Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tough Year for Gardening

I love gardening, and harvesting the bounty of fruit, lavender, mint and other beauties from the garden.  But I'm always humbled by how unpredictable the outcomes can be, and glad that my livelihood does not depend on the harvest.

Last year I had such a huge harvest of apples from our regular (not espalier) apple tree, that I was drying apple chips continually for weeks and weeks.  This year it had so few that we didn't even pull out the ladder to pick them, I just picked up the apples as they fell, and used them for making juice.  Nearly every one had a worm in it.

Two years ago, our Japanese plum tree bore hundreds of pounds of plums, and again, I had to make an effort to give them away to friends and family, and find uses for them.  This year, it had maybe 50 or 60 plums, and one ripe one fell, I ate it, and I tested a few others on the tree, and they seemed almost ripe also.  So I was planning to go out on the weekend to pick them, but when I arrived, the tree had been stripped clean.  Likely our local squirrels, who were also noticing that they were ripe.

Similarly, we often get a huge haul of grapes (this post shows only half the 2014 harvest), and I make juice, usually a combination of grape (which is quite tangy) and apple (which is mild) - see this post from 2014.  Today I discovered the vines quite battered and pulled from the shed, as it seems the squirrels have been climbing the vines, and some of the bunches were already stripped clean.  So I picked the remainder today, even though they are not as ripe as I would like :
That one basket, and not even very full, was the complete harvest.  So I've been making juice all morning, combining the grapes, and the apples (from both the upright tree as well as the espaliers, both of which were full of worms) :
I also went out and picked more blackberries, and added those too, so the juice is coming out quite pink :
As I'm feeling lazy, and we already have lots of jars of homemade juice in the pantry, I'll only seal into jars the juice which I don't think we can drink in the next week or so.

I have been canning quite a few times this year already.  We had a huge haul of red currants earlier this summer :
...and we came to the end of our mint syrup (it is great on ice cream, in lemonade, and even just mixed with water to make a minty drink).  So I made quite a few batches of mint syrup, as well as the currant juice, and some lavender syrup too:
On the gardening side, I had too many run-ins with wasps this year.  First I discovered the hard way (as I was stung in the hand) an in-ground nest near our Italian plum tree, and managed to kill off that colony, after unleashing a full can of wasp killer into their nest, and then following it up with a few hours of drowning the following day (as the poison alone didn't seem to do the trick).

Then I was stung in the back as I stood at my Japanese plum, not even doing anything.  And chased several times by what seemed to be a black wasp, who buzzed around my head, and didn't hesitate to follow me all the way across the yard, as I ran away.  Then I stepped into the crocosmia at the base of our butterfly bush, behind our Japanese plum and cherry trees, and was viciously attacked by a wasp who chased and stung me in the back, the arm, and the back of the head.  I waited a few minutes and tried to go back for my tools, and he stung me in the hand and chased me across the yard again.

This time, I decided not to be a hero, and called a pest control company, and they sent out their expert in wasp suit, who located a nest of the black wasps behind the fence, hidden in some bushes.  He neutralized and removed it, and sprayed the area with poison powder, to kill off any lingering wasps.

About a week later, I was lopping branches from our cherry tree in that same corner, and suddenly was surrounded by black wasps.  Then I saw the nest, which was up in a branch of the cherry tree, about 7' off the ground, about the size of coconut (without husk).  So I called the same pest control company, and they removed it also.  This removal was free, as it was in the same area where I was reported that I was stung.

Today I noticed lots of yellow wasps hovering over the ground.  It is a common practice this time of year.  But a few took interest in me as I walked by, so I was cautious and retreated each time.  I've been stung far too many times for my comfort.

Anyhow, such is gardening and life.  Unpredictable, and we take the bad with the good, and hope for better next year.


Tim said...

One would've expected with the hot summer we've had that there would be a bountiful harvest, but I guess there's more than just temperature as a determining factor for yields. A warm spring might have more to do with it then, what with pollination happening at that time.

Garden Lily said...

Tim, you are SO right. I seem to remember that this Spring was very wet, so although many of the fruit trees were heavily in blossom, the pollination was not able to occur to the levels of previous year. The trees may also have self-pruned some of the fruit because of the heat and lack of water. So various factors involved, little within my control, which is why gardening is so humbling.

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