The Home Fruit Orchard: Plums & Pears

Part of our home fruit orchard consists of several plum trees. I believe we have four varieties: Kaga, Toga, and Italian (Stanley) Prune Plums. I’ve been watching the trees since it appeared that we were going to have plums to harvest. Today, one of the trees had some that were ripe enough to pick. I believe they are Kaga plums, which are a Japanese-American Hybrid. These fruits are smaller than some of the other types of plums but highly flavorful and often aromatic, as well.

Kaga Plums from our home fruit orchard. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018

In the past, when plum harvests have been bountiful, I’ve made some plum raspberry jam.  When I picked today that was on my mind. But, after I cleaned and tasted  the plums, I decided we must have some for dinner in a light chopped fruit salsa type dish to go with our grilled chicken. I am hoping that by Wednesday, I’ll be able to make some jam.



Our pears are also producing and ready to be harvested soon. Unfortunately, we had a problem with our pear trees this year that prompted me to contact an extension agent. My husband noted curling stems and leaves early on in the summer. It since has been determined that this is probably a local soil issue caused by the wet weather cycles that have alternated with heat waves this year.  We have a densely clay soil covering most of our acreage, leading us (and the extension agent) to believe the roots need some aeration. Most probably the curling is being caused by a lack of oxygen and nutrients that are the result of compacted clay soil preventing the roots from being able to adequately do their job. Unfortunately, our trees are mature and the process of aerating and mixing in organic matter as suggested by the extension agricultural education agent was daunting and untenable. We thought about poking holes into the soil around the base of these trees but also considered that we might damage the roots in the process. So, we’ve done nothing. The trees have continued to produce fruit and the leaves have remained green, although are still curling from the petiole right down the veins to the tips. Our harvest is large, but the pears are not (see photo). I do not believe this is fire blight or pear leaf curling midge as some of the symptomatology is missing for both of those diseases. I truly think is is a saturated clay soil that is decreasing oxygen availability to the roots. The extension agent was in agreement.

Pears from our home fruit orchard. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018.

Fruit is tricky. So much of a good harvest depends on weather patterns, the absence of disease, growing and/or environmental conditions, and care. We’ve grown fruit for as long as we’ve lived in the mid-west, which is close to two decades. Some years are bountiful and we are happy to share with friends. Some years are not, and then we spend some time trying to figure out exactly what it was that went wrong.  This is one of those years. A wet but hot spring and early summer, compacted clay soils, and trees that perhaps are getting a little large to manage all played a part in this year’s bounty, or lack there of. I’ll take the plums we can harvest, savoring every sweet bite and preserving some for a mid-winter treat when the orchard is nothing more than brown branches covered in snow. I know that is when the plum will be the sweetest on my tongue.





2 Thoughts

  1. Sorry to hear about these challenges. I am waiting for our first crop of damsons. Our plum has produced about three fruit this year; I had thought it might have become biennial because last year’s crop was small (and the year before was huge), but there must be some sort of issue with it. However we have had the most fantastic peaches this year, and the apples and pears are all looking good. Like you say, it is swings and roundabouts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huh! What you shared is interesting. We have found that it varies year to year. We had a boom harvest in 2015 when we were able to freeze cherries, make plum jam, and 40 gallons of apple cider. Pear came in strong the following year, but not much else. Last year was great for cherries, apples, and pears. This year our blueberries had a good harvest. We’ve not had good luck with peach trees, they do not seem to survive our winter here (even though we get a tree variety for our zone). We are trying apricots but one of two trees has already died. I guess you just have to take what you can get, when you can get it and enjoy! Thanks!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s