the others have put out new shoots.

I guess you’re supposed to dig up the affected plants and dispose of them, but I can’t afford to replace them so I’m just hoping the blight doesn’t return. Still, it’s a bummer because I was really looking forward to a good blackberry harvest!

On the plus side, though, it looks like I’ll have a bountiful strawberry harvest this year. The plants have been covered with a profusion of blossoms and now have many berries developing. So on balance, things aren’t so bad.