Sweet, juicy peaches within your reach
Growing peach trees takes commitment, but produces a tasty reward.
(Page 2 of 2)
Fighting disease and bugsSkip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Spraying is the most unsettling, but necessary, aspect of peach cultivation. After a wet spring, "I have got 12 sprays on these trees," Gouin says. He spent much of his career researching the benefits of compost, which is the pillar of organic growing, but he says it is impossible to raise pristine peaches organically in the wet and humid Eastern United States. Among the more damaging fungal diseases are peach leaf curl, which causes disfigured leaves and leaf drop in early spring, and brown rot, which ruins the ripening fruit.
In addition to the borer and the curculio, an insect called a stink bug causes fruit to deform.
Some authorities suggest that organic sulfur spray might control fungal diseases. Gouin says that it saves about half the fruit, but the grower will have to remove others that develop brown rot to prevent the spread of the spores and disease.
The classic "How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method" by Rodale says this about preventing brown rot: In early spring, examine the tree "for the telltale gray tufts on the twigs which will produce the fungus spores. Remove all the infected twigs before the blossoms are in bud."
As for the curculio, a weevil that appears just as the flowers are blooming and is present through May, Rodale suggests this approach: Each morning during this six-week period, put a tarp under the tree and give the trunk a few blows. The pests will drop to the tarp, where they can be squashed. Perhaps you can tap the trunk with your toilet brush; just don't let the neighbors see you.
Fruit tree alternatives
Given the demands of Prunus persica, it might be easier to forgo cultivating the plant and just buy some peaches at the supermarket. But there are pitfalls there, too. Horticulturists know the peach as a fruit that will not ripen off the tree. If it is picked with its yellow skin in the green stage, it will ship well but never fully mature.
Gouin says that if you are looking for easier tree fruits to grow, go with varieties of Asian pear, Asian persimmon, or pawpaws. But if you do decide to plant a little peach orchard, you may want to follow Gouin's example of soil amendment. He applied six cubic yards of finished compost per 1,000 square feet.
"We had peaches the second year after planting," he says. The trees themselves "took off like scared rabbits."
You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos — and possibly win a prize. Deadline is Aug. 11. Join the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions.