In 2006 I planted fruit trees, in anticipation of retiring and having time to pick and use the harvest. I ordered them from a nursery catalog and paid a total of about $95 for four trees. I figured it would take at least 5 years for them to come to fruition (so to speak) and bear enough fruit to matter.
In the field, I dug huge holes, 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep and mixed in several soil amendments as well as fertilizer so that the baby trees would get a good start. I planted them that fall, a dwarf pie cherry, an Elberta peach, a Lodi apple and a Braeburn apple.
Hubby surrounded them with fence posts and chicken wire to keep the deer from eating them.
Learning to Prune
The first year my babies grew well. So I set out to figure out how to prune them, and when to prune them. I hauled my gardening books to the field in the fall and gingerly snipped here and there, frequently consulting the pictures and illustrations. After snipping, I carefully painted the cut edges with tree paint.
Fruit develops on second year growth for the most part, but how the heck do you figure out where the second year growth is?
That first spring things looked good. The Lodi put on a couple of apples, the cherry tree grew, the Braeburn flowered and the peach tree had several peaches.
The next year was not so great. In the spring, I hopefully covered the tree tops with fruit netting, to keep the birds off. But as the spring wore on, the leaves of the peach tree burled up and turned red and then dropped off.
Desperately I searched for a description matching what I saw happening. I tried multiple sprays of different types to try to kill whatever it was (probably a fungus) but nothing seemed to work. By then the poor little tree had about 10 leaves left.
We babied it the rest of the summer, with hubby hauling buckets of water out to it by hand to make sure it had enough water. Finally it started sprouting new leaves.
The Lodi bore apples that second year, but they were enjoyed by the bugs instead of us. The little dwarf cherry managed to produce one bright red fruit – which I picked and fed to hubby.
The Braeburn leaves developed dead brown spots all over each leaf and gradually dropped most of its leaves, after blooming.
Each year there was some issue that prevented us from getting any significant fruit.
The fungus kept coming back, the spots on the apple tree kept causing it to lose apples, until last year, it lost all of them and then re-grew most – using up its blooming capacity for the spring.
Since it didn’t bloom, there was nothing to cross pollinate the lodi apple, so it didn’t bloom or put fruit on.
Last year the peach tree lost most of it’s leaves and we thought it would die. Even so, I sprayed it for fungus – using a new variety – in February and did my pruning then.
I also pruned the Lodi apple tree.
Both trees had gotten out of hand. You see, when fruit trees are young, so I learned, you are supposed to focus on shaping the tree when you prune, not on making sure there is going to be second year growth!
I pruned them back pretty hard, but trimmed up the cherry and the Braebern apple with more restraint.
Peach Tree Success
This spring, the peach tree came back to full glory – the leaves were green and healthy and it had scads of baby peaches in the spring and through the early summer.
Although the apples didn’t even bloom, the cherry put on quite a show as well. We harvested 15 – 20 cherries, nicely tree ripened.
And Peach Tree Failure…
Now the peaches are ripening, but we won’t be getting any of those scads. In case you are unaware, there is a severe drought where we live in the midwest. Hubby has been walking buckets of water three times a week back to the peach tree in an effort to save the harvest. The peaches were somewhat small, but just putting on their first blush of ripening, when one morning we discovered an entire branch broken off and most all of the peaches gone. On the ground were freshly peeled peach pits. We thought perhaps a wind had come up and snapped part of the tree that had been weakend as it had some scarring on the branch or, a deer had pulled on a peach and broken off the limb.
I sawed the branch off beneath the damage and painted the wound.
The very next morning, when hubby went out to water, he found that many of the peaches on the remaining branch were filled with holes. We think a woodpecker discovered them!
Today, he watered the tree in the morning, and then checked it in the afternoon and found that only 3 peaches remained! Three peaches, out of more than 100! He put up additional fencing, thinking that perhaps the deer were jumping up to reach them. But what would be causing all the fresh peach pits scattered under the tree? Deer would just swallow the whole peach, not carefully nibble the fruit and leave the pit.
The Squirrels Are Having a Peach Fest
After hearing this, I searched gardening forums to see what kinds of critters eat peaches and found that squirrels are big offenders. In fact, the many entries detailing what gardeners had done to try to save their peach harvests were amazingly horrendous and humorous at the same time.
People tried everything from pepper to hungry tomcats to tiger poop to keep them away from their trees! They tried human pee, rat poison, bebe guns and coon dogs. They tried traps and tree rings and cages and nothing seemed to work!
Planting Fruit Trees Was a Bad Economic Decision
- We spent $95 for the trees.
- We spent money for fertilizer and amendments.
- We spent money for water.
We have harvested and eaten 15 – 20 pie cherries.
So far, the cost of each cherry ranges from $4.75 to $6.34 for EACH cherry. What a deal!
I’ve promised hubby peach cobbler as payment for all those days of walking buckets of water out to the trees! I’ll be spending some time and money at farmers market to find some nice peaches to use!
Don’t fight the peach tree battle. Plant blueberries instead! We’ve had banner crops from two bushes for 4 years since planting them 5 years ago!
So, have you ever tried something that just didn’t work?