Forget the store – grow much more tasty fruit!

Beautiful gardens by William Johnson

HAVE YOU ever been to an expensive high-end restaurant where the chefs garnished your duck with an exotic red blood orange or served your salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds?
When you’re pushing your cart through the produce section of a gourmet specialty market, have you ever noticed the price of Meyer lemons and those little kumquats? Meyer lemons, kumquats, pomegranates and blood oranges are all top gourmet fare but can be grown easily and inexpensively in any back yard in Galveston County.
A wide assortment of fabulous and hard-to-find citrus trees, along with plums, peaches, persimmons, pomegranates, figs, apples and pears will be featured at the upcoming Galveston County Master Gardeners Association spring plant sale.
This year’s sale will take place from 9:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday, February 18, in the rodeo arena at the Galveston County Fairgrounds alongside SH-6 in Hitchcock.
At 8:00am that day, a free pre-sale seminar will be presented by master gardener John Jons in the nearby Ed Pickett hall to discuss the plants that will be offered in the sale yard. No pre-registration is required to attend.
As you can surmise, there will be citrus and other fruit trees. One of the satisfactions that nearly all area homeowners can have is to be able to harvest citrus, peaches, figs and other types of fruit from their own trees.
In the past several years, I have gradually transformed my home landscape from a traditional one appealing primarily to the visual senses to one that now includes appealing to the palate. My gardening friends know well that the peach is my favorite fruit tree to grow.
Just about any variety of peach that is homegrown will probably far exceed any peach purchased from a grocery store in taste, texture and juiciness.
When folks ask what my favorite variety is, I have to first admit I have a bias. There are three that I recommend. There is Tropic Snow and then Tropic Snow and, as you might guess, Tropic Snow. This white-fleshed peach is delightfully sweet when picked fresh from a tree.
Figs have been a part of Texas homesteads since the state’s early development. They grow extremely well along the Texas coast. The Celeste variety has an excellent fresh dessert quality with a rich sweet flavor.
My Celeste fig tree has already started putting on new leaves and I am looking forward to harvesting a bumper crop around mid June.
Kumquats are small evergreen citrus trees native to the southeastern areas of mountainous China. Today, they are grown for their delicious fruit and as ornamental flora in many parts of the world, including the USA. In my backyard, I have a four-year-old Meiwa kumquat tree that is full of brightly colored, golf-ball-size fruits.
A mature kumquat tree bears several hundred brilliant-orange-colored fruits in the winter. The interior of the fruit resembles miniature juicy orange-like segments firmly adhering to each other and to the peel. Kumquats are distinguished from other types of citrus in that they can be eaten whole including the peel.
I am nearing the end of my Meiwa’s harvest season and I collected and consumed a handful of the kumquats while writing this column.
Four avocado tree varieties will be offered at the plant sale. Avocados are adapted to most soil types found in our growing region, provided the soil has good drainage.
Avocado trees generally grow to a height of 20-25 feet in our area, and no training is required. The fruit should be harvested before it’s too soft and allowed to further soften indoors.
New trees will produce a few fruit two years after establishment. Mature trees can produce two to three or more bushels of avocados with good management, depending upon variety.
To learn more about growing avocados, be sure to attend Saturday’s presentation Growing Avocado And Papaya by Jerry Hurlbert, who has more than 35 years of experience with growing avocados.
The program will run from 9:00-11:30am at Galveston County AgriLife Extension Service’s office in Carbide Park, at 4102B Main Street, La Marque. Pre-registration is required, either by e-mail at galvcountymgs@gmail.com or by phone at 281-309-5065.
Be sure to put a note on your to-do gardening calendar to attend the master gardeners’ spring plant seminar and sale. Map directions to the sale and a listing of the citrus trees, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs that will be available can be downloaded at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.
William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.

Avocado trees are grown in the horticulture demonstration garden in Carbide Park in La Marque, where the
county’s master gardeners will be selling a range of fruit trees during their spring sale on February 18.
– Herman Auer

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