Every bit of green on this tree is an act of triumph.
We bought this English Morello tart cherry tree on March 14. Bare root season was pretty much over but over there on the cool coast of Santa Cruz the tree was still dormant (and cheap!) It was the variety I wanted.
I haven’t been mentioning it since…
We planted it. And then we waited and waited and waited. Given that it’s the one we expect to grow to block the view from our windows to our neighbors’, having it just sit there mutely gray was not in the plan. It was even on standard rootstock, no dwarfing–that way it would take off faster, like the Indian Free peach has, even if it meant it would take more pruning effort later.
The fig tree we bought at the same time has leafed out nicely with new branches starting, doing what the newly planted do. It has clearly recovered from all the cutting I had to do to its roots to separate them from each other.
Eventually I was clearing away spurts at the ground from the cherry’s rootstock–that is so not the variety I want to grow. And then at long, long last we got just the beginning hints of green up above where there should be.
Then they shrank.
Yet I never saw anything touch it and the other trees were doing just fine.
Finally one night when it had started a flush of green yet again I went out there with a flashlight and my stars: the whole thing was a completely solid mass of black beetles stripping every bit of leaf straight down to nothing. They weren’t touching the ones from the impatient rootstock that wanted to get on with this living business, just the English Morello part.
I did what I could to clear them off, feeling just sick. Grape Koolaid anyone?
And then we went off for four days for the weddings.
Our friends Krys and her husband were at the second wedding we went to almost straight from the airport.
And they wanted to know: had it worked?
I had forgotten all about it. Back when I was fighting an ant invasion in the garden I’d read something about how the barbecued ash from charcoal briquets breaks ants’ joints and kills them and our friends had shown up at our doorstep with what they’d cleaned out of their grill for us. It had worked; the ants were gone. Wonderful!
And then I had utterly forgotten all about it.
So there we were talking and they were saying, We bet we gave you a lifetime supply of that stuff. How was it?
Oh, you bet it worked! Thank you so much and you can clean your grill any time, I’ll take it!
As the obvious hit me upside the head–Duh! I had had it right there!
We got home very late. There were the very barest slivers of maybe two leaves left, and I doused them and the whole tree with that ash. The next night I looked again and still found two beetles; one disappeared fast, the other reared up on its hind legs as I let it have it, then fell off.
But over the next few days the tips of what was left (meaning, pretty much everything) shriveled and turned black. I didn’t know if it was from the ash or a disease from having been bitten.
I went to cover the mango that night and suddenly realized I had a second cover on hand. How about a physical barrier for the night bugs?
And that, that, is how, on Memorial Day, our cherry tree is finally beginning to look like it’s early March. It’s still got a few bites but it was so very close to dying on us and now, now, it’s going to be okay. That picture is a week and a half’s worth of growth and it definitely has some catching up to do, but now we know it will.
It had just needed the right treatment.
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