Coaxing fruit from the lychee in the north
I have a couple of lychees in my GH, Sweetheart and Brewster. I have struggled in a couple of ways to coax fruit from these babies, but finally this year I think I've learned enough to get a little consistency. I thought I'd post this year's experience for some feedback.
First, it has tough to get consistent blooms and to get them at the right time. Too often, the growth flushes were ill-timed, and either they were too late (it was into June and too hot) or non-existent. This year looked like another poorly timed year. So I went with some advice from Lychees Online and pruned that new growth back. Twice. Hard. Sure enough, lateral buds flushed bloom spikes. This revelation has me optimistic for consistent flushes each year going forward.
But the bigger struggle has been pollination. NTM has more patience with his brush than I do apparently. My problems have been 1) speed and 2) identifying and collection good pollen. Over the years I've tried many methods, and most had some issue. Brushing pollen directly from males and onto females (brush gets sticky, slow, but it works); making a pollen slurry with water, brushing that on females (faster but poor pollination rates); making solution and spraying on the blooms (fast but poor pollination rates); picking off individual males, testing for pollen, and brushing those flowers by hand, one at a time, directly on the females with tweezers (painfully slow, and poor pollination rates, believe it or not).
Finally 2/3 of the way through this year's bloom cycle, I think I found a way that is fast and effective. What I did was to tap the spikes with male flowers over a piece of black plastic (actually a Folgers plastic coffee can lid). The flowers fall onto the lid and I could immediately see if there was the yellowish dusting on the lid that signalled good pollen. Then I dragged a small paintbrush across the surface to pick up the pollen. With a nice yellow dusting on the tip of the brush, I just touched each flower. This seems to have given me much better pollination rates so far, results in the brush getting sticky much less often, and is pretty fast, too.
Thoughts? If and when this crop gets big enough to be sure the fruit will make it to maturity, I'll post some pics.
You guys in the south don't know how lucky you are.