Saturday, July 30, 2016

Home Peach Tree 2016

If you have been following my blog over the years you know that I have been working to rehabilitate an old, previously non-producing peach tree. I was doing this for several reasons. First, it was a tree my father in law planted at least twenty years ago and he passed away in 2002. We have pictures of him eating nice peaches from this tree. So there is a sentimental attachment to the tree. Secondly, I am a firm believer in giving plants, especially trees, a second chance at life. And third, it was a personal challenge to see if I could get this tree producing fruit again after many years of non-production or very limited production. See this previous post for a little more information: September 2015 Post on my Peach Tree

This past winter I did the fourth pruning operation on this old tree. I removed several whole branches and lots of small branches that were criss-crossing the internal structure of the canopy. I wanted to open up the tree so that sunlight could hit every part of it at some part of the day. The tree is shaded in the afternoon due to a very tall hickory tree on my property boundary so it needs to get as much light as it can during the earlier part of the day.

This year, after a lot of research I decided to spray the tree with a general purpose Fruit Tree spray. In my area it is virtually impossible to grow peaches without some sort of spraying program. I followed the directions as best as I could for timing the spray at the most advantageous times. I sprayed the bare tree (trunk and all branches) and the ground under the tree in the very late part of winter to kill off any over-wintering pests. Then I sprayed it again when the buds were well formed but not yet open. The next spray was after the flowers were done and fallen off (to protect the bees). I sprayed when fruit was about ping-pong ball size in mid-June. And I sprayed the foliage one more time when I noticed coddling moths flying around the tree in early July. 

Am I concerned about spraying something I will later eat? Yes I am. I am normally an organic gardener and even though most of the ingredients in the spray I used are natural, they are still poisons of a sort. But we have had several very hard rains since the last spraying and we peel our peaches so the risk is next to nothing.

Well, let us look at the results.

This is the underside of the peach tree. This is where most of the edible fruit is because I have a very bad bird problem.
This is a close-up so you can see the nicely developed fruit. These are about the size of a baseball and well-formed.

Before I took these two photos I had already picked 3/4 of a bushel of peaches. The deer, squirrels, and birds have already eaten or ruined another 1/4 of the peaches. And I still have this many more to pick. In total, it looks like I will get just about two bushel baskets of peaches from this one old tree.

I have eaten a couple fresh (peeled) and my wife made a peach cobbler two days ago (it is already gone) and these peaches are delicious. I don't know what two bushels of peaches cost in your area but being able to walk out onto your property and pick your own is quite a satisfying thing.

I have been trying to propagate this tree through hardwood cuttings for three years now but have had no success so far. I might try planting some of the seeds (pits) and see if that will work. I really wouldn't want more than two producing trees because peeling and slicing up bushels of peaches is not my idea of a good time. This year, if I stop eating so many, I should be able to freeze enough fruit for about twenty pies/cobblers. That, along with the fourteen quarts of raspberries and the eight quarts of blueberries I froze, should get us through most of the winter with homegrown desserts. Now if I can only get a producing apple tree or two to survive here...

5 August Update: The birds were eating 10-15 peaches a day so I decided to pick everything on the tree. Some were not quite ripe but I'm freezing them and in my experience they will soften. I cut and peeled 13 quarts of peaches, which will make quite a few desserts but not as much as i was expecting. Next year i will have to figure out how to lessen my loses to the birds.

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