Maintaining fruit trees at home can be a big challenge for even a master gardener

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By: Jim Carpenter

Mike Overall/Flicker

Certainly when you think about growing your own food, you think about growing vegetables. But a person does not live by vegetables alone. Or at least, very few people do.  

Providing an edible product for your table might include having a few chickens running around your yard or maybe even having larger livestock if you have the inclination and the property. Another way you might add to your homegrown food sources is with fruit trees.

My experience with having my own fruit trees has not really been too positive. We have lived on our property for more than 26 years. Thinking fruit trees would be a good thing to have, I planted several apple trees and one plum tree shortly after moving here.

After about 10 years of not being able to produce anything that would resemble a worthwhile harvest, I eventually cut them down. I simply could not keep the bugs away. I tried an organic spray for a while and even resorted to the typical chemical spray in an attempt to produce an edible harvest.

About 10 years ago, I planted two tart cherry trees thinking I might have more luck with them. Indeed, there was one year when we did get enough good cherries to make a few pies. But between the worms and the birds, they really haven’t been too ‘fruitful’ for me. However, the cherry blossoms are simply beautiful for a while in the spring. Also, I suppose I am helping support nature by letting the birds eat those wormy cherries as they ripen.

Now we come to my peach tree. It was probably in the late 1990s when a co-worker put the word out that his wife was going to place an order for some bare root trees for $3 each. I ordered several Ginkgo trees and a couple of red bud trees. These were planted at various locations around my yard and pretty much forgotten about. The red bud that survived was blossoming one spring when my wife remarked that it just didn’t look like any red bud tree she had ever seen. I suppose I just shrugged my shoulders and said “Well, that’s what it is”.

Fast forward a few weeks when one day, I was mowing around this small tree and happened to notice small green balls all over it. Huh, imagine that, my red bud tree was actually a peach tree! Yes, it was covered with little bitty peaches.

Peach trees, like many other fruit and nut trees, will tend to not produce very much fruit after a season with heavy production. Many growers will thin their fruit in a good year to make sure they will have a harvest the following year. The reason for this is because, during the summer, the next year’s blossoms begin to initialize and must compete with the current crop for certain hormones and carbohydrates. With a heavy crop on the tree using up most of these vital elements, there simply will not be many peaches on the tree the following year.

But 2015 was the ‘on’ year for the peach tree in my yard. In fact, I actually had to get a plank to help support a limb that was being overburdened by the weight of all those peaches. When the time is right, peaches get ripe in a hurry. So for most of last week, we were hustling to can peaches and calculating when to call in our friends and neighbors to harvest the excess. In my mind, there are very few things superior to the taste of a fresh, sun-ripened peach.

I have never sprayed this peach tree and until the fruit starts getting overripe on the tree, there are very few bug problems. Although the exact variety of peach that I have will never be known, it is similar to the Red Haven type, but a little smaller. All I know for certain is that it is a very tasty peach. I suppose on some days during the picking season, I might eat as many as 10 peaches a day. And of course, the peach crisp my wife makes is about as good as it gets.

So I have never had much luck with any fruit tree I have ever ‘knowingly’ planted. But the red bud/peach tree has given us a great deal of fresh and canned peaches to enjoy. It has also given me an interesting story of how it came about that I have finally have had some ‘fruitful’ success in the garden!

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