— W.C. Fields
Try, try again.
Against our better judgment, my husband, Kevin, and I decided to take yet another leap of faith and give three more fruit trees a try. This week, we ordered a BlackGold sweet cherry, a Reliance peach and a Freedom apple tree from Cummins Nursery in Ithaca.
OK, I decided and he didn’t stop me.
The dream of picking our own fruit is just too intoxicating. We’re giddy when the sour cherries and peaches ripen on the only two trees we’ve managed to raise to maturity. Adding apples and sweet cherries would probably make us break out our dancing shoes.
The trouble is, to date, we’ve failed to keep so many fruit trees alive that even I’m losing count. To the best of my recollection, it’s three sweet cherry, one peach, one pear, and four apple trees. That’s an orchard in and of itself — and enough to sink even indomitable optimists like ourselves into despair.
To our credit, we do have one sweet cherry, one apple, one plum, one pear and a second sour cherry still happily growing. They have yet to produce fruit, but they haven’t given up the ghost, either.
We’ve laid most of the blame at the feet — make that roots, leaves and nuts — of the three black walnuts that frame the southwest borders of our property. The juglone toxin these trees exude to restrict competition must accumulate far from the dripline, even uphill.
For we haven’t neglected our young charges. We’ve sited the saplings from reputable nurseries in a well-drained area; dug deep, wide holes; composted; mulched and regularly watered. To no avail. Despite seeming healthy for up to two years, each has inexplicably died.
Frankly, we’ve been spoiled by the care-free nature of so many of the berries we’ve planted. Established black currants, black raspberries, honeyberries, gooseberries and aronia berries take care of themselves. The blueberries and cranberries need a little extra coddling — a little more water and a little more acid than they’d get on their own — but they’ve settled in and made themselves at home.
Our only failure in the berry kingdom was huckleberries. We watered, we mulched, we acidified, we composted. All for naught. For a native, hardy shrub, it may have been too much attention.
Regardless, we pulled them, tossed them on the compost pile and bid adieu.
It’s not so easy with the fruit trees. We’re haunted by the specters of well-pruned canopies and full branches laden with fruit — crisp, juicy apples; sunny, luscious peaches; dark, sweet cherries.
So, since our living sweet cherry, a Tartarian, and apple tree, a Spitzenburg, each need a pollinator, and since our peach tree is slowly dying from a peach tree borer attack, we are compelled to court disdain from W.C. Fields and give it another foolish go.