NANCY’S POMEGRANATE ADVENTURES
I have an inordinate fondness for pomegranate jelly, which was for a number of years indulged by a friend who made her own. But she moved away, leaving me bereft of friend and jelly. So about six years ago, I decided to plant a couple of pomegranate trees of my own, both to provide juice and screen a neighbor’s yard.The variety I chose was 'Wonderful'. Well named. In Sacramento it is delicious and prolific. In 2013 the two plants produced 128 pomegranates. So many that I had difficulty disposing of them. However, I certainly had enough to produce the “wonderful” jelly I craved, which I use in a favorite breakfast recipe.But there were problems beyond the overabundance of fruit. They weren’t really trees. They are big bushes. So big that one of them took over a corner of the yard, hiding a fountain and smothering some plants that never had enough sun to bloom. And some fruit, at the end of fifteen-foot branches, were difficult to harvest. So I removed that bush. Its sibling took advantage of the room to stretch almost as far and needed frequent pruning. The next year it produced only 60 fruit and I was able to use or gift them all. This year it has produced 105 fruit.
The blossoms are beautiful, although a worrisome number will fall off. They are both self-pollinated and by insects. It doesn’t need babying. Mine is squeezed into a three-foot-wide bed between a six-foot fence and a concrete patio. It does get plenty of sun, which is important. Last year it was fed two handfuls of balanced grass fertilizer and was well watered. This spring it got the fertilizer again, but I withheld almost all water during the blooming season, because I had read that that would decrease the blossom drop. It didn’t seem to make a difference.
The bushes are not attractive. They grow into a wild tangle.It suckers profusely and is very thorny. Branches with ripe fruit can bend down almost to the ground. It attracts strange-looking, very social bugs. They aren’t true bugs, but leaf-footed weevils. If you see them clustered together, look for eggs under nearby leaves. I did find some juveniles in a fruit that had been gnawed or pecked open, but otherwise there was no damage to the fruit from the one cluster of insects I did find. But be sure to remove any leaves on or under the bushes in the fall. I intend to severely prune this remaining plant. However, it is my understanding that the spurs on which the fruit develops grow only from wood that is 2 or 3 years old. So I must be careful not to prune too heavily. How does one know when the fruit is ripe enough to harvest? Well, the seeds have to get out of that tough rind someway. So a seam develops on one side of the fruit when it’s ripe. In Sacramento, that happens in October. And when the time is perfect, the fruit splits. When you see the first one split, remove the rest, because they do not keep long once they are open. Wear long gloves to protect yourself from thorns. A fruit-picker is handy to have. In fact, it would be difficult to reach some fruit without one. That’s a good reason not to let the bush grow too tall or become a real tree.