Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Four Seasons Mulberry, or Taiwanese Four Seasons Mulberry

Four Seasons mulberry is a unique cultivar that is able to produce fruits from May and into December in Sacramento Valley.  I suspect it is evergreen and producing year around in the tropical conditions. The first wave of fruits is never as sweet as the fruits from July and later in the season. They are sweet and complex when ripening in hot weather. They also have some pleasant acidity. The fruits are large and black.  The tree is small, and it grows like a bush, branching low at the base. The branches are slender and the leaves are small.

Two photos below are from May

The next picture below is from August

September fruits in two pictures below

November fruits on the branch below

And the last picture shows how the fruits of this cultivar compare in the size and shape with othe mulberry cultivars.  This picture is from June.


Monday, September 7, 2020

Oak leaf papaya, Vasconcellea quercifolia

In the fall of 2016 I adopted four tiny seedlings of oak leaf papaya. They were started by Brian, a fellow gardener from the Golden Gate chapter of CRFG. The tiny plants spent their first winter indoors, and I planted them outside in the spring of 2017 but the Southern wall of a building in Vacaville.  They took off right away, and three of them already bloomed by the end of their first season. I planted them in bottomless one gallon pots for a better drainage when young.

The first season in ground, summer of 2017

Male flowers

Female flowers

By the end of 2017 I already harvested the very first fruits from my only female plant.  The other three turned out to be males. The first winter in ground was a real test if they are going to make it here. The plants lost the foliage right with the first frosts, but the stems were not affected by the frosts down to 23F.   Here is how they looked on December 14, 2017

They budded up just fine in the following spring. The picture below is from February 15, 2018.

In the summer of 2018 I got the first real crop of sweet fruity papaya berries.  If you don't bite into the seeds, they are sweet. If you do bite into the seeds, you'll get the spicy flavor too.  They can be used in salads or simply eaten off the hand. 
August 31, 2018 

In the spring of 2019 I grafted a scion from the female plant onto one of the males, and it took fine. Here is a picture from May 9, 2019.

The female branch started fruiting right away. I need to do more of these grafts. The graft joint (in the lower left corner) and immature fruits on the female graft on August 25, 2019

Now, in the summer of 2020 the plants are very tall, with some are standing over the building roof, with the trunks of at least 5-6 inches, and the females produce plenty of berries in late summer.

I collected a good amount of seeds and will make them available for purchase at
This species deserves a better placement in the zone 9B gardens.  My plants tolerated well the temperatures between 23F and 110F. As the species is dioecious, a few seedlings should be grown to make sure that both sexes are present. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Tomato selection by my family, cv. Optimal

Back in 2012, I was regularly buying (U-picking) tomatoes from Brad Gates at his stand and fields in Solano county. He also had a field with F2 progenies from his crosses, and he allowed me to pick some tomatoes from there too.  After tasting the fruits from the F2 field together with my friend Harvey, I ended up with few fruits that I wanted to stabilize. Over the next 8 years, every summer my family chose the best tasting fruits/plants from each hybrid line. Every year I planted 12 progenies from the best tasting plant of the previous year.  In 2019 we ended up selecting just one stable cultivar out of the three hybrid lines we started from.  Presented here is Optimal: a beautiful, productive, and tasty tomato. It is sweeter than Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye, but has about the same amount of salt. It has less acid than Pork Chop, but still some acidity is present, and it has its own flavors that are not present in either Pork Chop and Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye.  It does not have any smoky flavor that can be tasted in many darker and some green tomatoes from Brad Gates.  It is a beautiful yellow-red tomato that is best tasting when it becomes more red than yellow.

 Here is the final selection, the fruits are from 2020

Some tasting plates from 2018

Collected fruits and one of the plants from 2016

For anyone who wants to try growing this tomato cultivar, I will make the seeds available for purchase at

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Growing yangmei seedlings, early observations

The germination may take a year or more, and it does not seem that the germination media is that important.  Most of my seedlings germinated in a potting mix, and I also found one beautifully developing seedling in the clay soil of my side yard. The cold moist storage or overwintering outside in a cold winter weather (30-45F) seems to be important.

The germination success was about 20% for three different batches of seeds I had.  About 1/3-1/2 of seedlings died early. Additional seedling loss happened after the excessive fertilization, transplanting, and over-watering.

When transplanting to individual pots, I use commercial potting mix with additional perlite and sand. I still do not know what is a good fertilization regimen for the seedlings. Iron with manganese (1/2 of recommended dilution) seems to be beneficial. Monopotassium phosphate is very dangerous, it kills the seedlings fast. I am not yet sure if nitrogen and potassium help or harm.

Yangmei seedlings also seem to be pretty sensitive to the pests and pathogens. Keeping them under mature trees invites all the possible pests and pathogens that fall from those trees down onto the seedlings.  Large trees harbor many small and large pests without being much affected by them. However, when those fall down onto the young yangmei seedlings, they decimate them fast. If you have issues with the leaf discoloration, it could be the pests. Get a magnifying glass and check if you see any mites or thrips on the back side of the leaves.  They can be easily washed away with water. I didn't test any pesticides on the yangmei seedlings yet, but I sprayed some with Serenade, a bio-fungicide.  It seems that they react well to Serenade. Keeping the seedlings under a shade structure or a shade sail would be safer than under large trees. The shade structure will limit the amount of pests, pathogens, and dust that fall down onto the plants.

Stay tuned, and happy growing!

If you are looking for young yangmei seedlings, I occasionally have them available at 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Not so common plums. Sultan, Peach-plum Hybrid DPRU 377, and Jefferson

Sultan plum was recently revived by few CRFG members.  I grafted this cultivar in 2018.  It produced some fruits the first time this year. These are very good meaty sweet dark plums. Ready in early July. The scions should become more available at the CRFG winter exchanges.

DPRU 377 was noticed by friends and myself during an orchard walk at Wolfskill in 2013. The leaves looked peachy from the distance, but the tree grew in the plum area.  We tasted the fruits and found them very flavorful. There are no records of this accession in the USDA GRIN database. And there was only this single tree in the orchard. The picture of the tag on the tree said that  it is a complex cross: MyroXSpinosa X Domestica

We obtained the scions from the USDA the following winter and grafted them. While the grafts grew well (on the proper rootstocks), the fruiting took years to occur. This year I got only 2 fruits on the tree I made in 2016 on the Citation rootstock.  My graft from 2014 onto the Santa Rosa plum branch is barely surviving. After tasting the first fruit this year I consider this maybe the best "plum" I tasted. Sweet, flavorful and very aromatic. It has unusual flattened shape. The stone is small, like a plum, but it has indentations similar to a peach stone. After searching though GRIN again, I found that accession DPRU 375 was originated from the former USSR in 1939. If the USDA was tagging the accessions in the order received, DPRU 377 could be from the same batch of acquisitions. This gave me a clue that I should be checking Russian web postings of plum-peach hybrids.  The search yielded two videos, both in Russian, that show this fruit and the tree.  Both look identical to what we found at Wolfskill.  My fruit in my picture looks lighter, I suspect it is because my tree grows in part shade and I covered the fruit with a clam shell to make sure it gets into my hands.

Sultan plum (left) and DPRU 377 from July 4, 2020

Russian videos about the peach-plum hybrid that I suspect is identical or very similar to DPRU 377

My Jefferson Gage Plum that ripened at the same time turned out to be mislabeled.  Most likely, it is an Asian plum that was sold as Green Gage Jefferson Strain by the LE Cooke nursery.  I got couple of these trees to use as bases for all other gages I wanted to grow. Few years later, I learned that this tree does not accept grafts of the proper gages. Even if they take for a year or two, they do not grow when grafted onto this plum. The fruit flesh of this plum is extremely, even painfully sweet, and juicy too. However, the skin is very sour. The stone never separates easily.  The tree is fast growing and very productive.

Fake Jefferson Plum harvested on July 4

Early White peaches. Sha Zi Zao Sheng and Feng Bao

Sha Zi Zao Sheng was ready on June 15 and I picked two fruits of Feng Bao on June June 29.  Both are grafted in 2018 onto the same tree of Baby Crawford peach.

I really liked Sha Zi Zao Sheng peach.  It reminded me the honey peaches I had two years ago in China.  Very sweet with little acidity. Melting flesh. Feng Bao was very good too, and I'm looking forward to getting more of these in the years to come. Sha Zi Zao Sheng fruits are larger, and they are ready two weeks earlier than Feng Bao fruits.

Sha Zi Zao Sheng peaches from June 15, 2020

Feng Bao peaches from June 29, 2020

I picked the scions of these cultivars at the CRFG winter exchanges. I don't believe anyone is growing these commercially as they are extremely perishable.  

Late Mid Season apricots. Royal Blenheim, Red Sweet, and Steindorf Blenheim

Three apricot cultivars ripened later than most of other mid-season apricots.  Royal Blenheim, Red Sweet, and Steindorf Blenheim.  The Royal Blenheim should be ahead of the Steindorf Blenheim, but my tree of the Royal is young, and this might be the reason why they were ready just a few days ahead of Steindorf.

All these are excellent apricots, very fruity and aromatic.

June 29 pictures and tasting of Royal Blenheim (left) and Red Sweet

June 31 pictures of Red Sweet

June 31 pictures of Steindorf Blenheim

All these apricots should be available when in season from Andy's Orchard shop in Morgan Hill, CA. Royal Blenheim trees are available from most nurseries, and the Red Sweet and Steindorf Blenheim scions are usually available at the CRFG winter exchanges.

Four Seasons Mulberry, or Taiwanese Four Seasons Mulberry

Four Seasons mulberry is a unique cultivar that is able to produce fruits from May and into December in Sacramento Valley.  I suspect it is ...