My backyard in May

The "Edwardís" mango that was frozen to a stub 2 winters ago bloomed heavily last month and was loaded with 0.5-inch long mangoes. I was not really sure how many I should keep, particularly considering that the branches carrying fruit don't seem to grow new leaves. The tree might solved this dilemma for me. The smaller fruit turned yellowish and fell, leaving 0,1 or 2 mangoes per flower stem.

Mango leaves come in flushes, a big bud starts growing and at last unfolds 4 to 12 leaves that come out all at the same time, and seem to inflate over a week to a week and a half, in bright reddish new leaves. The mango is particularly sensitive to outside influences during this process, and any stress will prevent the leaves to develop, leaving them stunted. I have a number of seedlings, but in the dry air of Phoenix many flushes end up failing.

My biggest papaya is 12 feet tall. It is located on the south side of the house, under a mesquite tree. It is too tall and the leaves are getting stuck among the branches of the mesquite. I have always thought that it didn't have enough light. I didnít choose the location mind you. All the papaya seedlings I planted died. This one is coming from extra seeds that I spread around my garden rather than just throwing them away. Early this winter, I bought a babaco papaya in a 2-gallon pot. It did just fine during the winter, and a month ago I planted it. I planted this new babaco in full sun. It was probably a mediocre idea. It did fine at first, but now with the temperature exceeding 100 degrees F (38 C), the leaves start looking a bit bleached. Papayas have a very week root system, so I doubt I could move it without destroying it. The other option would be to make a custom shade house, but considering the stack of things I have to do urgently, I doubt I will get to it.

There are 2 pineapple guava bushes. The older one, of unknown origin is almost 4 years old, 5 feet tall in spread. It has been growing in mostly shade, and last year gave its first guava. This year, it was covered with flowers. The other one, is supposed to be a "Nazemetz", I planted it last year in full sun. It is doing great, but although last year, fresh out of the pot, it gave plenty of flowers, it gave only one this year, probably too busy growing new branches. I was worried about it getting too much sun, but I havenít seen any kind of burn or sun-related stress. Many of the pineapple guava clones are not self-fertile. Last year, I tried to cross-pollinate the flowers and got 1 guava. This year, the 2 bushes bloomed at different time; so cross-pollination was impossible. I am curious to see what will happen.

In front of the house, in the shade of a big ash, I have a "Wonderful" pomegranate. It is now 5 feet tall, and very vigorous, but doesn't produce many flowers and the small number of flowers produced have the unfortunate habit of falling as soon as they finish blooming. Mind you I don't need the fruit since my neighbor has a number of very fruitful trees, and I have all the pomegranates I can eat, plus more. Actually, a number of woody "weeds" popping up in my front yard seems to be pomegranates. I suspect that it is due to the local birds eating the neighbor fruit, and diligently coming back to my garden to fertilize it.

I also have several avocado trees. A seedling of an unidentified large, smooth skinned, Florida avocado is growing on the south side of the house under a very large Chilean mesquite. In the half shade, it has long branches, and although it is 4 years old and over 8 feet tall, it doesn't look like it has any intention to produce flowers or fruit anytime soon. A 3-year old grafted "Zutano" in the front of the house looks pretty bad, it is seriously sun burnt, and doesn't look like it is going anywhere fast. It is probably half of the size it had when I bought it. The avocado in the back is a 3-year old grafted "Mexicola Grande". It suffers from sunburns at the end of the summer, but is doing well for now. My biggest issue is that it has a constant infestation of mealy bugs. I treat and they go away, but if I check a month later they are back. Last spring it looked scrawny, but produced a large number of flowers. One started growing until it was 1-inch long and then fell. This year it looked much better, but didn't bloom. This sounds like a common thread for all these young trees: either they look bad and bloom, or look vigorous and don't bother. This year I plan on painting the trunk of this avocado, but I have to admit that I have been planning that for 6-month without finding the time to go through the messy business of opening a can of white latex, thinning some with equal quantity of water, and going around the yard whitening the trunks and branches of citrus and avocados.

The apricot tree is loaded with fruit. The problem will be to protect them against the rapacious black birds that populate my yard around harvest time. A net is probably necessary, but I will have to find how to tuck it at the to of a 15 foot tall tree. If I can, I plan on doing a lot of preserves, dried apricots, and so on. The plum trees are young and will probably not produce much this year, if at all, but the 3-year-old peach tree has several peaches.

Loquats are delicious fruit, particularly valuable eaten out of hand. They have large tropical looking leaves. They don't like the summer heat too much, but grow reasonably well here, particularly if they are protected from afternoon sun. The oldest one is 5 year old and fairly large. It was bought without any indication of variety and is probably a seedling. Because of that, it hasn't bloomed yet, and sometimes that tests my patience. The other one is a grafted "Champagne" that, although barely 30 inches tall, was loaded with flowers this winter. I have read conflicting reports about Champagne being self-fruitful (meaning that it wouldn't need any other tree around to produce fruit). In any case, none of the flowers even tried to look like it was going to produce a fruit. Hopefully, next year, both loquats will bloom at the same time and will be loaded of the marvelous yellow fruit.


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Text and Pictures © 2001 Philippe Faucon, All Rights Reserved.