By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN After planting three trees in four years, Curt Levang finally has a nice, luscious, juicy crop of peaches growing in his front yard in Howard Lake.
Ever since Levang moved into his home on Howard Lake in 2005, he has planted numerous fruit trees, bushes, and vines, as well as a big vegetable garden.
“My dad always had a big garden,” Levang said. “He would call this a hobby garden.”
That being the case, Levang and his wife, Mary, are still able to produce enough in their garden to give some of their harvest away on Sundays at church.
One might think Levang decided to do more gardening after he retired as the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Elementary School Principal in the mid-1990s, but that’s not the case.
After retiring, Levang started working full-time as a financial consultant, and continues to do that at the age of 74.
“Having a garden keeps a person going,” said Levang, noting his dad worked full time well into his 90s, along with planting a huge garden.
In Levang’s yard are plum trees, Concord and Nimrod grape vines, cherry trees, a pear tree, and raspberry bushes.
“My wife tells me I can’t plant any more trees,” Levang noted.
The first peach tree he planted in 2009 did not survive, and Levang theorized it was because the roots were too bound up when it was planted.
In 2010, he planted another peach tree, making sure the roots were not bound tight.
He carefully attended to the second tree, watching for rabbits that might hinder its growth.
Although that tree survived until the following spring, mice or voles had eaten the bark around the base, and it died.
Finally, in 2011, Levang planted his current peach tree. When he purchased it in the spring, it was covered in blooms, and he was sure he would get a good crop of peaches, he said.
However, the tree sat for a month before Levang had the opportunity to plant it.
Although he did not get as many peaches as he expected, the tree produced four of the juicy, sweet fruits. Levang calculates each peach cost about $25.
This year, there are more than 50 peaches on Levang’s tree, and some were blowing off in the strong wind last Monday.
The tree is self-pollinating, making it easier to grow a crop, Levang noted.
“And there is nothing to spray for all the bugs are in Georgia,” he said.
It is his hope that the peach tree, which is a variety known as Reliant, survives the winters in Minnesota.
The Reliant peach tree is hardy to climate zone four, which, until recently, has not included Minnesota.
However, the tree can only survive to about 35 to 40 degrees below zero, Levang said.
The only other peach variety hardy in zone four is the Contender, he noted.
Other unique plants in Levang’s yard
Along with growing peaches in Minnesota, something rarely seen, Levang has a rare pea variety. His family has saved seeds from the plants for more than 100 years.
“The seeds were saved from my grandmother, and they bloom purple and violet,” Levang said. “My grandmother called them German peas, and the pods are edible. We had edible pods way before snow peas.”
He also has a unique geranium, in which the flowers look like tiny, perfectly-formed roses.
“I am calling it Grandma Novak’s rose geranium,” Levang said of the unique plant he has never been able to find in a seed catalog or at a garden store.
“I pull [a flower] out and put it in my lapel on Sundays,” Levang commented about the unique flower.
The geraniums are about 100 years old, and originally belonged to Mary’s mother.
Levang noted a warm breeze off the lake through the “wind tunnel” on the side of his house keeps his garden producing after most gardens have become dormant for the winter.
However, he also noted it makes it even colder in his front yard when the lake is frozen in the winter.