“That’s a perfect example of how you don’t want to do it,” he said as we stood in my personal Garden of Eden (a/k/a my back yard). He was pointing to a truncated limb on my apricot tree, and he is the guru from the University Agricultural Extension Service.
“Yep,” I said. “That looks pretty bad.”
The limb had been hacked off and many little branches sprouted out like a cartwheel. Unsightly. Who would do such a thing? Hmmm… maybe someone who didn’t know what she was doing? Who just wanted that limb to stop rubbing on the shingles and dropping apricots out of reach high on the roof where they sat and rotted? But whoever that person was, she was keeping her mouth shut.
“Now the fig is another matter,” he said as he turned around. Some branches were so low that they swept the ground, but others towered over the house in a large tangle like a brier patch. “What would you like to do with it?”
I wanted to say, “I was hoping you would tell me,” but evidently that wasn’t going to happen. When my friend Jean was visiting she had asked “Do you want fruit trees that give shade, or do you want shade trees that give fruit?” I still hadn’t decided. He was waiting for my answer.
“Well, what I really want is to get the trees to a manageable size where I can actually reach the fruit. But,” I hastened to add having seen some miserable, stunted trees at a “U-Pick-It” orchard, “I still want the trees to be large and give shade.” He nodded as if this made some kind of sense, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
“And what about the pomegranate?” he asked.
“Oh, that. I think that needs to come out. It’s 20 years old and has never had really great fruit. It never gets really ripe.” He picked one and cut it open. “Oh,” he said, “I know what this is. It’s a hybrid called a Utah Sweet. I met the man who created this,” he told me, picking out a handful of kernels. “See?” he said, “they’re pink, not red and they’re softer and sweeter.”
Well, yeah, that’s why I thought it was defective. Not at all what I expect of a pomegranate. “There are people who would practically kill for one of these,” he told me as we munched. Oh, well, guess I won’t be cutting that baby down.
We spent the next two hours with him instructing me on the proper way to prune a tree and how to “lower” a tree which meant cutting off some of the biggest, tallest branches right down, close to the trunk. It seemed drastic, but when it was done, the tree still looked good — not hacked up — and although there was still plenty of height, I wouldn’t be losing so much of the fruit. The trees had gotten so large that much of the fruit was simply unreachable. It dropped to the ground and I ended up spending a lot of time each day raking, bagging and trundling pounds and pounds of bird-pecked, rotting fruit to the trash.
I’ve tried to make a deal with the birds: You can have whatever is at the top half of the tree, and leave the bottom part for me. Nope, they just continue to peck whatever strikes their fancy — and the most maddening thing is that they don’t eat the whole fig or apricot. Oh, no. They peck out the ripest part and leave the rest.
Being the thrifty person I am, I spend a considerable amount of time cutting out the bird-pecked flesh and eating the rest myself.
So, spring is just around the corner and I’m seeing buds already on the apricot. Soon it will be in full flower — I love seeing it — and not very long after that I’ll be picking apricots and eating them right off the tree. (Sigh.) I love my little orchard. It really is like my own Garden of Eden.