I'm ready to throw in the towel

milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)June 1, 2014

I don't mean to belittle the trials all of you who have endured the crazy weather this year, honestly, but I am just not seeing how I can really pull off a covered orchard in my little backyard. Without such a cover I will never get any fruit.

The only fruit I can reliably count are Surefire cherries, Illinois Everbearing mulberries.

The peaches, apricots, and plums are done in. I have a couple of Green Gage and maybe a couple of Toka. I have a couple of Rubinette apples developing, and surprisingly a few breba figs, although the hail did damage most of them.

So this will be the third year in a row without any crops to speak of. I started this venture seven years ago and most of the trees have never fruited at all. I don't think I would be exaggerating to say that I have spent probably $8000.00 on this venture. I just don't have hope that I can ever really get it to work. I don't seem to have the energy to get motivated to set up a "high tunnel", and the funds have dried up as well.

I am ever more grateful to the growers of the crops my family and I eat, and so be it if they are not organically grown.

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Milehighgirl, I'm sorry it has been so trying for you. I'm glad I don't have to deal with your altitude and all the vagaries of weather you've faced. It has definitely been a (pick your expletive) few years.

Here at 3200 feet I can usually count (so far!) on apples and pears, and some plums and apricots as well as soft fruit do well. I don't try to grow cherries, but there are a fair number of pie cherry trees around, as well as Nanking cherries (actually a plum, I guess), and that's about it. Where you are I would hestitate too.

But I hope you'll try to stick with it a bit longer. I've always found your enthusiasm encouraging myself, and I've admired your courage at tacking big projects.

I agree that the high tunnel is a a worthy goal. I probably won't get the chance with my limited space, but I'd like to try. But maybe that'll happen later for you- and in the meantime you've tackled some very big chores and had some important experiences. I very much hope you'll be able to put that all together and make it work.

As for organic- well, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, and when it doesn't there are still some decent, if not pure and perfect, options out there. I don't hesitate to buy good conventional produce over iffy stuff, especially when the organic stuff is priced out of reason.

Here's to a few seasons of improved results, and best to you.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 10:29PM
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MH I have been following your orchard and fruit journey, as many of our trees were planted at the same time. Even though we are miles away in difference of altitude and climate, looking at trees thriving without fruit on them is almost (I say almost) as frustrating. I think that the high tunnel is the only way to go in your area. The 'hail' alone would have made me pull my hair out. Rhubarb is rhubarb but your precious trees really don't deserve this treatment. You have indeed invested a great deal. I am always impressed with the 'equipment' you get into your backyard, and how 'weedless' your orchard is. It is also impressive that the holes you dig are so deep and stone free. You have worked too hard to give up now. Take a break, weed, and take a deep breath too. Your investment is not totally lost, just a bit of your expectations. This is a tough business isn't it? My sympathies and good wishes. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 7:01AM
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mjmarco(Zone 6 Upstate NY)

Pick yourself up and dust yourself off...when the tough get going...the going gets tough.

Sorry, had to say that...I hear yea, just think, you don' t have to rely on your trees to survive. I too have had many bad years and you can' t count the years waiting for the new tree to blossom or give fruit...those are growing years.

Hope you keep at it...it nature at it's best and will be rewarding to taste the fruit as it ripens of the tree....good luck!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 8:11AM
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If there was a college class on working through adversity, it should be held in in an orchard. It does seem to get more difficult to bounce back from all of the stuff that nature throws at us.

This past brutal winter, many of my apple, plum, and cherry trees didn't survive. Most of the remainder were also damaged to some degree by the winter. I also was wondering for a while if the battle was still worth fighting. Having been retired for several years, I had to ponder if I'd even get to see the fruits of replanted trees.

Small victories with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and yes, even rhubarb..... plus the "garden therapy" have made me decide to press on in spite of adversity. The list of potential replacement trees has already be started.

I also hope that you will find a way to continue the battle milehighgirl.

Commercial growers do deserve a "tip of the hat" for what they can, and do, accomplish.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 8:15AM
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I have a side business renting audio/video gear. I started it by buying one slightly used video projector. Business was so slow that I had given up on it becoming anything, but let it limp along for the extra buck here and there. It was three year later when it started gaining and I have never figured out what the difference was. Today I have 16 video projectors and about 10 wireless mics plus the other misc gear. Now it is a pain due to the phone ringing all the time.

SO, the moral of the story is you should buy some video projectors. OK not really. But taking a break from the subject may be helpful. You don't have to build your tunnel today, some new ideas or whatever may emerge when you are not focused and frustrated.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 10:07AM
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You might consider growing raspberries and blackberries. The raspberries in our yard are very prolific-some people actually mow the bed down in the fall, with a lawnmower, which forces the plants to start anew each spring. Raspberries would be damaged by a hail storm, just like any other plant, but the difference is, three months later, they would have grown new leaves, and look substantially recovered. It takes some work to keep a raspberry bed from growing into an impenetrable thicket-you have to keep thinning them out. Maybe you could talk to someone who already grows this plant in your area.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 5:40PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I agree about the raspberries, and it's a quick fix, you'll have berries the first year, and an enormous amount the 2nd year. Luckily they are one of my favorite fruits. Blackberries though I have had all floricanes die, even three plants outright die from the cold.
Carmine Jewel, Crimson Passion and other Romance cherries would probably do well in your area. (rated to zone 2, they will feel like they are on vacation in your zone!)These are high brix tart cherries that are very cool. Elderberries, service berries, the dogwood Cherry (Cornus Mas).
Currants, gooseberries, Honeyberries, all would do well.
I like to cook, and many of these are best used in cooking. I love it! I grow all of the above. Rhubarb is another awesome plant. Strawberries, and I know you have grown blueberries. Just expand these smaller fruits, and if the trees fail, you still have lot's of fruit to keep you busy.
One really needs to start with known plants that work in your area. You started with experimentals, and the failures are tough.

I got my first harvest of berries today! A lone ripe strawberry Yeah the 2014 harvest season has begun!
Actually I harvested 4 pounds of radishes a week ago.
I pickled them, came out great!
I'm growing ground cherries this year. Interesting plants, also Tzimbalo (Solanum caripense). It's been a blast growing stuff from seed. Very rewarding. Pepper plants are actually perennials, and I plan on overwintering them under lights. They can live about 10 years Turning into small trees, well not that small, 6 foot pepper trees are very possible.

I have 11 tomato plants, the heirlooms are fascinating, the stories of how they were saved are awesome. Wild Boar Farms is breeding some very interesting new open pollinated cultivars. I plan on growing a few next year.
I'm going to get a bumper crop of pineberries this year. What a cool strawberry! White body, red seeds. White D is the best cultivar. Burpee sells it. Delicious, I have now tasted just about every type of strawberry and the pineberries are right up there. Amazing tasting fruit. They taste bad if not ripe, and a little hard to tell when ripe.

So change direction in your gardening, at least somewhat to have some success to make the failures easier to take.
I lost almost all my floricanes on my blackberries, and all my fruit buds on my trees, but I'm having a blast this year!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 1:14AM
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alan haigh

Start very small, make a tunnel for a tree or two- not a fancy set up, just enough protection to keep up plastic in early season and hail netting later. Grow trees you can keep small- a peach or two if you like them. They can give you crop in 2 or 3 years.

You are Mile High Girl. You are invincible.

Growing fruit a mile high in the middle of the country (away from coastal influence) is a huge challenge, but I don't think you will give up.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 5:25AM
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Hang in there! Add a few more dependable crops (maybe jujube, autumn olive, reliance grapes), do a simple cover as h-man says and wait for a really good year to decide if it is worth it! The PVC tunnel I will put up for a month or next spring will only cost me about $100 and protect over a dozen dwarfed trees from late freezes. Check out Mother Earth news website for designs. Good luck to you, I can relate!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 8:50AM
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Three years of taking it on the chin is a lot for anyone to take with a smile on their face, so I sympathize with you as well. But my guess is that you're understandably frustrated - but there is just no way you will throw in the towel..., this deal is in your blood now.

Hang in there, your learning experience from this as you come out the other side may prove invaluable to someone down the line.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 9:12AM
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See, you can't throw in the towel too many people need your company here on the forum. How are the trees doing that you planted in Iowa?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 10:15AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Only reason I have fruit this year is because of potted trees. I have a ton of fruit on my TangOs, Saturn, Blushingstar, Flat Wonderful...and a few Satsumas (grafted branch) along with a few pluots (plum curculio and pruning took off a lot of fruit already).

Out of the trees in the ground I have some (a dozen?) Alderman plums and a handful of apples (very few)...the pears are probably going to be very few this year too. It #should# be an excellent year for strawberries and raspberries.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 10:18AM
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alan haigh

Potted trees on wheels, that's the ticket. Roll em in for winter and back in when weather threatens fruit.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 12:31PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'm facing the same decision in a similar climate. It would cost about $1500 to shelter a 750 sqft current outdoor orchard. This would be for freeze, hail, and bird protection. That's way cheaper than a greenhouse but not as fool proof. Do I really want to pour that much more into what has so far been a losing effort outdoors?

Adding together my fruit and field crop experience in west TX, I've seen freeze and hail damage to my crops literally 100 to 200 times in 40 yrs. It does get old at times.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 1:24PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

You know I might quit in the conditions you all describe. I don't feel so bad now about my climate! thanks!! :)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 2:32PM
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Grow whatever performs well and takes the least amount of effort in your locale. Why fight the forces of nature? If somethings fails --yank it out or top-work it in favor of something that works well.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 9:41PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Just what is it that works in the hail? How about 23F two months after bloom? You're talking like a spoiled southern CA grower who's never seen either one.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 10:31PM
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I don't post much but I read and your enthusiasm comes thru again and again. Sometimes we have to step back and regroup. I cannot grow blueberries but there are farms all around me that can. Strawberries? I'm going to need a bigger freezer! So I grow strawberries.

Sometimes we have to change our expectations. I had a good peach - 1 year. I've learned alot here and maybe I will get another good peach someday (one tree died this winter, the other is still hanging on) but I love being in the garden and the sun and the exercise is good for me. Don't let it make you crazy but if you love it - keep trying, you will find a way. Sherry

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 10:56PM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


Hang in there. Omaha and Blair Nebraska just got nailed with 75 miles wind, flash flood, and hail anywhere from a marble to baseball size at 5PM today. I will check the orchard after work tomorrow to assess the damage. I hope 30 of my new grafts make it. :-(


    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 12:23AM
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It is hard to give up on gardening.
I am zone in 5a and have frustrations with most of my fruit trees but what never failed to fruit abundantly were "Evan" cherry (in US it is sometimes call Bali) and the honeyberries(Haskap) bushes. The evan cherry is cold hardy on its own root. It is aweet & sour type but if left longer on the tree it tends to get sweeter.
The frustration with sweet cherries is due to bleeding of the trunks with honey like liquid evetually causing death. I lost my two cold hardy Apricot trees due to fungus/mold on the trunk wood that caused to shrink the leaves and eventual death.
Apples perpetully gets leaf spots, then leaves fall and more leave appear late and plant get weaker. And yes, Pears grow well but I don't get to eat any. The racoons tak it all. The racoons does the same to the grapes and Strawberries.
These are some frustrations but I cannot quit because there will be not much else to do as interesting at my age ten years after retirement. I replaced Apricots with another variety "Tilton". Also planted Honeycrips apple hoping these will do better.
Yes, I forgot the potted figs. They are doing OK but are late this year. I get a few dozen figs before the frost puts a stop to ripening with hard green figs on the plants (when fall comes).

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 1:19AM
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Every locale has its challenges. I fight spider mites, stinkbugs, nematodes, rodents, birds, and water deficits, among other things. I'm always thankful that growing food is a hobby and not my livelihood.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 11:14AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I'm sorry to hear about your tree losses, I was watching video of the hail on the news this morning and thinking about the horrible damage it would do to gardens. I'm thanking my lucky stars I live in such an amenable climate.

I hope you can overcome your frustration and find joy in fruit growing despite the vagaries of the weather.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 11:52AM
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MHG, i wouldn't blame you if you did say the hell with it. sometimes i think I'm crazy for spending my free time this way. especially after a trip through the grocery store fruit aisle. if i do get gooseberries this year they'll have cost about 7 dollars a piece ;-)
but, the thing with this hobby (obsession) is that we learn as we go. if something doesn't work we try something else, and we keep trying until it does work. you've learned too much to quit now. good luck. james

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 10:38PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I'm sorry to hear,..hopefully something good comes of it, yes, give up the one's what are hopeless, just stick with something proven to work...see what others around you grow. You might strictly go more with berry crop bushes etc,..I'm thinking of Blueberries, Haskap, ..I see your long root grape!..Bush Cherries, Raspberries and Strawberries.
Best of luck! OH...I'm thinking of some proven crab apples, I grow Chestnut and Trailman...great!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 10:57PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Small fruit is awesome. I can make yellow, pink, red and black raspberry jam this year. My fav with berries is using Ghirardelli's Candy Making & Dipping Wafers . The dark chocolate. The stuff stayed liquid a long time. One could easily dip 20 frozen berries in it. You never had to reheat it. Best melting chocolate I ever used. This year I have 2 ground cherry plants. I heard they are great dipped. One cherry was ripe yesterday. Strange fruit, it tasted sort of like a tomato, but the sweetest tomato I ever had. Pure sweetness followed by a tomatoey aftertaste. Easy to grow from seed.

I'm also growing Tzimbalo. I have three of them. From seed. Hard to find! It produces a fruit a little larger than a cherry tomato that tastes like a tart melon.
Mine are still small, this plant now has flowers.

So many options of things to grow that are cool. I love every growing season. I started growing tropical's before any other plant, and hundreds of tropical fruits can be grown in temperate zones at least as annuals. So every year I will add exotic fruit, just for fun.
I already have some seeds for next year. Yet more rare and unusual seeds. I had to buy some in the UK.
The tzimbalo is supposed to take a long time to fruit, but mine has flowers already. I will overwinter under lights if I have to. It is a perennial.
Anyway, this kind of stuff can get you through failures.
The fruit on these I think is very worth growing. Yields on ground cherries is pretty good. Probably will be a fruit I grow every year now.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 12:50AM
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LaDonna Hilton

I really feel your pain. Three years ago the birds got all my cherries despite the nets and scare tape. Last year someone stole EVERY SINGLE peach off my trees. This year a hard frost in April nixed my chances of peaches and cherries and killed about 6. So I tell myself "Self, you lost 6 trees. Look how many you have left! And at least it wasn't your house or health." Alas, each year I tell myself "next year". This is of course after I cry for an hour or two. And I still give my trees tender loving care knowing that the year I get to savor all the crops will be the best year. Ever. I mean, where would we be if Johnny Appleseed gave up? Hang in there!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 3:47PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I really appreciate the encouragement. I did have to take a break for a while. I went to visit my aunt in Iowa and the trees I planted for her last year are really doing well. The Contender peach has about 10 fruits developing, Polly has about 5. There are also a handful of apricots and cherries. Thankfully the hail missed her.

She has one mature apple on her property. I am guessing by the photos that it's Wolf River, I bought her one without knowing she already had one. She gave me some of the applesauce she made from it and it was extraordinary. Then I bought some Braeburn and Jonagold to make pies. Believe me I really appreciated the complex, sweet/tart flavor of the applesauce after trying to make pies with store-bought apples. It kind of gave me some impetus to keep going.

I have all of the small fruits that were mentioned above, along with the trees that are supposed to be no-brainers. I have come to the conclusion that if I had to live off of the earnings of a fruit crop it would have to be pie cherries.

I really couldn't possibly give up now with my whole yard an orchard. It is always hard when what one did for the love of it becomes something one must do out of obligation.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 2:30AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Good for you! It's always a up and down in this business,..even
when the down's are greater then the ups,...it's the "little" ups what gets us still kicking!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 3:23AM
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skyjs(z8 OR, USA)

I'm glad to hear you're doing better, mile high girl.

This guy I knew who lived in really cold NE Oregon at ?6000 feet grew bush cherries. They were perfect in a climate like yours every year with no effort at all. He didn't even know anything about gardening, so I agree with Drew and Ottawan:bush cherries. They don't grow well here with our wet springs, but they should there.

There is a guy named Adam Klaus on permies .com who grows at 7000 feet in Colorado and grows everything biodynamic style, with great yields every year. I already bug him for advice, but if I were you, I'd bug him even more.
John S

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 2:43PM
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If it has been 7 years it is time to cut your losses. Things should have fruited by now. Clearly your area is a SOB, which surprises me. I would have thought successful fruit orchards existed or historically in your area to mimic.

As mentioned, berries are good crops for that area (some invasive?). Fast production too and if need be easier to cover.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:21PM
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I'm glad to hear from you. I was wondering.

Good to have you back.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Me too! (Was thinking we were gonna have to do a welfare check there for a second...)

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 8:39PM
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milehighgirl, glad you are back in the fray. :)

I planted out my lot with the concept of using edible ornamental varieties and placement. Evergreens (citrus) near patios and focal points, deciduous trees out of the way or where allowing Winter sun on a given area was an advantage. Most fruiting plants are attractive in their own right with anything edible being a bonus.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:14AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

And, in my "idyllic" climate we have virtually zero chill hours, and my sprinkler system was unknowingly broken. So, between not enough water and hot enough chill hours, and have very little fruit this year (except my Fuji apples, which are loaded this year, empty last year.) I hear your frustration, milehighgirls. Working cultivars best suited to your area will help, I hope you can get past the funk, and continue with your trees.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 3:53PM
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I do not have any suggestion for you but I'd like to let you know that I am very glad that you are back. I hope the weather in your area will be less severe and wish you a lot of success.

I've read many of your posts. I am amazed by your knowledge and grateful for your contribution on this forum.

Selfishly speaking, I hope you will continue growing fruit trees and share your experience with us here.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 6:42PM
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