Peach Trees

The last two weeks I have been thinning the fruit on the peach tree.  It’s really difficult for me not to be greedy and leave all those lovely little peaches on the tree, but it’s not worth the risk.  Last year was the first year this particular tree really set fruit and I didn’t think about it and ended up pinned to the chicken coop under half a tree with my favorite rooster fluttering about trying to save me.  The trees have the ability to set much more fruit than their wood can bear.  My husbands grandmother always said to pinch off one out of every three.  The idea is to give them enough room to grow and to reduce the weight on the tree.  There are advanced ways to optimize market price and crop using this, but I’m writing a backyard blog and that can be a drawn out dry topic that doesn’t really help hobby growers.

Some people pinch the flower buds ahead of the bloom, I wait until fruit sets.  There is an argument that this can reduce the amount of fruit that sets next year, but I haven’t found it to be a problem.  My rationale is that the weather here is highly volatile.  If I pinch the blooms and we get a frost (which we almost always do), the frost may kill off more of my remaining blooms than I want.  If I wait until fruit sets, I generally don’t have to worry about the frost any more.  This year is an anomaly and the fruit set very, very heavy.  I have read that you don’t want to wait more than 60 days from flowering to finish pinching the fruit.  If I wait that long, I’ve forgotten and it’s not going to get done.

before thinning, example 1

After thinning, example 1

I thinned them pretty hard this year.  I probably did three out of four since we didn’t have a frost in my yard to knock off the blooms.  We had a cool enough spell it bit the pear tree, but not the peaches.

Now, I didn’t take it down to the amount I would like to eat or process because I’m going to loose about a third to birds and a few more to tarnish beetles.  I had some problems with the tarnish beetles last year, and suspect with the mild winter I will again.  Here’s to hoping the chickens are getting them.  This year’s flock is much more interested in foraging than last year’s was.  They were all too young.

Tarnish beetle control might be an interesting thing to touch on.  I picked them off and killed them last year as soon as I saw them.  I also have fed birds to the point where there is a ton of birds in my yard all the time, including a hawk that checks for vulnerable chickens early in the morning.  Rodale’s “Garden Problem Solver” suggests sticky traps, pyrethrum, rotenone, or sabadilla for control. (Today you can get one for 50 cents on Amazon!)  I’m on the fence about even organic chemicals for the most part, so I tend not to use them unless it’s really bad.    White sticky boards seem to be the thing to use.  You can take white poster board and coat it with sticky glue as an inexpensive solution.  I wonder if the mouse traps would work since they are white and sticky.  I would watch these and make sure that you aren’t catching beneficial insects.  As always, keeping your garden clean goes a long, long way for control also.

Even though I’ve thinned this so hard, I still have branches touching the ground all ready.  I have to think on that.  Makes it hard to mow the grass.  After a year of chickens in the orchard area though, I’ve been surprised to see what weeds are growing back there.  We hate mowing grass and have been discussing just mulching the backyard instead of trying to have any lawn.  It would entertain the chickens more anyway.  We’ve never had grass back there to begin with and were using the chickens to build soil for a year before planting grass seed.  I even have the bag of seed ready to go.  But look what the orchard is full of, lol…

The orchard area weeds.

I believe it’s wheat!  I’m not even aware of feeding the chickens any wheat, but there you go.  I feed them oats and varied layer feeds depending upon what I can get, but most of that is ground in some way.   Which ever feed this was must not have ground the wheat.  (I bet Chism Heritage Farm will post in the notes and remind me about the wheat I fed them that I’ve totally forgotten about and should probably be feeding them.) They are kind of pretty and I’m inclined to leave them.  It does make the yard look like a mess though and we will be doing some filming in a couple of weeks so I need to make a decision.  I’m inclined to put in mulch, my husband has already torn out a bunch of the wheat where he was trying to level out a weird place in the yard.