Late bloomers like persimmon dodged the May frost and are nearly ready to harvest
With a hard and late frost in May that zapped the just-budding flowers on certain apple trees, some of Vermont's orchards and home gardeners alike lost a lot of fruit.
Even fruit-bearing trees like plums, cherries and pears took a hit. But some of the more subtropical fruit trees did just fine.
Fruit trees like persimmon and paw paw are hardy to Zone 4 and 5 — those are areas based on the USDA's growing zone map. These particular trees grew well this year and are producing a lot of fruit that will be ready to harvest soon. And the reason that these types of fruit trees thrived is because they blossom later and weren't affected by the freezing temperatures in May.
As for the etymology behind the persimmon name, it's derived from some words from the Powhatan language: "putchamin," or "pessamin." These terms translate to "a dry fruit." It's botanical name, diospyros, is derived from the Greek words "dios" and "pyros," and mean "divine fruit" or "fruit of the gods."
The American persimmon comes in different varieties, like "Meader," and "Early Golden," and in the landscape, this tree looks tropical and grows between 20 to 30 feet tall.
A benefit to growing an American persimmon is that you only need one tree to get it to produce its small, donut-shaped fruits that start turning orange in October.
Next month, when you notice the fruits beginning to turn orange, leave them to ripen further on the tree or pick them from the tree and bring them inside.
The key is to get them to ripen fully. If you were to taste the persimmon straight from the tree when they first start turning orange, the flavor would be very astringent. American persimmon's signature sweet flavor and custard-like consistency develops fully after they are very ripe and mushy, even.
Another subtropical fruit tree to grow is the paw paw or asimina triloba. It's the largest native fruit in North America and sometimes called "the custard apple."
The fruit is a temperate version of the cherimoya and it's hardy to Zone 5, so gardeners in Vermont's warmer counties and areas can plant with success.
The paw paw will produce a smaller tree than the persimmon but this tree does need two different varieties to cross-pollinate and form fruits.
Paw paw trees have avocado-shaped leaves, and grow clusters of fruit that are about the size of small mangos. Ripe paw paws have yellow-orange flesh with black seeds and a hybrid flavor that resembles a banana, a papaya and a pineapple.
A question about keeping a fig tree's height in check
Q: After hearing your segment on growing figs in a container, I got a dwarf Chicago fig last summer, left it in the garage over the winter and then spring I trimmed it all back. It was maybe two feet tall. As we head into fall, not only has it not produced many figs, it's growing a lot taller than I expected. Can I expect more figs? And how am I supposed to keep the height in check? I think another year of growth and I won't be able to fit it in the house. - Beth, in Middletown Springs
A: Because fig trees want to grow really tall — 10, 20 or even 30 feet — growing them in a container is a good idea because it keeps them shorter.
If you don't have fig fruits by now, you're not going to be getting figs this year. And that's OK! It's not unusual for a container-grown young fig to need a couple of years to start producing fruit.
For now, cut it back to a couple feet tall, then put it in a basement or a garage where it stays above freezing but below 45 degrees Farenheit.
Leave the fig tree in its container all winter, without light or water. Then in spring, once it begins leafing out, move the fig tree outside to a sunny and protected spot until the danger of frost is gone. After that, fertilize it well and keep it well watered and you should be on your way to figs soon!
A question on moving a large hydrangea to a new spot
Q: I have a huge Limelight hydrangea that's got to be moved due to some construction work. It is about 10 feet tall, and almost as big around. It does appear that there are several trees at the base. Is there a recommended way to move this as like a full plant or do I break it up into several? This was a gift from my late husband so I really hope it can be salvaged. - Laurel, via email
A: Panicle hydrangeas can take a drastic pruning this time of year so the first thing to do is to cut it way back. Doing that will also make it easier to move. Next, dig the whole plant up and move it to the new location that gets full sun, and has well-drained soil and keep it well watered in its new home.
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