Compost Alone Cannot Explain This. Or Can It?



Two North Star pie cherries in my vegetable garden last week.  I planted four of these in the spring of 2009.  All of them are doing well, but the one on the left is doing scarily well.  The only difference is that the one on the left sits at the head of my asparagus bed, and asparagus, which I love, gets favored treatment, including much of my limited store of kitchen compost in early spring.

This spring, I made sure that all my North Stars got a shovelful of compost.  But the other three don't yet seem to be catching up to the freakishly healthy tree.


  1. I have become a little obsessed w/ compost this year. I had one of the smaller black, covered compost bins that you can get anywhere and used it for everything (mostly kitchen scraps and some grass clippings). But I wasn’t getting enough compost! So my husband built me an open bin this spring. I’ve been scouring the countryside and lugging home buckets of manure, scrounging eggshells from the bakery up the street and begging old produce from the grocer. Gives me something to do now that everything is planted!
    Anna Z.

  2. Anna – if you can score the coffee grinds with the filters from a coffee shop they make beautiful compost really quickly, also shredded paper from the office is really wonderful.

  3. It’s possible! I was able to resurrect 2 seemingly dead bougainvilleas by repotting them in mostly-compost. And any asparagus run-off bonuses would add to the love.

  4. Compost is good, but I can tell you as a cherry grower, there can be all kinds of things going on that have little or nothing to do with just the compost–cherry trees in particular seem to be sensitive (and vulnerable) to the tiniest things. I’ve seen some very strange things in the orchard that I couldn’t account for. That said, the extra Spring nurturing you give the asparagus close by might be spilling over to the tree. We throw the odd kitchen scraps and woodstove ash out under the trees nearest our house, and they definitely seem happier than trees further out the row.
    If I didn’t know better, I would wonder from the picture if the tree on the right was actually growing up from the rootstock (not the graft). Strange!

  5. Absolutely it’s the compost ! My Stella sweet cherry is planted near my compost pile, close enough that I’ve found feeder roots when trying to turn the bottom material. I’m thinking this explains why, for three years now, we’ve enjoyed more cherries than we can eat fresh, or dry, freeze, put into pies, jams, jellies, cobblers, preserves, chutneys, sauces, or even give away. Even the neighbors get a little wary of me during cherry season now.

    The funniest thing ? When you look at the tree, all of its branches are reaching toward the compost pile. It’s not that the limbs are slightly angled in the general direction; they are full-on clamboring for the primo stuff like the tree is a compost junkie.

  6. Laura, funny! The reason I’m puzzled is that the soil in vegetable garden is already super-rich. But apparently, cherries are real hedonists.

  7. I think you have a nice advert for compost just with the pic 🙂

    Here’s more evidence. My volunteer tomatoes coming up out of the compost pile (yep) look like they’re juiced on steroids compared to the healthy seedlings I planted in the tilled beds.

  8. Laura, which way does the wind blow where your tree is growing? We have some plum trees that look like their branches have been blow-dried in one direction, but it’s pretty obviously the wind in that spot. They look very fashionable 🙂

  9. Anna: don’t forget to add cardboard toilet paper rolls to your compost pile. As they break down they make nice places for earthworms and other critters to burrow, creating tiny air pockets. Also, you might want to consider worm composting. You can do it indoors, giving you something to obsess about in the slack winter months.

  10. Anne – it’s not the wind, as the wind blows equally from both the North (compost side) or South (compost-free zone). Plus, we get a windbreak from the various evergreens & deciduous trees our neighbors have planted around us right up on the property line. There are four other fruit trees planted in my yard, far from the compost, which show no sign of growing with wind from any direction. It very well could be the shape of this particular tree, perhaps relating to the weight of the cherries on it during the prime growing season … but I really like to think it’s reaching for that compost. :~D

  11. WOW! I’ll have whatever that cherry’s having! Is it possible previous growth has helped to break up and aerate the soil? This in combination with the compost may do it. Maybe the subsurface soil differs. My old home had a stream running over the property before it was built (more like a drain). Trees in certain favorable areas grew much faster where the stream had been.

  12. Love the contrast! I had a similar experience years ago with a lovage plant that grew in a garden bed previously sheet-composted over fall/winter. Never having grown lovage before, I consulted books and gardening friends. All stated the plants might reach 3 or 4 feet, max. Mine towered over my head, probably at least 10-12 feet tall — I called it my Alaskan lovage (I had been in Alaska earlier that summer and wondered if some of that 24-hour daylight energy had transferred to my garden). Everything else in that bed grew super well too, but the lovage plant was the most impressive. Compost! Compost! Compost! (we need a cheer)

  13. Another mystery of gardening. I have inkberries, all planted at the same time in a hedge, where one plant is thriving and the plant immediately next to it is struggling. Presumably the plants are genetically identical so why the dif?

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