Several years ago my kids and I planted some peach trees and a plum tree. At least one of the peach trees died and was replaced with another plum tree.
The oldest plum tree is doing well, a couple of the peach trees are doing ok, but two of the peach trees are not doing anything. They are just “there” not growing at all.
Now that my wife and I have moved to the farm I am resolved to take care of the fruit trees.
Why haven’t the trees been growing? I think it is a 2 prong problem:
1. Texas has been in a severe drought for the past few years.
2. We have sandy soil in southeast Texas that does not have very much organic matter.
I am going to fix those two problems by supplying water to the trees when needed, and adding organic mulch around the base of the tree.
Our harsh, capricious climate north of the latitudes of Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and St. Louis—so much severer than that of corresponding latitudes in Europe—is unfavorable, or at least very trying, to all the more delicate and luscious Fruits, berries excepted. Except on our Pacific coast, of which the Winter temperature is at least ten degrees milder than that of the Atlantic, the finer Peaches and Grapes are grown with difficulty north of the fortieth degree of latitude, save in a few specially favored localities, whereof the southern shore of Lake Erie is most noted, though part of that of Lake Ontario and of the west coast of Lake Michigan are likewise well adapted to the Peach.
It is not the mere fact that the mercury in Fahrenheit’s thermometer sometimes ranges below zero, and the earth is deeply frozen, but the suddenness wherewith such rigor succeeds and is succeeded by a temperature above the freezing point, that proves so inhospitable to the most valued Tree-Fruits. And, as the dense forests which formerly clothed the Alleghenies and the Atlantic slope, are year by year swept away, the severity of our “cold snaps,” and the celerity with which they appear and disappear, are constantly aggravated. A change of 60°, or from 50° above to 10° below zero, between morning and the following midnight, soon followed by an equally rapid return to an average November temperature, often proves fatal even to hardy forest-trees. I have had the Red Cedar in my woods killed by scores during an open, capricious Winter; and my observation indicates the warmest spots in a forest as those where trees are most likely to be thus destroyed.
If I were asked to say what single aspect of our economic condition most strikingly and favorably distinguished the people of our Northern States from these of most if not all other countries which I have traversed, I would point at once to the fruit-trees which so generally diversify every little as well as larger farm throughout these States, and are quite commonly found even on the petty holdings of the poorer mechanics and workmen in every village and in the suburbs and outskirts of every city.
I can recall nothing like it abroad, save in two or three of the least mountainous and most fertile districts of northern Switzerland. Italy has some approach to it in the venerable olive-trees which surround or flank many, perhaps most, of her farm-houses, upholding grape-vines as ancient and nearly as large as themselves; but the average New-England or Middle State homestead, with its ample Apple-orchard and its cluster of Pear, Cherry and Plum-trees surrounding its house and dotting or belting its garden, has an air of comfort and modest thrift, which I have nowhere else seen fairly equaled.
Upland Virginia and the mountainous portion of the States southward of her may in time surpass the most favored regions of the North in the abundance, variety and excellence of their fruits; for the Peach and the Grape find here a congenial climate, while they are grown with difficulty, where they can be grown at all, in the North; but, up to this hour, I judge that our country north of the Potomac is better supplied with wholesome and palatable tree-fruits than any other portion of the earth’s surface of equal or nearly equal area.
On the whole, I deem it a misfortune that our Northern States were so admirably adapted to the Apple and kindred fruit-trees that our pioneer forefathers had little more to do than bury the seeds in the ground and wait a few years for the resulting fruit. The soil, formed of decayed trees and their foliage, thickly covered with the ashes of the primitive forest, was as genial as soil could be; while the remaining woods, which still covered seven-eighths of the country, shut out or softened the cold winds of Winter and Spring, rendering it less difficult, a century ago, to grow fine peaches in southern New-Hampshire than it now is in southern New-York.