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Richard Kastanie

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since May 26, 2010
Missouri Ozarks
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Recent posts by Richard Kastanie

I've noticed the information on the care of cultivated persimmons, particularly American varieties and American/Asian hybrids, is hard to come by and/or contradictory, so I'd like to share my own limited experience on the subject and hope others with fruiting trees will share their experiences.

I have two cultivated persimmon varieties that have been fruiting heavily for a few years, Juhl and Rosseyanka, plus other varieties that are smaller. The persimmons have proven to be resilient and have few of the pest, disease and rot issues that make many common fruits difficult to grow here in southern Missouri. So far, my pruning of the trees has been fairly minimal, just training to a central leader, thinning branches a bit, taking of some real low branches near the ground, and topping off the central leader of the Rosseyanka the last couple of years to keep its height in check. However, I think I'll do some more substantial pruning this next year of the Rosseyanka at least, for reasons I'll discuss in a bit. I have been harvesting wild persimmons for years, but I've found the cultivated ones are more tricky. Altogether, I like the flavor of the cultivated varieties better, and they're larger and more productive, but there are downsides in the realm of harvesting. The wild ones have small, firm enough fruit that is small and firm enough that it can drop from large trees, 50 feet up or so, and still be intact when it hits the ground, so its simple to just harvest them of the ground. The cultivated varieties are different, particularly the Rosseyanka.

The Juhl is a selected variety of American persimmon, also known as Yates. It ripens early, starting generally late August here, with fruits continuing to ripen for at least a month. I particularly like the texture for eating, it has a more smooth texture than the wild ones, as well as being significantly larger. They fall from the tree when ripe, similar to the wild persimmons. I have been harvesting these from the ground like the wild ones so far, but I noticed this year a percentage that got crushed in their fall to the ground. It was still a fairly small percentage, but I'm concerned that it will be higher as the tree grows taller, as the fruit from higher up will hit the ground with more force. It seems the larger size and creamier texture that's nice for eating may make the fruit more fragile as well. I'm considering pruning the tree more heavily to keep it from getting too tall (it's probably about 15 ft high right now), also maybe mulching heavily underneath it before harvest to cushion the fall of the fruit. Those sound a lot earier than harvesting from the tree does, as the fruit ripens so unevenly and just wants to fall off when its ripe.

The Rosseyanka is a different matter. It is a cross between the American and the Asian persimmon. It ripens late in the fall, has pretty large fruit, is tasty and productive, but has been very annoying to harvest for me so far. It has very fragile fruit that cling on to the tree. If the fruit gets too ripe, it will simply disintegrate and fall off, leaving the stem end still clinging to the tree. The first few years of harvest, I harvested them before the first hard freeze (generally the end of October or early November). Few were ripe by that time, but the others ripened inside over the course of several weeks. I had to use hand pruners and clip off the fruit stem with one hand while holding onto them with the other hand, as the stem will not break odd readily like an apple or pear stem will. That makes getting to the higher up fruit really annoying, as I have to get up a ladder or into the tree with two hands free, and I need a helper to hand the fruit down to, because if the fruit is close to ripe, it can be easily crushed in the sort of picking bags that I use for apples. This year I had someone on the ground holding a picking pole up to me, I'd pick several fruit and put them into the small basket at the end, and then he'd bring it down and put them in boxes. I can't use the picking pole directly to pick the fruit as the fruit are too fragile and the stems too strong (pull hard and it will likely break off partway up the branch rather than just breaking off the fruit).

This year, I decided to wait longer to pick the Rosseyanka fruit, after hearing that it could stand substantial freezes on the tree. They went through a night in the low 20s, and I finally picked them yesterday. I'm thinking it was a mistake to wait this long. Such low temperatures don't ruin the fruit, but they changes the texture of some, particularly those that weren't fully ripe, making them more mealy. The very ripe, squishy ones weren't noticeably affected, those were very tasty, but very ripe Rosseyankas are also extremely fragile and will crush or puncture easily. In the future, I think I'll harvest them before we get a hard freeze, anything down to the upper 20s or below. They are easier to handle when they're not fully ripe as well, and seem to ripen up perfectly well indoors even if it takes a few weeks.

I'm thinking at this point that in March when it's pruning time that I'll open up the Rosseyanka a lot to make access easier, plus prune the central leader back harder than I have been to limit its height. But if anyone has any helpful tips on the harvest, pruning and care of cultivated persimmon varieties of bearing age, I'm all ears.
4 months ago
A few years back, I noticed that the heat was getting to me for the previous couple of summers more than it ever had before. It would be fine at some times and then feel stifling other times with the same temperature and humidity. Digging into this issue, along with other health issues I was having, led me to discover I was gluten intolerant and one of the symptoms was spells of increased sensitivity to heat. Some other things can also trigger the same reaction to a lesser degree too, and once I got that figured out, my heat tolerance returned to being quite high again. That's one of the reasons I appreciate dealing with varied weather rather than being in a constantly climate controlled environment, if I'm responding more poorly to different temperatures, it's a sign that I should be doing something differently.

I'm applying the same reasoning to my cold sensitivity, which has no quick fix since I've gotten cold easily my whole life, but I have had a certain amount of luck in dealing with the cold better. my fingers don't go numb from the cold nearly as easily as they used to. There is no one single thing I can pinpoint those improvements to, just more years of experience in working with my body and feeling generally healthier.
7 months ago
I prefer living without air conditioning. I'm glad for the energy savings, but I don't feel like I'm sacrificing much by not having it. Sure, it does feel good for a minute to walk into a cool air conditioned building when I'm hot and sweaty, but staying in one for long periods of time feels stuffy and less healthy for my body than being in a place with good air circulation. I already have to deal with being closed up in the cold of the winter (luckily not for too long here in southern Missouri compared to when I lived up north), I don't want to be closed up in the summer as well. I adapt a lot over the course of the summer, the same heat that's oppressive in an early June heat wave is a breeze by this time in August. Eating a lot of homegrown watermelon helps a lot too. Adapting is both a matter of the body and the mind, doing more vigorous stuff earlier and later in the day is necessary, not in the middle of the afternoon. I enjoy the summers, although I'm also glad for the change of seasons and cooler weather in the fall, too.

I do agree with others who say that every person is different. I go to sleep with a fan on me when it's the heat of the summer, but almost always end up waking up a few hours later to turn the fan off. Some of my friends joke that I'm a lizard. I grew up in colder climates but never could get used to the sort of intense cold where there's snow on the ground for months. Some nice crisp winter days and a little snow now and again are okay, but once it gets cold beyond a certain point there's just no way for me to keep my extremities warm without bundling them up to an absurd degree such that it's hard to get around and I don't have much use of my fingers.
7 months ago
Also, have you ever eaten the sweet potato greens? They make a real good cooked green, I start harvesting greens from my plants when they're big enough that taking a small percentage of their greens won't really interfere with productivity of the roots. It's just the time that few other greens are coming in due to the heat.
How about okra, watermelons, and sweet potatoes? I've never lived in Florida, but I've heard they're some of the few common annual vegetables that thrive in Florida summers and sandy soil. Here in Missouri they certainly thrive in summers we sometimes get that get hot enough to stress tomatoes and halt green bean production in its tracks.
In my experience, thornless blackberries do well around and underneath apples (Thorny ones should too but you probably don't want them there if you want to access the apple trees easily). The ones with partial shade from apple trees do even better in my experience than the ones in full sun. However, when I planted a mulberry among them, they died back from the areas that got too shady. Mulberries are more vigorous and have denser shade than apples, and the blackberries couldn't take it.
8 months ago
A useful resource for growing without or with less irrigation is Steve Solomon's Gardening Without Irrigation: or without much, anyway"

It focuses on annual vegetable growing in the maritime Northwest climate, but there's useful things in there even for those of us in different climates and using a broader range of growing methods.
9 months ago
Possibly it's just a difference in perspective as to how dry is dry and how wet is wet, but I've had a number of experiences of harvesting watermelons after a heavy rain and finding them not quite as sweet as the ones harvested before the rain, even if the look and color is similar. They still have access to moisture in the deeper levels of the soil, however, even if I let the top bit dry out a bit.
11 months ago
In my experience, watermelons are quite heat tolerant, up there with sweet potatoes, peppers, and okra. They will thrive during heat waves that stress out even some other warm season crops like tomatoes and green beans, as long as they have good soil moisture. Make sure the soil doesn't get too dry while the plants and fruits are in their rapidly growing stage, but in my experience it can result in better tasting fruit if the soil gets a bit dry once the fruits are full size and ripening up.
11 months ago
Flagstaff Arizona is at 7000 feet in elevation. It's quite a different climate from the hot deserts of Arizona. According to Wikipedia, average summer high temperatures there are around 80 degrees, with an average nighttime low of around 50. Low humidity, sounds like a very nice place to be in the summer. I can't say exactly when potatoes would be harvested there, it would depend on the variety too, but I'd imagine in the fall, maybe late summer, because there's a short season up that high and I don't think they'd be mature before then.
1 year ago