I can't believe how much the currants are growing in my yard. I think they like the cool, wet weather. I think of them growing in England and Ireland. I have hardly seen those evil worms that are often eating up all of the foliage this year. Last year, the currants got burned up by the heat and I was hardly able to eat any of them. Dried up, no flavor, tasting like dust. What a difference a year makes!
A number of things have really taken off in my yard. I was on a business trip for the last two weeks, and the amount of growth took me by surprise. Especially on my mature trees.
John S.: "What a difference a year makes!".
Yes indeedy-do! This year is quite different from the last! ...I don't necessarily like a "cabbage year", but, on the other hand, with several consecutive years of drought I can't help but be grudgingly happy for the extra rain and cool weather. Spring flowering plants -- when they've finally come into flower -- have lasted a long time in good condition (--to my wife's pleasure, given that she likes to grow cut-flowers).
While I appreciate the rain that we've gotten to help compensate for several years of drought, the cool temperatures and regular rains have, I believe, reduced the number of flowers that were pollinated. Thus, fewer fruits produced. Here we are in mid-June and I've seen far fewer pollinating insects flying than those that I've observed in previous years. So be it. That's the nature of "farming". Thankfully, while we have "unnaturally cool" temperatures here in the PNW (read: formerly normal"), apparently east of us folks are experiencing record-high temperatures....
Thank god for what we've got. There are vegetables, grains, crops, that I wanted to grow this year that wouldn't mature if I sowed them. Bummer. But I have to appreciate the rain that is helping to replenish the moisture in our soil.
[I'm not a good singer, but: "The times, they are, a-changin'...." ....Hmmm. What were the '60s, some fifty or sixty years ago?....]
Dylan's "The times They are a Changing" made no reference to the weather.
For that, I suggest:
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head (...nothing's worrying me...)
A Rainy Night in Georgia (...I feel it's raining all over the world...)
Rainy Days and Mondays (...always get me down...)
Rain (...I don't mind...)
Fruit set at my place is meager. The mature trees, apples, cherries, pears, have minimal fruit this year. I know Johns currants are doing great. How are your trees doing everybody? Berries?
Chris in Philomath.
I have noticed fewer apples and pears. We had the driest April ever last year, which is the most crucial month for pollination. That would be the most key time to get those bees out doing their thing. I seem to have a lot of plums and cherries, though. I grow varieties that do specifically well here in the PNWet.
John do you have a book(s) for varieties that have worked well in the PNW? Or is it just years of experience?
Varieties that set decently this year for me:
Nadia Cherry Plum
AU Producer Plum
Howard Miracle Plum (relatively, its a shy bearer for me)
Quince (so far)
No pears, generally low set on apples except for my espaliers, very low European plum set, low cherry set.
No. Yes. Here's some info from Doug Bullock that I found very helpful. He is one of the brothers that have created one of the most impressive Permaculture farms in the PNW, west of Seattle.
Doug Bullock’s Recommendations for Fruit Trees in PNW
At my permaculture design course last weekend the guest speaker was Douglas Bullock, of the
well-known Bullock Brothers Permaculture Homestead on Orcas Island. Douglas was lecturing
on the overall topic of soil, and specifically spoke about nitrogen-fixing plants, sheet mulching,
microclimates, and last but not least, orchard design and his personal fruit tree recommendations
He gave me permission to pass along his recommendations for fruit to plant in the Maritime
Northwest, which included best of breeds for apples, plums, peaches, pears, mulberries, kiwis,
hawthornes, and figs. His recommendations were heavily focused on Seattle, however all of the
varieties mentioned below would be pretty good for Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, and the rest of
Western Washington, Western Oregon, and similar parts of British Columbia.
Good Early Apple Varieties: Vista Bella, Oriole, Discovery, Gravenstein
Good Mid-Season Apple Varieties: Hudson’s Golden Gem, Zestar, Jonagold, Cox’s Orange
Pippin, Splender, Sweet 16, Molly’s Delicious, Spartan. He also included Karmijn de Sonaville,
with the provision that it needs a good hot summer in order to taste good – otherwise it’s not so
Good Late Season Apple Varieties (Savers): Melrose, Mutsu, Ashmead’s Kernel, Gala
Good European Plum Varieties: Rhina Victoria, Bleu de Belgique, Italian Prune, Seneca (big,
juicy and sweet), Elma’s Special, Red Washington, Damson (good for jams)
Good Japanese Plum Varieties: Beauty (very heavy producer that will break branches, but it
doesn’t keep well), Shiro (also heavy producer, but no broken branches, and makes a great plum
wine), and Methley
Good Peach Varieties: Frost, Avalon Pride, and Q18
Good Pear Varieties: Comice, Bosc, Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Orcas, Ubileen, Harrow Delight, and
a new one that will be for sale soon called Suij (pronounced like “sigh”, it’s a half comice / half
winter pear and it tends to ripen in March or April, so it’s great for fresh winter fruit)
Good Mulberry Varieties: Illinois Everbearing, Lavender (good for drying), Persian (needs a
very sunny spot, and interestingly has more chromosome than any other living thing)
Good Hawthorne Varieties: Super Spur Mayhaw
Good Fig Varieties: Hands down, without a doubt, Douglas recommended Desert King Figs,
because it has a high-quality first crop, which is rare among most of the breeds that are designed
to have a great 2nd crop. The 2nd crop is OK down in California, but up here in the Northwest
we never get 2nd crops, so we have to make the best of the first crop.
Douglas’s recommendation was to call Burntridge Nursery and see what they recommended. He
did say chestnuts were good if you had a squirrel problem – I can’t remember the reason he gave
us, but squirrels avoid them for some reason.
Paw Paw Varieties:
He said there are few Paw Paw varieties that will ripen well in Seattle. If your goal is for good
production and you don’t care about messing around with more experimental varieties, he’d
recommend skipping on the Paw Paws.
Vine Choices: Hardy Kiwi, Fuzzy Kiwi, or Grape
He also gave a super easy guide to deciding between kiwi and grape vines based upon soil and
Poor Soil, Good Sun: Plant a grape vine
Good Soil, Poor Sun: Plant a hardy kiwi
Good Soil, Good Sun: Plant a fuzzy kiwi
General Advice on Food Forests:
Most of the primary issues with fruit in Seattle are made worse by excessive moisture and
crowding. Douglas advises to take this into heavy consideration when planning a food forest type
orchard. He recommends looking into atypical plant and tree choices to avoid issues like apple
maggot, and to give your trees good space. Also, keep a blank space in your mulch around the
base of the tree, or you’ll run the risk of small rodent’s chewing the base off and killing your tree
The last time I looked I had lots of Nadia fruits that set too. It takes a while to understand how fruit sets without pollinators, and Nadia is one that will do that. Without pollination it (Shiro plum as well) will form from DNA from itself. Not to be confused with some plums or other fruit types that set from selfing as a result of it's own pollen.
The above method is apomixis or parthencarpy. However between Nadia and Shiro there is a big difference in PNW sellfing without pollen, in that Nadia is more moody. Meaning in wet (ie. unpollinated conditions) Nadia often produces nothing while Shiro is more consistent.
My Nadia follows Jafar, who is in the similar airstream I'm in.
There's this much about DNA substitution of pollination in order to not be pollen reliant, but with so many more variables no wonder we per PNW are almost all forgotten. My Shiro happens to be on St Julien A for 30 years and my Nadia is tested in 2 other plum stock types.
Nadia and Shiro are hybrids that conceivably can produce pollen but sonetimes could for me only on other plum types. Under magnification the pollen looks pretty scantly populated too.
As far as pears. Even though flowers got covered in snow there had been a seller pollinated crop. It was nice to not need thinning for the first time. It's Janpanese (Asian, round, or nashi) pears which tend to self pollinated by touching pistils to anthers within the flower.
The only sweet cherries I get this year are those I could reach flowers for with a brush.
I forgot to mention Shiro. Its got a full load, but won't need as much thinning as the last couple of years. Its very reliable. As I assume Beauty will be here, once it starts bearing.
SE PDX sweet cherry trees in parking strips have significant crops, are currently dropping good-looking fruit.
There were a lot of bumblebees (2 species) around last spring, very active on cool days where few or no honeybees present.
We picked our first red raspberries a few days ago, 10 days behind 2021 date.
Our cherries are minimal compared to last year and still green. This time last year I was eating them and just about done. Had some from the farmers, they were very good. I wish I had asked what the berry farmers are growing by tree, maybe next week.
Chris in Philomath
John do you get much bird pressure on your currants?
The reason I am asking is for our future garden. We are building a garden and plan currants and gooseberries among other things(blues, caneberries, perennial veg). On BBC gardeners world, Monty had his currants and gooseberries under bird netting. We have some bird losses on the apples and grapes, but it is really not impacting the overall crop much. We are also growing herbs but Birds and insects do not care for herbs. I have not grown currants or gooseberries. We grew caneberries in SOCAL, the birds ate a few but again mostly not a big deal. I will see this year how kiwis do, last year there was no fruit.
The birds don't bother with them. They've got other better options.
On another note on this thread, I've noticed that those annoying currant worms showed up while I was on vacation. It makes sense that they would come later, in that most everything is ripening later.
Thanks John, its very helpful. I don't know if we have currant worms here, we have no currants yet! If I see currants or gooseberries at the farmers market I will ask. Glad nets are not a thing. I had them over the blueberries in SOCAL and the Berries grew through them, rather skip it if I can.
The currant worms eat the leaves rather than the fruit. It may be a few years until they find you, or never, depending on how isolated you are from other currant growers. Like I believe Jafar said, the black currants seem to have too strong of a fragrance for them to bother them.
I've only seen currant worm damage on my gooseberries, not on my black currants.
The black currants sometimes have some kind of maggots, I assume Spotted Wing Drosophila.
For the above discussion about currants and gooseberries, there are two pest insects at work here:
The sawfly Nematus ribesii, Imported Currantworm, eats the leaves.
The fruit fly Euphranta canadensis, Currant Fruit Fly, punctures, eats, and ruins the fruit.
^early fruit drop is a sign of this pest. It can affect all types of currants.
Both of these insects have caused us to remove plantings twice, years apart, at this location.