The Trials and Joys of Gardening

Growing fruit trees in Monmouth, Illinois, has always been a challenge. The climate is not quite right and there is often a cold snap just as the trees are blossoming. Over the years I have planted and lost any number of trees: apple, apricot, pear, cherry, etc.

Once I planted a pear which was supposed to be a dwarf with grafts of five different types of fruit, but the dwarf graft must not have survived and the roots from the standard-sized tree survived. The result was a flourishing pear which produced delicious fruit, but, unfortunately, thinking it was a dwarf, I had planted it too close to my vegetable garden and I eventually and reluctantly had to cut it down Then there was the cherry tree which got knocked over by a redbud tree. I planted a new cherry nearby but the original tree managed to survive and now I have two cherry trees!

One of my attempts at growing apricots resulted in an unpleasant encounter with the city government. Apparently, I had planted the tree too close to the road and someone had complained that it obstructed visibility. Instead of letting me know and giving me a chance to move the tree, a self-righteous councilman came and cut it down on his own authority. (He lost the next election, not specifically because of my sad apricot tree, but because he treated lots of other citizens with similar disdain.)

Currently I have those two cherry trees, plus a replacement pear, a new Italian plum, a very old apple and a much beloved peach tree which, in a good season, produces a good crop of peaches in late August.

Well the spring of 2021 was typical. Last April, just as the fruit trees in my garden were about to bloom, we were hit with a cold snap which, I feared, would kill all the fruit blossoms. Despite the cold, many blossoms seemed to survive. Here is a photo of my peach tree in glorious bloom:

Peach Tree in Bloom

The cold weather was not kind to the cherries, which bore few fruit this year, but through spring and early summer I lovingly watched as the peach blossoms set and the fruit began to grow. I was looking forward to enjoying a peach crop in late August when we got back from our annual month in Maine.

But while we were in Maine, our son-in-law visited our Monmouth home and send us photos of the garden. When I saw this photo of the peach tree, I was very saddened. Apparently, there must have been a bad storm while we were gone and the branches, heavy laden with maturing peaches, broke in the wind.

The Sad Broken Limbs of the Peach Tree

I was also worried about the potatoes which were planted right near where the branches fell. (In the foreground you can see the asparagus bed which was fortunately spared.)

Today, now that I am back in Monmouth, I trimmed back many of the fallen branches of the peach tree. Fortunately, the beaches did not entirely break off the trunk and the the broken limbs are still alive and many of the peaches were still ripening. So I have been able to harvest quite a number of peaches. We had some for dessert last night and they were delicious. We will probably have enough to freeze for pies and jam (which we only make when the weather turns cooler).

Then there was the question of the potatoes. Once I had trimmed back the fallen peach tree branches ,I found the withered remains of three potato plants and was not optimistic about what I would find in the ground. But potatoes are a hearty plant and, once I started digging, I found quite a few potatoes, as you can see:

The Potato Crop

These plants were special. I don’t’ usually plant potatoes, but my six-year-old granddaughter Dorothy is an avid gardener and persuaded me to plant some. Her mother Julia gave me some special purple potatoes to use as seeds — enough for five or six plants. Dorothy was not able to help me plant these potatoes. But we did harvest two or three plants while she was here in July.

So the story of the peach tree is, indeed, a mixture of success and loss. The sad peach tree is unlikely to produce any more fruit in future years, but it did go out in a blaze of glory this year. I am not sure I will replace it. I also lost a couple of brussles sprout plants which were crushed by the fallen peach branches, but the potato crop was saved. The new plum tree produced only a few fruit this year, t we are hopeful for its future yields. The fruit on the new pear tree is still ripening on the tree and won’t be harvested for several weeks yet.

Any good gardener knows that the fruit of their labor is beyond their control. Mother Nature rules. She giveth and she taketh away. Such are the trials and joys of gardening.

I taught Classics for 40+ years and am now Capron Professor Emeritus of Classics at Monmouth College in Illinois. Read more about me at www.tomsienkewicz.com.