Man vs. Sadness – The Death of a Fruit Tree

Having a mature fruit tree in your yard is a blessing for a gardener.  They provide an abundance of yummy edible goodness, look great, and require little maintenance as compared to your average vegetable garden.  When buying our current house I was pleasantly surprised to learn that two mature trees in our front yard were actually a peach tree and an purple leaf plum tree.   The Purple Leaf Plum is considered an ornamental fruit tree, but it does provide a lot of 1-1.5 inch fruit that tastes just as good as any plum you have ever bought from a store.

Both trees provided my family (and the local squirrels) with a lot of fruit for about 3 years, and then we started to see changes.  Peach production cut drastically in the fourth year – almost in half – and then the fifth year gave us only one or two peaches.  The Purple Leaf Plum was a gorgeous tree for four years and then in the fifth year only leafed out about 50% of the previous year.  This year, it didn’t leaf out at all.

So what happened to my beloved trees?

Plum tree, beginning to blossom in years past
Plum tree, beginning to blossom in years past

Well, the peach tree wasn’t really a shock.  The previous owner planted it in a terrible location.  A much larger ficus tree was slowly shading out all of the front yard and the peach tree was now underneath the huge canopy.  I tried my best to keep the tree properly pruned and fertilized, but with less and less sun each month.  It finally died.  By the time I cut the tree down, the roots were so dead that the tree basically just pushed over.

Peach tree - Dressed up for Christmas as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree in it's final winter
Peach tree – Dressed up for Christmas as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree in it’s final winter

The plum tree’s demise was more of a shock to me.  It was lovely in spring when it flowered and the purple leaf color was a lovely addition to the landscaping.   What I didn’t know, was how short the lifespan of a purple leaf plum is – only 10 years.  We had the house for 5 years and it was already a fully grown tree at that time so I’m sure it was at least 10 years old when it finally died.

Very sad changes to my yard, but this is also a good lesson for fans of fruit trees.  Before buying/planting a tree, check it’s lifespan and keep that information handy to diagnose future problems.

In the end, I will not plant another tree where the peach tree was, since nothing would grow under such a heavy canopy from the larger ficus.  The plum tree, however, was replaced by a young Babcock peach tree (lifespan – 15-20 years).

Babcock peach replacing plum tree (just planted)
Babcock peach replacing plum tree (just planted)

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