Planting Plums

Planting Plums

When I lived in California 30 some years ago, there was an old widower, Mr. Dawson who lived across the street. He had a plum tree that seemed to produce a bumper crop every year as we would receive several large brown grocery bags of plums throughout the summer, every summer. These plums had a deep red flesh and were as sweet as candy. Sadly, I never asked him what variety they were as I have rarely come across them since my move to the northwest. Until that is, this past summer.

Husband and I took a road trip down to visit Son Family Rock in Southern California. Son Family Rock has a beautiful home but it was the bowl of plums on his kitchen counter that caught my eye. I’m not a big fan of yellow fleshed plums. They always seemed to fail by comparison to the red fleshed one. I sliced into one of the plums and was ecstatic to discover it had the ruby red flesh. The taste test was even sweeter! Eureka! I finally found the plum of my dreams!

When Son Family Rock returned home from work, I quizzed him about the plums.
“Where did you get those plums?” I asked him.
“From the back yard.” he said simply.
He then unfolded the short story on how he discovered them. He said his daughter came in the back door a month or so ago eating this piece of fruit with the juice streaming down her chin and arms. The conversation went like this:

Dad: “What is that?”
Daughter: “A plum.”
Dad: “Where did you get that?”
Daughter: “From the back yard off the tree.”
Dad: “What tree?”
Daughter: “The plum tree in the back yard.”
Dad: “We have a plum tree in the back yard?”

The hidden plum tree

Son Family Rock had just purchased his home a year ago and had spent most all of his resources on interior renovations. The lemon and orange trees out side were evident, but the plum tree managed to remain incognito, secluded next to a brick wall.

When it was time for husband and I to leave, Son Family Rock packed us up with all the plums we could eat for a week.

Then I had a wild idea. What if I could plant the seeds from these plums on our property? Could they survive our northwest climate? When I arrived home, I looked up zoning for plums and was delighted to find that they do well in zones 5-9. I live in zone 8a. I was also surprised on how easily they are to plant. I saved 10 of the plum seeds, washing all the pulp off of them and placing them on my office widow sill to dry.

This week I started the planting processes. I rounded up six #10 empty cans from my freeze dried foods I had ordered and punctured 6-7 holes in the bottom of each can with an ice pick. Then I filled each can with about 1  1/2 inches of gravel and filling the rest with fruit and vegetable potting soil. The next step was to water well then push each seed down into the soil about 4 inches. That’s it. Apparently, plum seeds need a “chilling out time” of 10-12 weeks at temperatures between 33 and 40 degrees before they sprout, so they should be perfectly happy on my covered front porch for awhile.

Plum seeds planted and tucked away under a table on my porch.

Even though I know these trees won’t produce fruit for 2-3 years, I have big dreams for them.

Son Giver Man is on the fast track to purchasing a home again after losing his home in the 2008 market crash. I will gift him a plum tree when he purchases that new home to celebrate new beginnings.

Son Hard Worker will receive a tree when they purchase their first home.

Son Tender Heart may not have enough sun to grow a plum tree at his wooded home and may choose to plant it on our property. That.s okay.

All three sons have memories of Mr. Dawson’s plums, so hoping these trees will be memorable gifts.

Planting the seeds is the easy part. I’m not oblivious to the work it takes to ensure a fruit tree produces great fruit year after year. Researching the care of plum trees reminded me of pharmaceutical commercials. You know, the ones where they espouse the benefits of the medication for 10 seconds, then the next 20 are filled with a rapid fire list of side effects and warnings.

Plum trees require meticulous pruning at specific times of year. You need to watch for such things as aphids, “bleeding sap” and leaves riddled with holes. Diseased or bug infested branches need to be pruned out and preferably burned. Discovering which disease or insect is destroying the plum tree can be quite the mystery game, requiring a few trips to the local knowledgeable garden center. Nevertheless, I think it will all be worth it. I’ll update when I see the first plum tree seeds starting to sprout.

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