Peachy Perfection

My peach and nectarine trees are hinting at the pink blossom that will soon be here.  This budswell means that it’s time to apply the main dose of sulphur-based spray to control leaf curl and brown rot (fungal diseases). 

And for the first time in several years the weather is going to allow me to spray at this critical time.  Last year it rained and for a number of years before that it was windy…which means I couldn’t spray.

As a result, leaf curl and brown rot have become pretty nasty in my area.  And it can be pretty disheartening to see beautiful new leaves and young fruit suddenly become totally useless.

Leaves infected with leaf curl become deformed with red blisters.  The leaves then drop off and new ones have to grow.  This, of course, stresses the plant and in turn reduces fruit yield and predisposes the tree to attack by pests.

Even if you manage to get some decent-looking fruit after all this, it is highly likely that, unless conditions are very dry and airy, brown rot will dash your hopes of good fruit.

Just as fruit is ripening, brown rot infection appears.  It causes the fruit to rot on the tree or shortly after harvest.  Last year I did not get one edible peach or nectarine.

But there is hope (if only through careful diligence and hard work).

1                  Plant the tree in an open position, preferably on a slope.

2                  Prune the tree canopy so that it is open.

3                  Ensure that the tree is of manageable size.  One option is to use dwarf or mini trees.  These are very cute but, because they’re so small, you don’t get much fruit.  The other option is to use full size trees but prune them short.  For me, this means pruning so that no part of the tree is over 2m high. (I am 154cm tall, so this is the maximum height for me to spray, net and harvest from the ground.)

These three cultural practices help provide good sunlight and air circulation and drainage, both of which help speed up drying of fruit, leaves and other plant surfaces.  Quick drying means reduced chances of the brown rot and leaf curl fungi germinating and growing.

Even with this, though, other measures are needed to control these diseases.  This is where the spraying with sulphur-based sprays comes in.  (These are regarded as OK for organic growers.)

A spray at budswell and leaf drop are recommended to control leaf curl.  Further sprays at petal drop and sepal drop are needed to control brown rot.

It’s also vital to promptly remove all dropped and mummified fruit – but don’t put them in the compost.  They must be destroyed eg by burying or burning offsite (usually called ‘putting in a plastic bag and disposing of in the rubbish’!).  This is to prevent the tree becoming re-infected.  Chooks and other poultry can help with this job, if you have them.

Finally, you might also find it useful to apply a good dose of prayerful hope and a philosophical approach to life. J

So this year, I have my fingers well and truly crossed for a reasonable harvest of peaches and nectarines.  I have brought almost all of my full-size trees back down to a manageable size, so, with the good weather, I was able to spray almost all the trees this year.  When the blossom falls, I shall prune the remaining branches and apply another spray.  And I have spread the risk by planting some seedlings (hopefully good fruiters!) on the higher, windier side of our garden.

So, are you game to grow your own delicious, fresh peaches?  Do you have any peachy ‘war stories’ to tell?  Post a comment in the Reply box.

Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!