Last year in February (2020), when we were gung-ho to get out in the yard as winter was slowly disappearing, I wrote about trimming some trees that our neighbours have, which overhang the fence and our yard. In that “Boundaries” post, I noted that the trimming was partly to keep the fruit from our yard, but also to help ensure our cedar tree had enough space to grow and be happy. Well, this year, we didn’t do any trimming and are regretting it…sort of.
The crabapple tree isn’t too bad since we did a pretty good job of paring it back last year. There are a few branches that needed to be trimmed this year, but overall it’s not bad. The apricot tree however is out of control. We had only slightly cut it back last year, partly because I could only reach so far over our sloped yard and partly because it wasn’t abundant with fruit last year so we didn’t realize how heavy some of those limbs can get. We know now.
As the apricots have grown, the limbs have pushed further and further down into our cedar. It’s not so bad because the cedar is pretty flexible and bendy, but my concern is that they are a little touchy about being touched. If something rests against it for a long period of time, then it stops growing and bare spots are created. Finicky things. The apricot branches have been resting on the tree all spring and summer, worrying us that it is going to create some holes.
The problem is that we don’t want to damage the tree. It is already quite old and has had a rough few years with coming back. We didn’t want to cut off a bunch of branches while it was starting to come back. Our neighbour has always given us permission to trim the tree, and even discussed cutting off the largest branch that hangs over our yard when we were re-doing the fence. We never did cut it at that time but I now wish we had. We are going to have to do it though if we want to save our cedar tree. So, we decided to wait until the fruit had finished growing, and then we will give it a trim so that it has time to recoup before fall hits.
We have been monitoring the fruit because as they grow, it is crushing our bush. We finally made the call to harvest the fruit last weekend because it was looking like too much for our cedar tree. It had become a large weighted blanket over the top of the cedar. I grabbed our new tall ladder, which is also good for slopes. I pulled off as many apricots as I could from the branches that overhang our yard. We sorted out the bad ones, and then sorted the ripe ones and the unripe ones. I kept the ripe and un-ripe (or slightly ripe) ones to process and enjoy, and we plant to do a compost run this weekend to get rid of the bad apricots which are currently stewing in buckets, as well as the branches we pruned.
Just getting the fruit off the branches really helped lift them higher and off our cedar tree a bit. But the pruning still had to happen because I didn’t want any more time spent with those branches resting on the cedar tree. Plus, I don’t want it to happen again next year. Although we like the fruit we harvested, it’s not worth losing our well established cedar tree. The dogs regularly use that cedar tree for shelter when they are out exploring the yard. Whether using it for shade or as an umbrella when it is raining, it has become their space. So much so, that when we build a little wall around it to tie into the rest of the yard, we will likely have some paving stones in with the rocks to make spots for the dogs to sit and walk.
I knew that we got quite a bit of good fruit off the tree, but I didn’t realize how much until I started processing it. Wowza. Using the most ripe ones, I made 33 jars of apricot jam, fruit leather and dried some for baking with. I have also put together 2 batches of amaretto using the pits, which should be ready in about 2 months. That was about half the apricots I pulled. I have quite a bit more to go to process the rest. I have offered some to friends/family, but the apricots are a little rough, so they are better for baking, jamming or drying rather than just straight up eating, though I did definitely snack on a few while I was working on them. I will definitely dry some more, possibly can some, bake with a bit, and make more delicious fruit leather. I am sure I will be sharing some recipes soon!
In the meantime, the garden is keeping me busy with fruit and veggies that need to be processed for fall and winter enjoyment. We have a ton of zucchini that is patiently waiting in the fridge for my attention, as well as some cayenne peppers that need to be dehydrated to be broken down to a homemade powder.