I just moved to Mission a few months ago and have a Green Gage plum tree in my back yard. I noticed plums were falling on the ground and thought perhaps the tree wasn't getting enough water so it's now on a steady drip and seems to be happy - and improved. I've done some searchs on Google but haven't been able to come up with much information. The neighbours (who all seem to know about the tree) said they make great jam. They are a pale green colour and I don't know if they change colour on ripening or not. If anyone has any info it would be much appreciated. I'd like to know when to expect them to ripen and what they should look like so I can pick them - rather than them just falling on the ground.
Most of the time when the Plums drop off the tree
and the fruit feels like it is mushy (not hard) to the
touch, that is an indication that the fruit is ripe.
Sometimes the fruit will get close to being ripe
and with stress from lack of water and/or with a
snap of hot winds can cause the premature fruit to
drop. Green Gage Plums are rather simple to tell
when they are ripe. The best method actually is to
eat one. The Green Gage here will stay a light
green color but will have just a hint of yellow
mixed in the outer skin when they are ripe but the
other test other than taste is to check the fruit with
your hands. If the fruit feels like it is soft to the
touch when lightly squeezed, it probably is ripe.
From then on you can gauge when the Plums are
ripe for you to eat, make preserves or do whatever
you want with them. The Green Gage is a very
good Plum! You will be happy having that one.
Thank-you for your reply Jim! It took me a while to figure out how to get back to the forum and was happy to see your reply.
About a month ago when I saw some plums on the ground I panicked but I'm happy to know my intuition was correct in that I gave the tree a good watering and have kept it on a drip hose since.
You are also correct on when they are ripe. Taste, a golden yellow color and a slightly soft texture are definitely the indicators. They are now only a few days away from being ready to be picked as they are very quickly turning yellow.
I have a small business where I develop and produce a line of food products - no preservatives, no refined sweeteners etc. so I may try my hand at making a small batch of the jam as I understand that they are excellent for this. However, when I moved here just three months ago, the first thing the neighbors told me about was the tree. I can tell the plums are much coveted so feel it only neighborly to share.
The property has many lovely trees and shrubs and I'm delighted to have this plum tree - a very nice surprise since I had no idea.
I'll let you know how the jam turns out!
I also have a green gage tree. this is the first year it's produci ng lots of plums. I would appreciate recipes if anyone has them. Mine arent quite ready yet, probably a few weeks. Normally it's september bu this year was so warm that will make a difference.
I have read with interest the various comments and the article in the New York Times. I'm in Nelson, BC. My Green Gage (cultivar unknown) is over 5 years old and got a small amount of blossoms and fruit the first year, then only a few blossoms and no fruit from then on. I'm not ready to give up on it yet.
Comments I've read on other sites say this variety likes cold winters and hot summers, so I would have thought it would do well here. Can anyone confirm this?
My dad grew two Green Gage trees in Richmond, BC, (where there are no hot summers or cold winters) when I was a kid. (I guess I wanted it for sentimental reasons.) He got lots and lots of fruit, but he is deceased, so I can't ask him how many years it took to fruit.
The Times article hinted that the chalky soil in France was the reason for the good harvest. Could my soil be too acid for this plant? Would amending it with lime help?
The article also hinted at a special pruning method. Does anyone know what this is.
The article also suggested that having other European plums allowed for cross pollination. I don't have any myself, but there is an Italian prune plum type in the next block. Maybe I'd do better to have another plum grafted to this one?
Let's dissect some of what you wrote and go from there.
< I have read with interest the various comments and the article in the New
York Times. I'm in Nelson, BC. My Green Gage (cultivar unknown) is over
5 years old and got a small amount of blossoms and fruit the first year, then
only a few blossoms and no fruit from then on. I'm not ready to give up on it
Green Gage (cultivar unknown)? The Green Gage is a Plum. The only
selected form of Green Gage being sold that I know of is called Jefferson.
< Comments I've read on other sites say this variety likes cold winters and hot
summers, so I would have thought it would do well here. Can anyone confirm
Yes, the Green Gage Plum is well adapted to colder areas and has shown
to do very well grown in several locations in Canada as well as cooler areas
in the US also. Cold chill is quite important for this variety. Cold Winters
and hot Summers is what this Plum does do well growing in.
< The Times article hinted that the chalky soil in France was the reason for
the good harvest. Could my soil be too acid for this plant? Would amending
it with lime help? >
We can grow this Plum in saline soils and it can withstand some alkaline
soils also. Chalky soil to me may have a much different meaning to me
than what the author of the article meant. It could be that your soil may
be a little too acid for this Plum but I must remind myself that I've seen it
grow well in known acid soils, so with that in mind, it is up to you if you
want to use Lime as a soil amendment but it is not imperative that you do
so. Please note: do not ever use Gypsum on an acid soil!
< The article also hinted at a special pruning method. Does anyone know
what this is. >
I think the timing of the pruning is more important than any so-called
method of pruning. We prune when the Plums are dormant. What we
do is top the trees to make them easier to reach for picking and to promote
root growth. Thinning the center of the tree is up to the individual as an
open center is not as important for a Plum as it may be for some other
Stone Fruits. We essentially prune a Plum to shape it and to help promote
subsequent growth later.
< The article also suggested that having other European plums allowed for
cross pollination. I don't have any myself, but there is an Italian prune plum
type in the next block. Maybe I'd do better to have another plum grafted to
this one? >
Technically, the Green Gage Plum is not a European Plum. This Plum is
self-fertile meaning it should pollinize itself without needing another
Plum to help produce a crop. I would not graft an auxiliary Plum variety
on your tree as it is not needed unless you want to have a double grafted
Plum tree. If you feel you must, then have another variety of Plum planted
in the vicinity of your Plum as that will have more of a beneficial impact
to produce more fruit than a double graft will.
I think part of the reason for your lack of blossoms may be due to how
much water your tree has been getting. Your dormant spray program
or lack of one can cause the tree to not yield many blossoms. Not
pruning your tree can also cause a lack of blossoms. Not enough bee
activity can cause many self fertile fruit trees to not produce much fruit.
Bees seem to not like working in cool weather but based on what I've
read in this forum and elsewhere, the problem with this Plum has been
that it has produced too many Plums and the trees started to slough off
some of the fruit early in order to better sustain the livelihood of the
tree and to protect much of the fruit still on the tree. Plums are real
good at discarding fruit when the tree realizes it has too much fruit
on the tree when we have not thinned the tree several times in a
growing season. I refer to it as being the trees defense mechanism.
In short we do not know how much water your tree has been getting.
Whether you pruned the tree or not. We do not know if you have
fertilized your tree or not. We do not know what your soil type is
and how compacted it may be. We do not know what your bee activity
has been like when the blossoms were opening to help pollinate your
flowers. If you can provide more information I might be able to help
give you a better reason why your tree has not done as well as you had
I've already posted this message but I'm not sure where it has landed, so please forgive me if this is the second time you are reading it. I would like to plant a greengage tree in my backyard in Vancouver. My neighbour has a prune plum and some other variety that ripens a bit earlier so I might have good luck with cross fertilization. Does anyone know where I can buy a greengage tree? Preferably in Vancouver?
Thank you for your detailed information. I must admit I did not expect to hear from someone as far away as sunny California. (I lived in San Francisco for 9 years, and not a day goes by that I donít miss it!)
Thinking all the participants were local, I simply assumed everyone would know about the climate here in Nelson, the queen city of the Kootenays. We are three hours north of Spokane, WA. We are in the mountains on a lake. We are one or two mountain ranges west of the Canadian Rockies. The soil here is shallow, but my city lot is old (the house was built sometime between 1905 and 1910) so the soil is pretty good. Plus Iíve been amending it for 12 years. I have a few large evergreens on my property, but not in the immediate vicinity of the plum tree. They certainly make the soil acid around them. Truthfully, Iíve never tested the soil around the plum, so I donít know its pH.
Maybe I should do that, but you donít sound as if you think that is important. Also, I read somewhere that the more rainfall an area gets, the more acid the soil will be. Certainly where my dad grew his Green Gages it was very, very wet, a few miles away from bog land, on river delta land south of Vancouver, climate similar to Seattle.
So, plums like a wet climate? Maybe mine isnít getting enough water. Itís in the driest part of my flower garden. Although I water the area regularly, maybe it gets parched during our August drought? Our temperatures get up to 40 C (over 100 F) for at least a week almost every August. The rest of the summer our temperatures are usually in the 80s F. Our average yearly rainfall averages 729.3mm or 28.7 inches, and our average yearly snowfall is 224.7 cm or 88.46in. (I took that from a Nelson city website.) Can you give me a clear idea of how much water this plum should have and when it should have it?
Thank you for the info about pruning. I must admit the tree has only been properly pruned and sprayed this past spring, and then it was done late. It may have already broken dormancy at the time. Prior to that I pruned it myself, probably too gingerly, and it only received a dormant oil spray once before this past spring's application. I don't think it has ever been topped. If I understand you correctly, you are advising rigorous pruning and topping. Is that to make the tree put its energy into flowering and fruiting instead of into growing a lovely canopy of leaves? (Itís a beautiful tree, and I donít think Iíll chop it down, even if it doesnít ever successfully fruit.) My tree is already pretty tall, so Iíd need to get a professional to top it. How does one top a tree, i.e., exactly how much does one take off?
Could the bees or lack thereof really be a problem? Other fruit trees, even other plum trees in the area seem to get enough bees to pollinate. There just arenít enough flowers on my tree to interest a bee!
If you can clarify those few points: how much water and how much to take off the top, Iíd appreciate it. I will make sure it is properly pruned and sprayed this year.
I took two plums off it tonight, and I see one more hanging just out of reach. They were as sweet as sugar, just as I remember them from my childhood. No, Iím not ready to give up yet.
To Marie 40:
I phoned my nursery today, and they said my tree came from Bylands Nursery in Kelowna. You might try calling them to ask where you could get one in the Lower Mainland. Good luck with it.
The Green Gage Plum can grow seemingly well in an acid
soil. The purpose to incorporate Lime as a soil amendment
would be to get the pH nearer to neutral. Applying Gypsum
on an acid soil would make the soil even more acid.
I'll use the same formula to respond as I previously used in
the last post.
< Also, I read somewhere that the more rainfall an area gets,
the more acid the soil will be. >
In most cases that is true but not always as I found out with
some soils here in California and even some coastal areas of
< So, plums like a wet climate? >
No, most Plums do not like a wet climate but the Green Gage
can handle more moisture and cooler climates a little better
than most fruiting Plums can.
< Although I water the area regularly, maybe it gets parched
during our August drought? >
How do you water where the Plum is? With a hose and for how
long a watering and how often during the year? Many Plums can
be tolerant of dry conditions but they are intolerant of prolonged
droughts. Your rainfall amount is equivalent to our neighboring
foothill communities. Even they have to water their fruit trees
about once every week to 10 days and give their trees a deep
< I must admit the tree has only been properly pruned and sprayed
this past spring, and then it was done late. It may have already
broken dormancy at the time. Prior to that I pruned it myself,
probably too gingerly, and it only received a dormant oil spray
once before this past spring's application. I don't think it has ever
been topped. If I understand you correctly, you are advising
rigorous pruning and topping. Is that to make the tree put its
energy into flowering and fruiting instead of into growing a
lovely canopy of leaves? (Itís a beautiful tree, and I donít think
Iíll chop it down, even if it doesnít ever successfully fruit.) My
tree is already pretty tall, so Iíd need to get a professional to top
it. How does one top a tree, i.e., exactly how much does one take
This is the area that will cause the most problems. We can grow
a Green Gage Plum like we would an ornamental Plum as I've
done it in a home garden and for others. The question you have
to ask yourself is do you want a nice looking tree that may not
yield a lot of fruit or do you want a Plum tree to produce lots
of fruit? You can have the best of both worlds but it will require
a certified arborist or a knowledgeable landscaper to come in
and prune your tree to shape it plus prune it to rejuvenate the
tree. For us we will top a tree for commercial production back
to about 8-10' tall. Many arborists (here is where I will get in
trouble) are trained not to top a tree but rather to shape a tree.
What you need is someone that knows how to prune a tree
but is also well versed in fruit trees and in this case fruiting
Plums. Luckily for you the Green Gage is much more
agreeable to having someone come in and prune it well to
shape it and restore some vigor to the tree. That is not so
much true with the Plums we grow commercially here as
they will in most cases have to be topped. A good, solid
pruning may also mean that you may not have much of a
crop next year but you do need to have someone to look
at your tree. If you can, provide some images of your tree
and then we can better evaluate it to determine some of
< Could the bees or lack thereof really be a problem? Other
fruit trees, even other plum trees in the area seem to get
enough bees to pollinate. There just arenít enough flowers
on my tree to interest a bee! >
I like to have another Plum tree around even if my main
Plum is self-fertile. With a Plum or most any fruit tree
without bees we do not get much fruit. We figure that
about 5% of the fruit can be cross pollinated from another
Plum but that leaves 95% of the Plums that have to be
pollinated by bees. Generally, we have a second Plum to
ensure better pollinizing to help produce more pollen
but that alone will not necessarily mean more fruit . We
still have to rely on the bees to pollinate the flowers by
taking pollen from another tree or the same tree and
completing the pollination process for us.
How do you water where the Plum is? With a hose and for how long a watering and how often during the year? Many Plums can be tolerant of dry conditions but they are intolerant of prolonged droughts. Your rainfall amount is equivalent to our neighboring foothill communities. Even they have to water their fruit trees about once every week to 10 days and give their trees a deep watering.
I have an above-ground irrigation system in place, with spray tips on the end of risers which vary in height to about a foot. This year I augmented with my hose with a spray attachment directed at the base of the tree, because my flower garden had become overgrown and the irrigation system was proving inadequate. We had a fair amount of rain this summer, so I wasn't watering as much as in previous years. I guess I water once or twice a week when the weather is dry. I water any given area for a half-day at a time, about 4 hours.
> The question you have to ask yourself is do you want a nice looking tree that may not yield a lot of fruit or do you want a Plum tree to produce lots
of fruit? You can have the best of both worlds but it will require a certified arborist or a knowledgeable landscaper to come in and prune your tree to shape it plus prune it to rejuvenate the tree. For us we will top a tree for commercial production back to about 8-10' tall.
I grew this both for its fruit and its shade, so I definitely want a tree that looks good in my landscape. I want it closer to 20 feet than to 10 feet. I realize I would probably never be able to get the fruit from the top of the tree.
>If you can, provide some images of your tree and then we can better evaluate it to determine some of its needs.
I took these pictures yesterday. I hope they are adequate. You will note that the plum is part of my backyard flower garden. Although it was well pruned in the spring, it looks as if it could have taken a lot more. I discovered some shoots growing toward the trunk, but I know they weren't there after the pruning. I photographed some bits of disease, but there was only one small, twiggy branch with the rusty spots and two or three small ones with the leaf curl. Is the rust a fungus? I believe the leaf curl is a caterpillar of sorts.
>I like to have another Plum tree around even if my main Plum is self-fertile.
Unfortunately I have no room for another plum.
> We figure that about 5% of the fruit can be cross pollinated from another
Plum but that leaves 95% of the Plums that have to be pollinated by bees.
I have lots of bees in my garden most of the time, as I have lots of flowers to attract them. I haven't paid careful attention, though, to the number of bees I might have at the time the tree is blooming. I could plant flowers to ensure there are bees at the right time, but I think the first problem is that the tree does not produce enough blossoms. I saw so few blossoms on this tree that I could almost count them, and I'm thinking every blossom did get pollinated, as so far I've had about as many plums this fall as I had blossoms in the spring. I'm hoping that your pruning and spraying and hints will help me to get enough blossoms. I spoke with my nursery yesterday, and I suspect I could feed this tree a little better, too. I may not be giving it enough phosphorus.
I cannot thank you enough for your help, Jim. I do hope others are finding this information as useful as I am.
Photo 1: Plum with 5'8" husband for perspective.
Photo 2: Plum from end of yard.
Photo 3: Plum with unpruned shoots.
Photo 4: Plum with leaf curl.
Photo 5: Plum with rust.
Your pics are duly noted. I'll be out of town for a few days
but I'll write this now.
I would prune your tree like I would an Ornamental Plum or
a Bradford Pear. Since shape is an issue for you I think your
timing of pruning is more important than to ruin the shape
of your tree just so it will produce more flowers and in turn
more fruit. For you I would prune in late Winter which I
guess for you would be in January-February. Our Plums are
blooming here in February so there is a marked difference
in climatic differences between us.
I think for your tree since it is special to you that I would
have someone well versed in Fruit Trees to come in and
work on the shape. Pay the money to hire someone
reputable and watch how they prune your tree. Most people
do not spend the time to watch what all is being done to their
trees and that is a huge mistake as the money you spend to
have a professional come in an shape it will save you money
in the future. Since I cannot prune your tree for you I can help
with ideas as to when you should apply a dormant spray to
your tree. I would suggest you give your tree a good dormant
spray first in late January with a light oil and a Copper sulfate
type spray. Lime sprays are good also but you cannot use
them in very cold weather as the Volck sprays can burn your
twigs and branches applied in freezing weather. If you can get
Copper sulfate then you are set. I would come back in with
another spray when the blossoms are starting to swell (popcorn
stage), before they open up. If you can find a light oil with
Diazinon then use it along with Copper sulfate otherwise just
use Copper sulfate mixed with water. The Diazinon in the oil
will provide some protection for scale insects and some aphids
and may help with any over wintering insects such as some
caterpillars. The rusting may be due to lack of light more so
than a fungus disease so the fungicide sprays becomes even
more important to you if your do have any disease problems
that I am not seeing.
From what I see you have no apparent problems with
this tree. My assessment is it may be too happy with
your soil amendment program of the past. Your tree
looks almost too good which can lead to a reduction
in the amount of blossom production. I would only
trim the top to give the tree some balance and prune
the side shoots and the water sprouts in the center of
the tree. I still feel the timing of your pruning is more
important than anything I can see so far as a detriment.
Your tree shows a lot of vigor and reminds me of Steve's
(the Veterinarian) Satsuma Plum that grew like a weed
for us. It spent so much effort in producing new growth
that it forgot to bloom! I think we are dealing with a
similar situation here.
A light pruning, a spray regimen and a balanced fertilizer
low in Nitrogen applied in late Fall, early Winter, would
be what this plant doctor would order for you.
Thank you so much, Jim, for all this useful information.
I have just one question. You say to fertilize in the late fall or early winter. When I was consulting my nursery about this tree a few days ago, (and admittedly this is a general nursery and not a fruit tree specialist) they told me to fertilize in the spring, not fall. The concern appears to be that it would encourage growth at a time when the tree should be going dormant, and that this would delay dormancy and increae the possibility of winter kill. Given that we usually have our first snowfall by Hallowe'en (although it doesn't start to stay until mid-November), is it really safe to fertilize in the fall?
I always apply a 0-10-10 granular fertilizer in the very early
Fall. I will come back in with a fertilizer with Nitrogen in it
during the Winter (we fertilize all of our Fruit Trees in early
December) and let the rainfall water it in for me. Yes, you can
fertilize with Nitrogen in the Fall but after all of the leaves have
dropped. I wait for the 2nd or 3rd frost. It takes a while before
the Nitrogen is readily available to the plant anyway and if we
use a granular fertilizer rather than a liquid then fertilizing in
the Fall is not a problem. I've done it in a zone 2 for a variety
of plants here at my cabin in the mountains with no ill effects.
re . pruning take out the Water spouts (ie take out the water spouts
the "branches that point straight up,and any crossovers), It will let the tree breathe
see pic # 3 . I will not get into sprays for your area. Or zonal
questions. As I live north of you all and have the g/gplum here they have survived - 25 f in the Northern BC climate. I would not recommend the use of Hi N due to the snow pack that is possible and can cause problems.
In case I was not clear enough for your tree, I would
use low Nitrogen applied in late Winter. I would not
use Nitrogen for your tree in the Fall. I have given
trees Nitrogen in the Fall before but they were trees
that I felt needed it. Your tree right now is a little too
vigorous to be applying large amounts of Nitrogen
to for some time. I would go out and try to find
some 0-10-10 granulated fertilizer that has somewhere
between 6-10% Calcium in it. That fertilizer can be
used for almost everything in your yard and works real
well for me on Conifers and virtually any flowering
plant including Roses and any flowering bulb. I use
0-10-10 as my over wintering agent to help protect
the root system from extreme cold. You can apply
a 0-10-10 right now where you are. Where most of
my Conifers are in a Zone 2 I can have snow on the
ground from the middle to late October almost through
all of March.
Even though I have a strong farming background I have
always balked with what I was taught in school to use
high amounts of fertilizer, mainly Nitrogen, to grow a
crop. I felt it was the timing of when we fertilized was
much more important than the amount we applied and
for a long while it seemed I was the only person to feel
that way. I took a beating through my earliest years of
college until my Botany and Plant Anatomy instructor
took me under her wing after telling me I was right in
For your Plum I would go low Nitrogen in the Winter
such as a 5-10-10. I grow Plums commercially and
even in our operation we do not apply high Nitrogen
as much of the time we have enough residual Nitrogen
in the soil whereby we really do not have to apply
much Nitrogen at all if we do not want to. We do
apply some in the Winter just to help get a stronger
flush of growth in the Spring but to be honest it is
the other nutrients in our fertilizer is what I am
wanting to apply more to the trees.
Prolnged snowpack and Nitrogen can get along providing
we use a nitrate form of Nitrogen as it takes longer to
chemically break down to be available to a plant. Nitrogen
from Manure is a completely different story as there is
a form of Nitrogen given off that can be readily used by
a plant that can cause some damage to the roots if the
soil becomes frozen for any length of time. It is the form
of Nitrogen gas absorbed through the roots that will cause
the greatest damage and one of the reasons why is that the
gaseous form will be translocated throughout the plant
and respired out through the leaves. With no leaves
to extrude off the gas it stays in the plant and can cause
internal damage aside from burning off root hairs upon
its absorption into the roots but even more so when the
ground is frozen and there is already restricted sap flow
up and down the plant but more importantly this can and
does occur with such limited oxygen movement occurring
throughout the plant.
I had a request to comment to this thread in regards to pruning so thats why this post may come out of left field considering the other posts. :) I would prune out the majority of the center area and thin slightly on the lateral branches as necessary to help increase air flow as well as remove any branches with cankers or lesions. The shape I am thinking would be that of the flowering Cherry tree known as Mt. Fuji, a wide V shape, closer to a T shape than an I shape. The plums are suited to this shape when grown for fruit production but be wary of the timing of the pruning as Plums are really good at sending watersprouts up. I try to prune the plums in mid winter or during the growing season as it draws to its end. If you do it early in the season the tree will shoot like crazy and it is very difficult tp re-shape the growth to laterals. If pruning in winter, prune when it is cold out, dry if possible. Warm weather while nicer to work in is also a great time to infect your tree with fungus issues. above 40F or about 5C fungus can thrive (I may be corrected on the eact temps but I just wanted to make the point as it were), moisture is also a great transport system and breeding ground for the aforementioned nasties, hence, dry weather is best. Between trees and prior to storage, give your pruning tools (saws, secateurs, loppers, knives) a wipe with an antibacterial product (bleach, lysol etc) then wipe with oil to deter rust.
Paul Buikema, CHT, I.S.A. Certified Arborist. Certified Tree Risk Assessor, 2010 BCLNA Member of the Year Progress Landscaping
I have a question for Linda from Nelson RE: her Green Gage Plum tree. We have a place in Coalmont (Zone 3) which is probably similar in climate to Nelson. Winters can get down to -35 F (-30C), sometimes even -40F (-40C). Summers are hot and dry. Is Nelson similar? How is your tree doing? I don't know how to get back to this forum, so if you read this, could you email your reply to when and if you read this. Thanks... Bob
Thanks again, Jim. I'll run out and buy some, as this is already early autumn here.
I have a question for Linda from Nelson RE: her Green Gage Plum tree. We have a place in Coalmont (Zone 3) which is probably similar in climate to Nelson. Winters can get down to -35 F (-30C), sometimes even -40F (-40C). Summers are hot and dry. Is Nelson similar? How is your tree doing?
YEAH-I have been attempting to find some green gage plums for over 10 years! They are the plums which are used to make the old time true "Sugarplums"! Think I could get some seed? I'll send the recipe!
Wonderful fruit...my grandma used to make green gage jam.