In the next two weeks I will be sending out a list announcing the top fruit picks for Southern Nevada. This will culminate five years of fruit evaluations at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Orchard. The orchard was planted in North Las Vegas back in 1997 for the purpose of evaluating the best fruit trees to grow in our climate.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have e-mail or you can call our master gardener help line at 257-5555 for the list of these trees.
Q: I am interested in planting a peach tree in my yard in Henderson. Not knowing how peach trees fare in this climate, or what kind is recommended, I googled the subject and about all I learned was that you had some instructive “classes” in June, but could find nothing on what came out of those classes. Please, give me your thoughts on planting peach trees in Henderson and what kinds you would recommend.
A: I am getting ready to release our award-winning fruit trees for Southern Nevada list. In this group will be several peach trees that we are recommending. We are working with College of Southern Nevada to bring these award winners to Southern Nevada in bare root form and containers in spring 2010.
However, the last time I checked there were a few very good peaches for fall planting remaining at the College of Southern Nevada nursery on Charleston Boulevard. They were the Babcock peach.
As far as tree fruit go, peaches and apricots are some of our best performers. You should follow some very precise planting directions to give the trees the best possible chance of doing well. This includes adding lots of compost to the planting hole, staking the tree firmly after planting, whitewashing the tree after planting, using 4 inches of wood mulch on the surface of the soil surrounding the tree but away from the trunk a few inches, fertilizing in January with fruit tree fertilizer plus iron, and watering deeply but not every day.
You can pick up wood mulch from the orchard free of charge.
Q: This is the first year my Kieffer pear tree has given me pears. According to my research they are an early September variety. I know they are supposed to be picked and allowed to ripen. My question is how do you know when to pick them? And once picked how long before they are ready to eat?
A: Kieffer pear is an excellent producer in this climate. It produces beautiful, unblemished, very firm fruit that can be the size of small cannonballs. I like to refer to them as the “Nevada jicama pear” to give people an idea of its uses. Kieffer is a salad pear, not a desert pear like Bartlett or Comice.
But if you select Kieffer as a producing pear tree don’t be disappointed that it is not a Bartlett. Kieffer is also wonderful for canning since it holds its shape and doesn’t turn to mush in the jar and baking.
Early September is early for Kieffer in our climate. In the orchard it is just starting to come on and can be harvested over the next month or longer. As it stays on the tree and weather gets colder, the fruit will become sweeter and less firm.
You can reproduce this somewhat by harvesting the fruit as they ripen and putting them in the refrigerator for a couple of days and then putting them on the counter at room temperature to finish them. Unlike Bartlett they can be left longer on the tree and do not form the hard, gritty texture as easily as Bartlett can get if left on the tree too long.
Other pears perform here as well but they will not be picture-perfect due to our climate. Bartletts and Comice will get bumpy with some brown blemishes on the skin but they are still superior to anything you can get in the stores. Other pears that will produce here include d’Anjou, Monterrey, California and most of the Asian types.
Bob Morris is an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Direct gardening questions to the master gardener hot line at 257-5555 or contact Morris by e-mail at email@example.com.