This morning, with a cup of hot coffee, I sat down on the deck, admiring the beautiful Peach trees growing nearby. They remind me of a battle that I waged against nature and then when I almost lost it, mother nature herself guided me towards the right way to win.
A few years back, I planted some peach trees. From the day I planted them, whenever I saw them growing, I could almost taste the juicy peaches in my mouth. Maybe some nice pies and some delicious cocktails while relaxing in the summer breeze, on a hammock under the tall oaks.
Things started to change when the trees were about 2-3 years old. After the winter, when they started to wake up, the leaves started to curl. New leaves would all curl up and shrivel. With their leaves gone, the trees were having a hard time coping up. As a result when we were looking forward to the fruits, I had to thin them out. After removing most of the fruits, the tree started to concentrate on new leaves but still the leaf curl was there. I had to remove all the fruits. Someone also guided us to add lots of compost or manure and keep it well watered. I did that too. The summers passed with zero peaches for us and lots of work.
A horticulturist told us that it was a fungal disease that was quite common in peaches. He told us to spray a good amount of Copper based fungicide. Even though the organic farmers do it, we were not very happy with the idea. However, the greed for good peaches next year influenced us and I ended up spraying the trees with copper based fungicide after the leaves had fallen off in autumn. Later, I followed it up with another round of spray just before the spring time blossoms. To prevent the fungal spores from spreading again, we had to trim the old oak also nearby, so as to let in more air to blow through the peach tree. All this was in vain. The spring came and the results were the same. Leaf curl, followed by a disheartening task of removing the fruits and then waiting for next autumn to spray again. We were fighting a battle against nature and losing at it.
After two or maybe three years of such battles, we lost all hope and planned to buy peaches from the market rather than grow our own. The trees were left as it is and the horticulturists who visited us kept on pestering us to spray more fungicide. We just ignored them.
The very next year, when we gave up trimming the oak, some green backed tits made their nests in the oak. After a few months, when the spring came, these tits spent the whole of their day feeding on something on the diseased peach trees. This was interesting. Were they feeding on some kind of visible fungus? No, they were feeding on tiny tiny aphids. Bingo ! The horticulturists were wrong all the time. These were the aphids that were causing the leaf curl. The birds kept feeding on the aphids and within a couple of weeks, the peach tree was full of fresh healthy leaves. The fruits were also dangling around. That was the first year when we enjoyed the peaches and that too without spraying any kind of fungicide. Mother nature had taught us.
Today, as I sit here sipping my coffee, I see the green-backed tits again, working hard on the peach tree. They are assisted by some other blue colored birds that I have not yet bothered to photograph or identify. No need to trim the oak tree, no need to spray chemicals, in fact, no need to do anything. I just have to sit back and relax, and when the time comes, we will get our peaches, and the pies and the cocktails too.
Next year, maybe, I will spray some neem oil if the aphids are in excess but I doubt that. I have also planted garlic under the tree in the hope that maybe the antifungal effects of garlic may protect when fungal leaf curl happens. Come to think of it, was Count Dracula from popular literature in some way related to any fungus, that garlic helped protect from him?
Anyway, what I have realizes is that nature balances out things. We are fools to believe that we can do better than nature.
That’s slow living for me.