Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The July Harvest

The summer fruit harvest continues this month with figs, grapes and peaches.  It's been an exceptional year for peaches -- more on that later.  Let's start with the easiest fruit to grow in the Houston area: figs.

Figs grow on smallish, deciduous trees all over Texas.  Our summer heat and humidity don't seem to bother them, and because they're dormant in winter, they don't mind the occasional freeze either.  Plant closed-eye varieties like Celeste, LSU Gold, LSU Purple, Brown Turkey or Alma to prevent insect damage.  Plant in full or mostly full sun and prune if you like to control size.  Keep grass cleared from under the tree, all the way to the dripline.  Provide mulch and plenty of water in the summer and that's it!  No fertilizer needed, no special pruning.  Your only trouble will be keeping the birds away from the figs. Try bird netting, and get up early in the morning to harvest.  Best thing about figs?  Fig preserves. See my earlier fig post for my favorite recipe.

(Left: Black Spanish.  Right: Champanel.)

Traditional table grapes aren't easy to grow here, but it can be done if you select the right variety.  Choose grapes that are resistant to Pierce's Disease and be aware that the tougher the skin, the less insect damage you'll see.  Two great varieties of bunching grapes here are Black Spanish and Champanel, both beautiful purple-black seeded varieties.  For wine, jellies, juice or jams, you can't beat the muscadine grape.  Hybrid muscadines are descended from the wild mustang grapes that grow all over this region. They are very sweet, and have a tough, bitter skin which makes them unpleasant to eat out of hand.  But they are perfect for pressing -- very high in sugar.  Most muscadines require two different varieties to produce well, although some self-fruitful ones are available.  Pruning and training is important for grape production.  Here's some information from Texas A&M on the best techniques.
(Wild grapes in Brazos Bend State Park)

And finally, peaches!  Gardeners around here love peach trees for their beautiful flowers in the spring, but we sometimes don't get the harvest we want.  Peaches require a certain number of "chilling hours" in order to fruit and we certainly got ours this winter!  We still struggle with disease and insect problems, of course, but this year, we got the peaches we've been waiting for!  Peaches are self-fruitful, but will require careful management (pruning, disease and insect control).  Ask your nursery specialist for recommendations on specific varieties.


  1. Your harvest looks great! I can't believe it, but I had never tasted fresh figs off the tree until last year. Delicious! Now I am contemplating planting my own. Thanks for the helpful info. I gave up on peaches. I planted two trees which struggled with awful diseases every year till I cut them down. So sad!

  2. You haven't tasted anything until you've tasted fig preserves. Try some -- and thanks for the comment!

  3. would you like to trade some fig tree cuttings? They root very easy and I have several great varieties. Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you. Ediblelandscaping.sc@gmail.com