THE BLOG
01/26/2015 12:17 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2015

Care and Feeding of an Obstinate Plum Tree

I inherited 10 fruit trees, one a 50 year-old Anjou Pear. A couple of apple of unknown variety, five citrus, a Loquat and a Black Fig.

They all survived my learning curve, so I figured I had graduated to the level of planting my own varieties of fruit. I had earned my orchardist stripes, so to speak. I plated a Persian Mulberry, Blenheim Apricot, three Gravenstein apple, two peach, two plum and a nectarine.

I'm not sure if the old timers resented the new comers at first and then relented because it seems to take a very long time for the new trees to give in a bear fruit. According to my collection of nursery and self-described experts, a fruit tree will take as long as three to five years before bearing fruiting. After five years I begin to wonder if it is something I said that made the tree angry at me. I do tend to get a bit mouthy with my trees at times.

One in particular is my plum tree. I thought I bought a self-pollinating Asian Plum tree. After three years of five plums, I began to wonder if I had made a mistake about the mating issue of this tree. So, I bought it a friend, supposedly a Santa Rosa Plum that indeed cross pollinates.

Lack of bees is a problem globally but I happen to have a nice little population around my home and property. I do my best to supply lots of bee friendly plants. I also happen to be a long time member of the Great Sunflower Project. I know about attracting and caring for bees.
I tested the soil. Not too much nitrogen which can cause more leaves than fruit.

The new little plum seems to be happy in its new home. It's the original plum I can't seem to please. Even my horticulturist is mystified.

He told me to neglect my trees a little more, so I backed off fussing so much over the plum tree and didn't fertilized any of the trees last season. Ended up with way too much fruit. What I can't eat, can bake or give to friends I donate to a local food pantry and also work with our resident backyard fruit sharing organization, Village Harvest.

Almost nothing goes to waste. If there is any fruit not suitable for ingesting, it goes into the compost pile. I'm a well converted suburban homesteader. It's only too bad my chickens won't eat more fruit, but then chicken diarrhea would not be a good thing given that they already fertilize enough of the trees near their own yard.

So, as far as my stingy plum tree, I don't know what to do for it any longer? It's growing big and fluffy, full of leaves and in every other way looks extremely healthy and happy. It doesn't have a disease, it has a friend that is very fruitful. It just doesn't set fruit.

What to do with it? Nothing more than I have done already. I could never take destructive action over anything I've nurtured. My chickens die of old age. They get put to sleep by my very understanding veterinarian, brought home and buried. My plum will just have to live out its life as a fruitless inhabitant of my mini-orchard. It will find meaning in providing some shade for the visiting cats, a place to perch for my feathered guests and yet another member of the other fruitless green foliage around my yard.

Such is life for the backyard amateur orchardist.