Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Partial Success with Peaches

This was the WORST season to grow peaches organically in Virginia in the 10 years I have been growing them here.  We had so much rain, I either could not use the regular organic sprays (they would wash off or it was raining when I was free) and rain encourages the awful molds and rots that affect peaches.  I had also decided that this might be the season I would take out all three trees.

A few months ago I posted the first photo below in a blog on bagging my peaches.  This labor-intensive method is used for apples in some situations, but not as often for stone fruits.  I took regular paper lunch sacks and used a stapler to hold the bags on, after I had gathered in the edges.
My first concern was that the bags would not last for the few months till harvest. Even with all this rain, they lasted just fine (a few fell off due to being put on poorly).

(below is a photo of my typical harvest- they peaches look OK and have enough usable flesh on them, but might have little caterpillars inside).

Did this method work?  After a fashion.  I probably bagged the peaches too late, after some insects had laid their eggs under the skin and they had been exposed to disease.  Some of the bagged peaches did spoil or fell off.  But, enough came through looking good that I decided to keep two trees and try again next year.  The peach on the left, below, was bagged, the one on the right was not.  You can see the bagged peach is imperfect, but it was intact, had no rot and no unwelcome creature inside.  I did have to take the bag off when the peach reached full size- it seems that peaches need some sun to fully ripen.  But, even though other peaches on the trees were infected with fungal rots, many bagged peaches did just fine.

So, lessons for next year:
1. Spray early with Surround, a kaolin clay mix, and antifungals then
2. bag as many peaches as I can, after thinning.  I will probably try this with my apple tree too!

I am also going to be severely pruning the trees (more so than I already have).  Peaches need this, and these particular trees are shading too much of my veg garden.  

I hope this works. I love peaches, but commercial peaches are in the top 5 of pesticide-residue fruit and have multiple chemicals sprayed on them.

Happy gardening!

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