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Thinning peaches and pinching watersprouts

Thinning peachesThinning is like editing.  The process is time-consuming and mentally difficult, but if you bite the bullet and do the hard work, the fruits of your labor are twice as good.

Last year, I thinned our peaches hesitantly, leery of removing so many baby fruits, but my work paid off in spades.  In fact, as I picked our huge, delicious peaches that summer, I only wished I'd thinned a little harder since the peaches that had been left close together were of much lower quality.  And despite what you might think, the big fruits had every bit as much flavor as you'll find in the tiny peaches on abandoned trees that never get thinned.  (I also feel obliged to add my father's experience --- he didn't thin his peaches last year and one tree bore so heavily that branches broke all the way off!)



Culled peachSo this year, I thinned hard, removing about seven peaches for each one I left behind.  In addition to making sure the fruits were separated by several inches along the branch, I tried to select for large, unblemished fruits in sunnier spots.  I could tell that the oriental fruit moth had already laid its eggs, so I did my best to remove the infested fruits.  (No, I never did get around to implementing any control strategies for this pest, so I'm sure I'll be scooping out wormy centers this summer.)  The tree will probably drop a few more of fruits in a week or two, but last year I had no problem with pruning pre-drop, and even this "hard" thinning job isn't as extreme as most peach experts suggest.

Pinching watersprout

Meanwhile, I went ahead and snapped the tops off watersprouts popping up in the center of the tree.  Peach trees pruned to the open center system will keep putting up watersprouts every year, and if you leave them alone, you'll be wasting a lot of your tree's energy that could go into building useful branches instead of toward branches that are just going to be lopped off.  Meanwhile, the watersprouts shade the fruits, negating the purpose of the open center system (opening up as much of the fruit zone as possible to the sun.)  I'll try to remember to come back and do another round of summer pruning later and to remove any twigs that wilt (signs of further oriental fruit moth damage.)  But, mostly, I'll just sit back and watch the fuzzy fruits swell outside the kitchen window.

Our chicken waterer gives chickens something to do during long, boring afternoons in the coop.


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