My son comes back from a walk through our subdivision with two grapefruits in hand. They were hanging over the fence he protested. They had a lot, and they were not picking them. Lately I have been flooded with citrus from different friends who have more than they know what to do with. I planted my citrus trees last year, so they are not producing yet, and these fresh fruits are a great treat.
On another walk, my son notices that swiss chard has been planted in the front beds for an office building. Should we have some chard for dinner? We can get it from our own garden, I respond. Along the walk we find another building with kale in their beds. He just smiles and points. We have that too. Dessert he says when he spots some johnny jump ups and pansies. Well, if your sister would stop picking them to splay across our floors, we could enjoy them. I notice more fruit trees in the neighborhood as we head back home.
There are groups who go through areas collecting fruits and vegetables from wild spots, or the houses next door, but there is an etiquette to this practice. You have to ask before you pick. I send my son back to the grapefruit house with a bundle of herbs as an apology for the theft. Herbs are great in the garden since most garden pests do not attack these plants. Their foliage and colors can add some interest in the garden. My daughter has discovered the Lamb’s Purse. Soft grey leaves which spread to make a pretty ground cover.
Later in the day, a friend stops by my home to pick up papers for her son. We are sitting in the front garden bench talking about the school, when she notices a tree in the yard. That’s an apple tree, she exclaims. Yes, there is a variety we can grow in Houston that is self-pollinating. I have loved apple trees since my youth in Chicago. I nearly lost a finger once in a folding lawn chair when I was four by trying to find a way to grab an apple off of a limb. My apple addiction has not abated over the years.
I am in the process of preparing some of my garden beds for the coming year, and I am planning on adding chard and kohlrabi to some of my flower beds. I think that I will mix them in with the day lilies. The flowers of the day lilies make a great thickener for soups, and the vegetables have interesting forms.
Fruit trees can make nice shade trees to sit under, but I like them for another reason. You see the typical American yard is too short for our large trees. I love maples and oaks, but they need to be placed at least forty feet away from the home if you do not want them to effect your foundation. Trees will suck the water out of the ground, and in most of Houston, we have expansive clay soils which will shrink when dry, and expand when wet. Branches of larger trees can damage roofs, while shrubs can damage walls. Since many fruit trees grow to about twenty feet, you probably have enough space for them in your yard. The benefit is that you may produce fruit soon. I will warn you about plum trees. The flowers on these trees last for such a short time that you should take a small painter’s brush from flower to flower to pollinate them. The bees may not be around when it flowers, so this is a good way to get plums for yourself.
Well, I have to go and prune my bay tree now. I make reefs each year for family and friends, but I have been producing too much. I have to find more victims, I mean friends, to give these reefs to.