by Jerry Vitalis
Chisago County Master Gardener
This was an unusual year for fruit growers in many ways. If you remember, we got off to a cold and rainy spring that affected some apples, plums, and pears. The cool rainy weather caused the blossoms to fall off without being pollinated. Some apple varieties had few apples or none at all. It was the same for plums, while some said they had their best pear crop ever.
It was a good year for domestic blueberries, but some who go wild blueberry picking indicated there were fewer this year. They finally determined that the tomato is a fruit. There is a saying that states the definition of knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit and the definition of intelligence is knowing you don’t use tomatoes in a fruit salad. The main question all summer was, “Why don’t my tomatoes ripen?” Although we had a hot and dry period this summer, we had very few hot nights. It takes very warm, humid nights for both peppers and tomatoes to ripen on time.
I didn’t receive much feedback on the strawberry season. It seems that those who had their own patch did well, although the crop was late. The only feedback from pick-your-own patches was the crop was later and shorter than last year.
The spring was cool and wet for raspberry plants, but they got off to a good start, as well as the weeds did. The summer raspberry harvest was about two weeks late, but once they started producing they kept on going. In fact, it was one of the best summer raspberry crops in years.
Fall, or everbearing raspberry harvests, have a different story. In early summer, we had a long dry spell that did affect the fall crop. If you couldn’t water, some of the plants were short and many of the berries were small or stunted. The good news was that the rains came about the time they started to produce, so with everbearing raspberries by the time of the second picking, we had nice berries. More good news: There wasn’t a killing frost until Oct. 20, which was more than a month later than the past two years.
Part of my patch was planted in 1983, and the only insect to worry about was the picnic beetle, and if you didn’t leave overripe fruit you didn’t have a problem. I had problems as I started picking, which I think was due to the dry period. There were four kinds of bees in my raspberries. The yellow jackets only wanted to eat the fruit. The ground wasps and bumblebees were only interested in pollinating and didn’t bother me. It bothers me that I rarely saw a honeybee. I also dealt with grasshoppers and ants that ate the fruit for moisture. The Asian multi-colored beetle was brought into this country to eat aphids off the pecan trees in the south. I wish they had stayed south because they were a serious problem to the fall raspberry crop. We don’t see them during the summer because they are eating the aphids on the soybeans. However, when the soybeans are ripe the beetle move to soft fruit they can eat, like raspberries. Not only do they eat the fruit, but they also have such an offensive odor that they can ruin a pint of berries or a batch of jam. All in all, depending what fruits you raise and the timing of the dry period, it was a pretty good year for fruit.