Multiple factors led to it being such a good fruit year. First and foremost, we pruned our trees in mid-January when the trees are dormant. Proper winter pruning of the trees lead to stronger trees and a higher yield. After pruning, our trees are ready for flower break, which literally can start here in February depending on the weather.
During this time there are several factors that play a role in a good fruit set.
· Heavy rain, which pummels the flowers
and knocks pollen to the ground
· Bee activity for pollination
Bees are especially important because a lot of fruit trees require cross-pollination. The transfer of pollen from the male reproductive organ (an anther or a male cone) of one plant to the female reproductive organ (a stigma or a female cone) of another plant, hence the need for good honeybee activity and other native winged pollinating insects. So if we get a pleasant week with the temps in the 60°F’s (bees will not forage if the temperature is below 54°F) and the sun shining, some of the fruit trees go into bloom.
When the fruit trees are suddenly in full bloom, and then we get a system that moves in with rain and temperatures in the low 50°F’s, that results in lower bee activity, and rains knocking pollen off the flowers, which hurts the fruit set. But sometimes we luck out. This past year when most of our fruit trees were in bloom, we enjoyed a steady two weeks of nice weather with no rain. And we’ve been enjoying eating fresh peaches, plums, and apples all summer and fall.
Fruit trees fall into two categories: Self-pollinating and non-self pollinating trees. Self-pollinating trees don’t need another to complete the pollination process, Examples are: Most apricots, nectarines, peaches, and sour cherries. Then there are trees that need to be pollinated by another variety of tree. Examples are: Most apples, pears, plums, and sweet cherries.
The rest of the vegetable garden churned out an array of veggies with our typical varieties like squash, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, beans, and tomatoes carrying the bulk of the load.
Now, our fall/winter garden is planted with all fresh new starts soaking up all our lovely rain. The fall/winter crop includes: broccoli, beets, carrots, radish, turnips, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, arugula, cabbage, lettuce, kale, leeks, onions, and garlic.
As for the gardens and gardeners here at The Reserve, we like to take the winter to reflect on the past growing season to learn what worked and what didn’t. Then we look ahead to make next year even more abundant and successful.
Meanwhile this winter’s consistent rain and snow will hopefully precede this spring’s big crops. Heavy precipitation in the Napa Valley for the past few months have been reminding us of what winter—or, more literally, “rainy season”—was like before the drought. The downside is road closures and fallen trees; the upside is a full, flowing (sometimes flooding) Napa River. With the rainy season nearing its conclusion, these remaining weeks will continue to saturate our soils for the drier spring and summer ahead—until it all cycles back again this fall.
Back at our greenhouse, there will soon be young seedlings cracking through the soil and stretching towards the sky in anticipation of the beautiful, warm spring sunshine that’s just around the corner.