Gardeners interested in trying their hand at a fruit tree will do well to start with a Methley plum tree for its wide growing zone, abundant fruit crop, and self-fertility. Budding botanists who start with a finicky, challenging tree can be set up for disappointment and be discouraged from further fruit trees, but a Methley plum is a great confidence-builder and introduction to fruit growing.
Read on to learn more about the Methley plum tree, uses, and growing tips.
History of Methley Plums
Methley plums are a bit of an anomaly and are thought to be the result of a chance seedling that was a cross between a Japanese plum and American plum in South Africa. Botanists and orchardists spend years grafting and cross-pollinating trees to make new and better varieties, but nature produced the Methley and the result is a disease resistant, highly adaptable, high-yield plum tree.
How Do Methley Plums Taste?
Methleys are a mild, reliable plum, and really what most people expect when they bite into a ripe plum. The flavor is sweet, mild, and juicy. Their flavor lends itself well to fresh eating and to a variety of recipes.
How to Use Methley Plums
If you have your own Methley plum tree, the key to using them will be to plan on having a lot of plums in early-to-mid summer. The easiest use will be to set a bowl of cleaned plums on your kitchen counter and allow your family or guests to grab handfuls at leisure.
Unless you are growing them for neighborhood squirrels and birds, plan to do some bulk food preparation for your plum crop. Annual fruit production yields about 50 pounds. Consequently, one of the most accessible options will be to make a delicious jelly.
Stacy Lyn Harris has a great, simple recipe for utilizing the fresh fruit to make a tasty jam. The only ingredients needed are a big batch of plums, sugar, and lemon juice. Plums are a naturally high pectin fruit, so you can make jam without adding additional pectin and the extra sugar that goes along with those recipes.
Having your own plum tree will give you the freedom to try some new plum recipes that you might not have had the courage to experiment with when relying on expensive store-bought plums. Take a like at 21 Plum Recipes to Try at Home.
Finally, if the plums are at risk of going bad before you have time to deal with them, consider freezing them as a last resort. Given the small size of these plums, it will be a chore, but better than letting your harvest go to waste.
Health Benefits of Methley Plums
Methley plums have a nutrition profile similar widely available commercial varieties. You will find that wild plums have very high amounts of Vitamins A and C, and like all plums, good amounts of fiber.
Both the plum fruit and tree have health benefits; check out a Minnetonka Orchards article devoted to the subject.
Where to Buy Methley Plums
Methley plums are very popular trees because they are so accessible, and they have a wide growing range, meaning there is a great chance you can pick one up at your local nursery. If you find that your local, in-person options are limited, you may have more success online. The variety is very popular because it can be grown in most of the country.
Our preferred online nursery is Nature Hills Nursery. They offer 1 to 3 foot trees that can produce fruit the first growing season. For the best selection of trees, plan to make online purchases in the summer for fall or late winter planting. Many nurseries sell out of seedlings by the late winter planting season.
As far as simply purchasing the fruit rather than a whole tree, your best bet will be roadside fruit stands and farmer’s markets. Local specialty stores in the region may also carry them, but Methley plums are not widely produced.
How to Grow Methley Plums
Methley plums are an easy-to-grow Japanese plum. It blooms white flowers in early spring, as early as February and March, and its plums will be ready to harvest in May to July, depending on the weather and climate. Situate your tree in a part-sun (about 1/2 day) location.
The Methley plum tree is recommended for USDA zones 4 through 9 and is cold hardy down to -15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Appearance and What to Expect in Your New Tree
One of the many reasons that the Methley plum tree is such a popular fruit tree is that it has a really convenient shape and size for both private homes and commercial applications. They naturally only reach about 12 feet in height, but with minor pruning can easily be kept under 10 feet. It has an upright shape and a spreading canopy, so it produces an aesthetically pleasing shape for yards and can fit in even a small space.
Your Methley plum tree will have a rather fast growth rate and should be mature in 3 years. Growers can have the best of both worlds of cost savings by purchasing a bare root tree but still enjoy a well-developed tree in just a few years.
Humans are not the only lovers of plums, so they will also bring birds, deer, and squirrels to your yard. The trees are also popular with nesting birds.
Planting and Growth
Methley plum trees like loamy soil, so when you are digging your hole that is at least twice as wide and deep as the root ball, toss in some compost as you backfill if you have sandy or clay soil. They do not do well in alkaline soil, and if you have any doubts about the makeup of your soil, check in with your local extension office. They usually offer soil sample testing.
Once established, you can expect your plum tree to be drought-tolerant, but prior to that, be sure to keep away grass and weeds that will compete for nutrients and water.
Methley plums are considered self-fertile, but the tree will bear more plentiful yields when within 50 feet of another plum tree. Remember, Japanese plums and European plums do not pollinate each other because the two types have a different number of chromosomes. The Methley is a Japanese plum, so you cannot rely on any nearby European plums for assistance
If you have a vegetable garden struggling to produce squash or pumpkins, bringing this tree into the area will help bring the pollinators your vegetables need to reproduce.
Pruning and Suckering
When you plant, be aware that these trees do produce suckers in the hope of spreading into those thorny thickets. Trust me that you do not want to do battle with a well-established stand of suckers. The best method for keeping them at bay is removal soon after sprouting so that you are not stuck with a brittle batch of stubs from mature suckers that are pruned down after they have turned woody. Read more about pruning plums for the best health of your plum tree!
If you are looking for a more familiar plum to compare the Methley plum to before committing to a tree, you can think of it as something of a mix between an Italian plum and a Chickasaw plum. It looks similar to the Chickasaw plum in that it is a smaller, lighter colored plum, but its juicy sweet flavor has more in common with an Italian plum.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Methley plum a grafted tree?
Although the Methley plum is a naturally occurring cultivar, nursery stock are indeed grafted. Fruit trees are grafted onto rootstock to improve hardiness, disease resistance, and to control the size of the tree.
What is the species and genius of a Methley plum?
The Latin name for a Methley plum tree is Prunis Salicina ‘Methley.’
How long does it take for a Methley plum to produce fruit?
Your tree will produce fruit in 2 to 4 growing seasons. Fastgrowingtrees.com advertises that their trees will bear fruit within 1 growing season, but that is unusual.
Does the Methley come in sizes other than semi dwarf?
Methley trees are most commonly semi dwarf, but some nurseries do offer a dwarf size that should be around 8 feet in height. Standard-sized trees reach 20 feet in height and in canopy spread but are more difficult to find.