The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Battling brown rot

Ripening peachesEvery time I looked at the huge, red-blushed peaches on our Redhaven tree last week, I reminded myself the chances of eating any were slim to none.  We'd seen the sun for about ten hours of that week and had enjoyed rains at least once a day, so I knew brown rot would set in before the fruits ripened.

Sure enough, Friday I noticed a rotting peach in the center of the tree.  I removed it, but by Sunday, five more peaches had come down with the fungal disease.  Unless the weather miraculously stops thinking we live in a rain forest, I suspect each fruit will succumb as it builds up enough sugars to feed the fungus.

Brown rotIn the meantime, I'm trying out some mitigating measures.  The first year we fought brown rot, I didn't know what it was and wasn't paying attention, with the result that we basically got no crop.  This time around, I'm using the same techniques I use on other fungal diseases --- an eagle eye and removal of infected tissue as quickly as possible.  The jury's still out on whether that will allow at least a few peaches to ripen to perfection on the tree.

Meanwhile, I'm also experimenting with ripening up peaches inside.  Granted, I've read that peaches don't really ripen off the tree, but merely soften.  Still, I suspect they'll be at least as good as storebought fruit, and will definitely be better than nothing.  The question is whether the brown-rotted fruits (with the bad spots cut out) will ripen in the fridge, or whether I need to pick fruits before they're infected.  I'm trying a few of each to see.

Our chicken waterer keeps damp where you want it --- in your hens' bellies, but not on the coop floor.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Why not just give in and spray high risk crops with Neem Oil (or whatever fungicide you are comfortable with)? I hand pick as much as possible, but I've found if I want to depend on my fruit trees (dependability is second only to taste in my decision to keep a particular fruit tree) that I must help them out a bit. Neem oil is my favorite because not only does it take out fungus, but it also knocks down the few June bugs that I miss. Plus my herb garden is in the traditional le potager sense, so my herbs, strawberries, and rhubarb are all intermixed with roses, azaleas, nasturtium, dahlias, and gladiolus. Roses and azaleas frequently have fungal problems that require a regimen of spraying to keep them healthy. I could never live without flower gardens, so neem oil really allows me to enjoy them as well.
Comment by Robert Mon Jul 8 09:19:13 2013

Anna--In The Orchard, which is about a peach and apple orchard that was revived in the Depression (in Ipswich, MA), the author writes of her spraying the trees with what I guess was a pretty lethal spray. This was before Silent Spring, which came out in the 50s, I think. Anyway, as I was cutting up some Early Transparents (for the applesauce I brought you) I remembered my mother's mother joking that she had to cut out more than she could use of lots of apples. But her point was, that she was able to salvage some... I began to think, well, she had lots of spare time, in her later years, and maybe the modern, sprayed fruit is necessary for our rushed lives today. But then I realized that people have been salvaging parts of apples and peaches for longer than we have used sprays. You know that I salvage what I can of the peaches out back. I isometimes try to hold the ones that are not really ripe, and put them in flat boxes in the "Office" where the flies and wasps won't get them. Ultimately I have to just cut out what is rotten and cook up the rest, into a peach sauce (that can be canned or frozen). Actually, I have frozen pieces of fresh peaches after cutting out the rotten parts. You still could lmake your peach leather, too, out of parts of peaches.

Comment by adrianne Mon Jul 8 14:45:33 2013

Robert --- I had too much to say for a comment, so I'm going to answer you in a post tomorrow. :-)

Mom --- Great comment! You're totally right that part of the solution is simply rethinking the need for perfection. I cut out blemishes all the time in fruits and vegetables, and even if I lose half of the crop to rot, I've still got half left!

Comment by anna Mon Jul 8 16:15:30 2013
I figured you would tear into me about your beneficial's and wanting to keep everything symbiotic. I spray my trees with a forceful spray of water about an hour before sunset. Then, about 15 minutes later, I spray the Neem. The spray sends the beneficial's to bed for the evening, and I find they then avoid that particular tree for some time (smell?), instead preferring an apple or pear, both of which require no care in my area.
Comment by Robert Mon Jul 8 16:39:47 2013

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