What did you learn in 2022 about growing vegetables or fruit?

I learned that a very early frost can damage ovaries and lead to deformed peaches. The frost was in the last week of March and killed the ovaries of all my nectarine, plum (almost all) and pears but didn’t damage the blossoms- all bloomed beautifully to the thrill of my bees. This much had happened before, but I always assumed that frost damage to fruit came after bloom and pollination.

Neither has ever been brought up in any literature I’ve encountered.

My Encore peaches have very little sugar and I don’t know if it’s related to the frost but probably is the result of better placed flower buds being destroyed and peaches all forming below the canopy instead of above- however, it didn’t hurt the quality of my other varieties nearly so much and my freezer is full of wedges of Messina peaches which handled the frost exceptionally well in spite of many deformities. Unfortunately my Autumn Star crop was meager (small, young tree) and pilfered. It is a better quality peach that always has higher brix than Encore. But Encore is amazingly productive.

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Yes, there must be somewhere on the size scale where the pests get the upper hand. But I think the drought drives many pests to be more desperate still. In the last bad drought (we had a year with normal rain in between) the nut trees were uniformly barren. I watched squirrels coming out of the woods to cross a road and get corn out of a farm field. Most managed to lug the whole ear home, but some even dragged the stalks. This year it didn’t seem to matter how large the fruit had gotten, and none anywhere near ripe when the rodents started in. I guess your clients really want fruit to pay for all the custom work with the baffles. Good job on those.

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I live less than an hour from Manhattan and most of my clients are closer and very, very rich. What they pay me is like change in their pockets for them. They don’t usually even ask me what a service will cost.

My helper does most of the baffle work and he’s crazy quick. When he lived in Ecuador he made shoes in a factory, he knows what it is to work fast and precisely.

You have managed to create a great business, and I’m sure it didn’t happen overnight. What were you doing when you got the idea of being a private contractor / fruit specialist?

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There is little consistency with my fruit with a few exceptions. Asian pears are fairly reliable. My pawpaws always come through, both wild and domestic. We picked some giants today.
Gooseberries, elderberries, and blueberries always manage a crop.
However, that danged aronia thrives no matter what.
Asparagus has been very consistent until this year. We harvested barely a third of our average, and the quality declined. It’s dying out throughout our region.
Invasive plant species are thriving.
Total retirement is looking more attractive all the time.

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I learned what huge difference a DIY hoop house can make in avoiding cold snaps and winter kill of berry canes and grape vines. Denver, Zone 5

…and that slip skin grapes are weird.

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Not fruits or vegetables, but I did get to learn which of my drought tolerant plants really mean it. I have a dry sandy site, and we were in extreme drought in our corner of New Hampshire. Some things came as no surprise: cactus, yucca, Sedum, and Texas sage were completely unfazed. Also unfazed were beach plum, bayberrry, sweet goldenrod, New York aster, purple coneflower, most of the Mediterranean herbs, sweetfern, and Baptisia australis. Plants that did pretty well, but did need some watering, were wild bergamot, anise hyssop, Solomon’s seal, and horseradish. The already pretty spotty lawn was pretty well toast; I plan to seed it over to tall fescue and clover this weekend which should be much better.

I did learn that even with fairly regular watering, my melons, gourds, and luffas were still unproductive and undersized. On a site like mine and a year like this, they probably needed a good soaking every day or two, which I did not give them. It’s also made me adjust my concept of what I can consider an “established” tree. My persimmons have been in the ground over a year and I would have considered them established. However, they clearly weren’t tapped in well enough to manage this year’s drought without supplemental watering. In a normal year they would have been fine, but it was a good reminder that they are really just semi-established until they size up substantially.

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