Orchard Pest Control

Peaches are my favorite fruit. Possibly my favorite food. But they’re only good when they are ripe from the tree. If you’ve never had a homegrown peach, soft to the touch, so juicy that you have to eat it over the sink, it will be a revelation to you. About ten years ago I planted one peach tree, a Red Haven, which I chose because it is a free-stone (meaning the flesh comes away from the pit, making it easy to cut the fruit up for pies.) I also like that it is yellow on the inside, not white, which I like best.

Fruit trees are notoriously difficult to maintain. They require yearly pruning. Mice girdle the trunks. Pests eat the sap and worms destroy the fruit. Some years, due to a ill-timed frost, there is no fruit. My lone tree has had all of these issues. Most orchards rely heavily on chemicals. I use none. Three years ago, the peaches were so wormy that I gave all of them to the chickens. The next year the tree was bare. Last year, the peaches were small and hard, and most soft bits were claimed by worms.

I read up on the life-cycle of the plum curculio, the insect that causes the most damage to the fruit. The adults are beetles that overwinter in the soil under the tree. In the summer, eggs are laid in the fruit and then the developing larvae return to the ground via dropped peaches.

I have chickens that eat both beetles and larvae, and they love digging around in dirt. I put the girls to work. Last fall, I enticed the Gems over to the peach tree with some cracked corn. They soon found the other good things (the bugs!) under the soil.

This summer, the blossoms on the tree held, the sun shone, the rain was just right, and the peach tree filled with fruit, so much so that the weighed-down branches touch the ground.

peach tree

 

 

Not only are the peaches large and juicy – they are worm-free!

perfect peaches

 

 

I’ve been harvesting buckets. There are imperfections. I don’t mind. These peaches are astoundingly delicious.

bucket of peaches

 

 

They’re ripening at different rates, so each day I go out and collect some more.

peaches in colander

 

 

I’m looking forward to pies this winter! I’ve been quartering the fruit, putting it on sheet pans, and freezing it solid. Then, the fruit is bagged using a vacuum sealer. It’s such an easy way to put aside the harvest for later.

cut peaches

 

I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m sure that the plum curculios are trying to return. Who could resist such peaches? And so I have brought back my orchard staff.

Amber is on the job.

Amber working

 

(The sticky tape on the peach tree trunk prevents crawling insects from reaching the fruit. It’s surprisingly effective.)

Note: I planted this tree before I got goats. It was a test to see if the property was well-situated for fruit trees. It is, but, I haven’t gotten more trees because stone fruit trees (including cherries and plums) are a danger to Pip and Caper. During that brief few weeks in the fall when the leaves wilt, the greenery is toxic to goats. Fresh leaves are fine. Dried leaves are fine. They can eat the fruit. The toxicity happens in the fall as the leaves die. Every year I give the tree a pruning so that the goats, from their pen, can’t reach any of the leaves. This year it’s getting cut back by a third. In the fall, we rake and rake. I can keep the goat boys safe from this one tree, and the fruit is worth it, but I’m not going to put more stone fruit trees on the property.

Comments:

  1. My peach tree is going on it’s 3rd year and for the first time I have a bunch of beautiful peaches!!! I go out every day and test them for tenderness. They are still very hard. But no bugs! I will use my girls under the tree just in case…great tip!!!

  2. Those Peaches look delicious. We have had a dismal year for growing most thinks this year. Very hot early spring, then its been a cold wet late spring and summer. If we don’t see some decent sunshine soon it will seem a very long winter..:(
    Have tried buying peaches, but they are nothing like what we have had in America and Spain which were always delicious. I think they are picked before they are ripe so they can import them, when you try to ripen at home as they say to do they are not the same. We tend to use tinned peaches which are very nice but not quite the same.

  3. Love stories like this. What a strange life cycle for those peach leaves and the goat cuties. I was guessing the pits would give them problems. Who knew? Terry, of course!

  4. Very interesting Terry. Always an education. Looks like a member of your orchard staff is happy!

  5. Aaahhh the beauty of the harvest! Love love love the pic with the fluffy back end peeking out!

  6. Glad to hear you are being blessed with such a large bounty of fruit. You deserve it after enduring such a harsh winter. Of course nature does not always work that way but I am sure you are grateful. Our apples are mostly dropping off the tree due to our drought this year. There are chickens here that are happy to eat it`s casts off!

  7. I’m from Pennsylvania which has the most delicious peaches in the world, they are called Chambersburg peaches, but that’s not a variety, it’s a town. For whatever reason, climate, soil, luck the peaches grown there are never dry, mealy or tasteless like the ones I have gotten here in Massachusetts. My husband and I just returned from a visit home and this weekend I’ll ce canning peaches, making peach jam and pies and cobblers and, and and

  8. Sadly, my two fledgling peach trees have died. I can’t seem to grow them. I am going to try again though, because I want very much to have buckets like you do! And the sticky tape, what a great concept.

  9. I fondly remember the peach tree in our Kentucky backyard. The fruit was small but delicious and Mom made wondrous things with them! We also had an apple tree, plum, persimmon and a grape arbor. With chickens, a dog and a cat…. life was good for a little girl growing up in a small town in the 1940s. .

  10. It is Saturday morning, the 22nd, and I am sitting here eating a large pile of sliced peaches. It was fun to read about your peaches. We can grow them here in the state of Washington, but they do best on the east side of the state. I buy them from the neighbors who travel to eastern Washington every year…I love fresh peaches the best! I also can several dozen jars for winter every year…your peaches look so beautiful!