So Cal (inland) 2021 year round fruit observations

I am starting a 2021 thread for anyone in San Diego, southern California, or similar environments so we can share our experiences growing fruit in our unique climate. We have a mild climate, so it means we can fruit something every month of the year, but there are some challenges to work around when the climate is not a perfect match.

What is going on in your yard today that was interesting? What new thing did you try? What challenge are you facing? Those are all questions of regional interest.

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Yesterday I harvested the Royal Crimson cherries, or at least about 1/3 of them. You really can’t totally know what a fruit is like until you can eat a couple bowl fulls at once. And really, a couple seasons apart and grown in different conditions. But I think I finally can compare Royal Crimson to other cherries.

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Using organza bags, I was able to leave some on the tree until peak ripeness, and was able to go past peak just to get to know the cultivar. In this photo, going to the dark red stage you see here did not improve flavor. In fact, the flesh started to get almost “jello-like.” The best specimen here was the one on the far right.

All cherries are at their best when picked fully ripe. Some, like Black Tartarian, seem to get better when picked even past that point. They almost taste like dried cherries at that point, or concentrated cherry juice.

Royal Crimson can be good but I would not describe it as high flavor. I did overwater them this spring because I was trying to get some seedlings planted below off to a good start. But I overwatered Minnie Royal and Royal Lee also, and those cultivars to me taste amazing. The cherry flavor is stronger, and there is acid to balance them out.

Royal Crimson to me tastes similar to the other self-fertile early low chill offering from Dave Wilson, Royal Tioga (a commercial variety). There are a lot of early season cherries (from a wide variety of commercial growers) that are beautiful but less flavorful and to me, Royal Crimson is like them. The positives of Royal Crimson are that it can be sweet, it is a great pollenizer, it will fruit abundantly in low chill areas, and because it can be tree ripened, it can be good.

So the summary is that Royal Crimson is good, but it is not “eat 2 pounds at once” good. It is more like 2 handfuls good. If you bought tree ripened Royal Crimson in a store, I think you would find it better than half of what is out there, but it is definitely not in the top 10%. I prefer Minnie Royal and Royal Lee.

However, as a pollenizer of Minnie Royal and Royal Lee it definitely has a role in the backyard of every cherry enthusiast in southern California. I would buy Royal Crimson and then graft in the now off patent Minnie Royal and Royal Lee.

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Here is the first apricot to color up, Apache. It is actually the only Apache apricot this year. I did have a “full crop” on my test branch once, several years ago, but otherwise this cultivar does not produce well in So Cal, even inland. Usually Nicole will ripen about a week later so I will be abandoning Apache. If you want great fruit mid-May in So Cal, don’t try Apache, put in a blueberry patch! (or strawberries)

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My blueberries seemed to start to color, and then disappear. My youngest son eats them every day so at first I assumed it was him, but we went camping and came back to the same problem. So I set up my ring camera next to the blueberry bush. I was amazed at how many times birds came to pick off one at a time.

I had tried permaculture, where there is enough biodiversity that the birds have all the insects they need so it lessens their reliance on the fruit crops. I wanted it to work, and mostly it does, but this is one area where permaculture does not seem to be enough. Of course the mocking birds are not going to be stopped from eating lots of berries. But even the spotted Towhee, which is known to prefer insects, is regularly picking off berries.

Lesson learned: unless you are growing a massive abundance of berries, exclusion is needed! I had a great patch with easy exclusion, but installed a well and had to rip it out last year.

In the meantime I have a couple fake snakes from Amazon on the way, and I am going to set up the ring camera again and see what impact it has. Obviously they will figure it out, but it might improve things.

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It’s just about far enough along to report fruit set on some of my peaches and nectarines in inland San Diego.

Full crop:

August Pride
Red Baron
Spice Zee
Midpride
Flordaprince
Double Delight
Crimson Belle
Panamint
Oktoberfest
O’ Henry
June Pride
Oldmixon
Springtime
Silver Lode
Santa Barbara
Bonita
Donut
Cal Red in morning shade

Moderate crop:
Speckled egg (one graft)
Tropic Snow
Pioneer
Sierra Blanca*
Fairtime*
Snow Queen* (on one tree)

Scant crop:
Snow Queen* (one two young trees)
Artic Glo (young tree)
Baby Crawford
Raspberry Red*
Indian free (morning shade)
Liz Late*
Cal Red* (full sun)
White Rose*

Bare sticks/failures:
Indian Cling
Peregrine
Indian free (full sun)*

*= may continue to set, small fruitlets this late in the season often fail

Caveats:
-Some of these are just test grafts, so I am extrapolating crops based on a single branch. Take this with a grain of salt:
-We had an uncharacteristically stable winter, with temps rarely going above 75
-I am near a valley so maybe I get more chill than others in So Cal
-Some high chill test grafts may have done better grafted to lower chill trees if early leafing supports holding their fruit. Thus this would not necessarily translate to independent trees.

Conclusions:
-June pride and O’ Henry outperformed expectations and actually gave a full crop so far
-Cal Red fruited well in morning shade
-Morning shade seems to make marginal varieties more productive (Cal Red, Indian Free, maybe Liz Late)

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A good alternative for this window can be Sauzee Swirl peach. DWN’s website says 400 CH, but should work in your area, I think. Harvested this yesterday, May 11. Nice flavor, but I need to better control the ants next time.

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That’s amazingly early, thanks for the rec.

I’m about 7 miles from the coast on the side of a big hill, so I’m not quite coastal but not inland valleys either (we generally subtract a few degrees from the reported inland day time temperature forecasts.) I’ve never had a frost in the 10+ years I’ve lived here. My chill hours are generally under 100.

My Spice Zee nectaplum set profusely this year and I had to prune away a bunch of fruit. Still waiting on a few branches to see if additional pruning is required. My Snow Queen nectarine looks like it will produce well this year, but not all the branches have finished setting fruit.

My Santa Rosa plum looks to have set a decent crop, but I have to hand pollinate this tree as the bees ignore it for some reason. I grafted a few other varieties onto it this year and actually had to remove some fruitlets from the new grafts.

My Gala and Pixie Crunch apples are just starting to bloom. I ripped out my Honeycrisp this winter as that was a failed experiment, just not cold enough for it.

Passionfruit is starting to bloom (just finished collecting the last of the winter fruit from it.)

Figs: Some large breba are slowly doing their thing while most of my trees have a good bit of main crop figs forming, although some of the slower ones are just getting going.

My Manila mango tree always seems to be behind the curve, but it has set a bunch of fruit. I’ll need to read up to see whether I should prune away some of the fruit. It did produce a decent amount of nice tasting, but small fruit.

I have a three pomegranate blooms, one on each Parfianka, Utah Sweet, and Desertyni. These are all potted while my in-ground Parfianka hasn’t produced anything yet.

Most of my dragonfruit are pushing new growth, but no buds yet.

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Good report! Do you get snow queen nectarines every year? If it wasn’t widely accepted as low chill I would have thought it higher chill since it’s blooms are scattered and later in the season.

This is only the second year it’s bloomed. It bloomed a week or two later than the Spice Zee and ahead of my Santa Rosa Plum. It didn’t seem too scattered, one early branch followed by the rest of the tree. My Santa Rosa tends to be a bit scattered with the bottom half blooming before the top half.

Apples are all over the place and probably bloom over the course of 2 months. The Pixie Crunch has produced profusely over the last couple of years while the Gala has only provided one or two apples. I grafted a Lady Williams apple to the Pixie Crunch. Next year I’ll try grafting the Gala to the Pixie Crunch and then maybe rip out the Gala tree if it works.

Stone fruit harvest as of mid-May:

This year nothing is fully ripe yet. Flordaprince will be the first peach but it is not yet ready. There were a couple off-timing fruit that were not as good as they should be. Nicole apricot seems to be a couple weeks late this year.

I am curious if other Southwest growers have stone fruit yet this year? Are we late on everything because of the cooler weather?

Here are the results of my chill hour fruit results in apricots:

Full crop (relative to graft size):
Blenheim
Royal
Tropic Gold
Nicole
Bonny Royal
Tomcot
Redsweet

Scant to moderate crop:
Moorpark (one tree, around 30-40 fruit)

Scant crop:
Hemskirke
Alameda Hemskirke
Steindorf
Sparks Mammoth
Apache (1 fruit on one branch)
Moorpark (one tree, around 12 fruit)

No crop:
Lorna

Comments:
-The Moorpark that did decently had nurse branches on it. I was testing the theory that inadequate chill is partially a “plant energy” issue where the poor tree has no vegetation to support the coming crop, so the fruit drop. That is how it used to look to me. With nurse branches, it seems to get better. If I was a true scientist on the theory, I would have to attempt to disprove my theory by cutting off my nurse branches next year to see if I keep cropping 30-40 apricots… no thanks! Happy with my 40 Moorparks if I can keep that going.
-The other Moorpark only fruited in the morning shadow of the eastern fence, In other words, it got a couple extra hours of chill every morning from the shadow of the fence. That did seem to help. However, it probably needed a nurse branch I believe.
-The very late flowers on Sparks Mammoth actually fruited. That was a surprise.

Conclusion:
-Bonny Royal and Nicole are great low chill choices, every year.
-High chill cultivars don’t really work in inland San Diego, but I appear to be able to get “sampler size” quantities on some cultivars.
-Morning shade may add chill hours. 2 hours/day x 4 months (120 days) = 240 additional hours. (on peaches this worked phenomenally well actually, but that is another discussion)
-Nurse branches may enable “inadequate chill” cultivars to hold their fruit while they are waiting for their vegetation to wake up.

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My earliest stone fruit is May Pride. The Dave Wilson harvest date is late May and it’s pretty accurate every year for me. My full crop looks like it’ll be ripe in about a week.

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Exciting news @JamesN, my nicole flowered but obviously the graft was not ready. Was loaded up with buds so that was cool. It was nice to see at least one branch of my tree flowered. I am also trying Palsteyn, the graft took but not too vigourous of a graft.

My stonefruit, aside from my few cherries are still rock hard (we have been eating a few of those). I do think that the weather is playing a role. Last year I harvested all of my Eva’s Pride on May 15th in Leucadia!! My arctic star is probably holding 40-50 2-3" fruit, still very hard.

I suspect that EP at your location last year would’ve harvested even earlier with the added heat.

My Eva’s arent even close yet this year. Still firm but colored up nicely.

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I am wondering about Desert Dawn nectarine. It is rated as early May for central valley but that area gets a lot warmer earlier in the year. I am curious if any coastal people actually get nectarines in early May.

@Sean, I agree this year’s temperature seems like it has been 70 degrees for 5 months straight, rarely hitting the 80s or 90s like we get most years. Almost everything seems late this year, from strawberries to blueberries to stone fruit.

I am having the last of my Royal Lee cherries. What an amazing cultivar. Although it blooms over 2 months (in my younger trees) it seems to produce fruit across that period. It is amazing how crunchy they remain even when left on the tree.

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I’ve heard good things about sauzee swirl (donut peach in early may), but I’ve been really gunshy about purchasing precisely due to the fact that I really don’t get any heat until June.

This year my Spice Zee nectaplum seems to be ahead of my Snow Queen nectarine and Santa Rosa plum. Last year the Snow Queens were picked around the end of June. So maybe mid-June for the Spice Zee? We’ll have to see as this is my first year getting fruit. The plums ripened in mid-July I believe.

This was interesting. Bella Gold Peacotum with fruit at the San Diego botanical gardens. You can see the ocean from there so it is low chill. I had heard it doesn’t fruit well but at least we know it can make some fruit in so cal.

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I’ll confirm which cultivar, though I am pretty sure it has Desert in the name, of nectarine is currently ripe at my parents property in Tustin, CA (somewhat inland, central Orange County). They say they started picking at least a week ago.