Thank you, Associated Press. I know that I haven't talked about it here, but I've secretly spent the past month or so feeling like a complete gardening failure because of the lack of fruit set on my orchard trees and other fruiting plants. Strawberries were first, lousy this year in both number and size. Two cherry trees in my yard bore nothing. The blackberries were a mediocre crop at best. And, looking at the peach and apple trees, I've got one apple tree ('Winesap') with about one-third the normal number of apples and my 'Jonathan' and 'Gala' trees are completely apple-less. And I can count 6 peaches on three trees. Mrs. ProfessorRoush is quite upset, particularly at the loss of the strawberry crop, and I have caught her sneaking in produce from afar.
I have been trying to assuage my guilt about not harvesting a decent fruit crop by blaming it vociferously on our late frost this spring and the on dry fall and winter of last year. I have been avoiding entry to the part of my garden that includes the orchard. And I've been avoiding talking to other gardeners about their fruit harvests, fearful that I'll be proven inadequate by comparison and laughed at. I was considering, for a time, wearing a scarlet "G" on my chest, the very symbol of gardening shame. Recently, the gardener's refrain of "it will be better next year or the one after that," has been constantly running through my head.
But this weekend the local paper ran an Associated Press story out of Lawrence, Kansas, and there it was in black and white; "A few days of subzero weather in late February has decimated the fruit tree crops in northeast Kansas, sharply reducing the apples, peaches...." Ahhh, thank you Experts. near and far, for making it all better for the amateurs. They've officially blamed my lack of fruit on a phenomenon called "winter kill," below-zero temperatures that destroy the developing ovaries. More importantly, I now know that everyone around here is in the same boat and we are all now free to commiserate and moan and gnash our teeth together, rather than hiding the knowledge of our insufficiencies in the closet with the family's eccentric Aunt and the funny Uncle.
In the same article, the Experts blamed the strawberry loss on a different mechanism; a cool and wet spring followed by a sudden heat that scorched them just as they were ripening fruit. Me, I don't care why it happened anymore, I just care that something or somebody other than the garden caretaker was to blame. And I can tell Mrs. ProfessorRoush that it wasn't my fault and show her the article. She'll believe that, won't she?