Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stop-Action Quince, Part 4

Quince week 7 © Tyler Storey

Our little quince is growing up. It's hard to see, because it's still small, but it's becoming heavier and starting to pull down a bit. If you look to the upper right of the photo, you can see the twig to which it is attached; in the previous photos, that was hidden behind a leaf.

The quince has an unusual fruiting pattern. Rather than forming flowers and fruit along its branches, or at the tips of short "spurs," the quince forms its fruit from terminal buds. Terminal buds, as the name implies, form at the end of a branch or twig. This has practical consequences.

Deciduous fruit trees — which, in the Desert Garden generally means apples, plums, peaches, apricots and quince — are among the few trees that we prune on a regular schedule. We prune them for ease of harvest, to encourage fruit instead of vegetative growth, and sometimes so it's easier to get bird netting over the top of them.

Each type of deciduous fruit has a different fruiting pattern, and we need to learn that fruiting pattern so that we avoid pruning off the fruiting wood and eliminating the harvest. When you plant a deciduous fruit tree, it's worth taking the time to find out what kind of wood it fruits from; it's easy to tell for the most part: in late Winter, the vegetative growth buds will be slim and narrow, while the incipient flower buds are rounder and fatter.

With the quince, had I decided last winter to shorten all the terminal growth of the tree, I would have pruned off all the fruiting wood. Because this particular tree has only been in the ground just over a year, that might have been a good idea; it would have helped to strengthen the tree structure by allowing it a full year of growth before it had to expend energy setting and ripening fruit. But then we wouldn't have our little quince to watch every week.


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