Twenty odd years ago, we moved from the beautiful mountains of Western Maine to the very different world of Eastern Washington. You couldn’t ask for two more opposite locales.
• Western Maine - predominately cold and snowy. We left on April 1st in a snow storm, still wearing our winter jackets.
• Eastern Washington - predominately dry and sunny. We arrived 7 days later to trees covered in leaves, daffodils in bloom, and kids playing baseball. The jackets were ditched along the way.
The first thing I did in my new home was plant a peach tree. Now, I knew nothing about growing peaches, except that I liked them and finally lived somewhere with a growing season that was longer than 60 days. We went to a local department store, bought a tree, and put it in the ground. It grew. And grew. And quickly developed large, beautiful, fuzzy, sun-kissed orbs of deliciousness.
But I still knew next to nothing about growing peaches and didn’t thin the fruit enough. So branches broke, even as the tree continued to grow larger. For many years, branches broke off one by one, and most of the remaining tree grew in the neighbor’s yard, along with most of the peaches. I wanted to replace the tree, but didn’t know what kind of peach tree is was. I called them mystery peaches. That’s where Mother Earth News came in. An article inspired me to try to grow a new tree from a pit.
I followed the directions found in this 2008 article, Growing Fruit Trees with Seeds, with fantastic results. The first year they (I actually had 3 germinate) were just babies, grown in a corner of the garden. The next year I put all 3 into one large container and let them grow. By year three each tree had its own container now and was about 2 ½ feet tall. All was good. Until a week-long vacation coincided with a heat wave and an irrigation breakdown. We came back from vacation to find our trees cooked in their black plastic containers.
So, the peach tree experiment was a bust. But my grandson, an apricot aficionado at the age of four, had insisted on planting his own apricot tree from a pit. We followed the same process, eventually planting the tree in a light-colored container and moved it to a corner of the garden where it received less intense sunlight and regular watering. The tree grew, and by the time my grandson was 8 or 9 he was harvesting apricots. However, when it became time to move the tree, we found it had broken through the container and rooted itself in place, amongst the blackberry and raspberry bushes. The tree decided it would stay put – although a significant section has grown into the neighbor’s yard, along with many apricots.
So many lessons learned:
• It’s easy to start a stone fruit seedling.
• Avoid black containers in very hot environments.
• Irrigation will always break when you are on vacation.
• Save the tree identification label so you will know what kind of peaches are growing.
• Always do what your grandchildren want – especially when it comes to the garden.
• Although it is painful to toss all those potential apricots or peaches, thin the immature fruit before its weight breaks tree limbs.
• A robustly growing tree will break through a plastic container and claim its space.
Some people, even those who should know better, will tell you that it is not possible to grow a tree from seed. While I wouldn’t recommend it for apple trees or pear trees (you will end up with a wilding), the process works for apricot and peach trees. Start your own today!
As for my original peach tree – we cut down the remainder last year. Based on my research, it was either an Elberta or a Hale. So we purchased two new trees and are growing them as little fruit trees, following Ann Ralph’s pruning method for small trees.
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