View Full Version : Too Many Peaches!!!

May. 16, 2012, 06:49 AM
Ok, I admit I'm too lazy to search for the Gardening 2012 thread ...

Last year my peach tree took a break - very small harvest.
2 years ago & now this year the branches are so loaded with fruit they look like grapes!

Last time this happened branches broke from the weight and the ripe fruit were no larger than golfballs - still tasty, but small.

I have started picking off some of the fruit while it is still around grape-size - leaving 2 or 3 per branch to ripen, but wonder if this is enough to let me have a good year for peaches.

So far I've only done the branches I can reach from the ground or pull down to me - it's a dwarf/semi-dwarf tree so about 10' tall. I do NOT want ot have to get up on a ladder :no:

Should I cut branches back now - sacrificing that fruit but relieving the weight?
Any other advice :confused:

May. 16, 2012, 07:01 AM
I'm truly sorry about this, but all I have to contribute is...

Millions of peaches, peaches for me!
Millions of peaches, peaches for free...


May. 16, 2012, 08:24 AM
More than a few peach farmers have had to prop up branches, so that's what I'd be doing ;)

Next Winter, well before anything thinks about growing again, early-mid Jan or so (you are not all that far from me?) look at the tree and prune what should be pruned, so you don't have branches laying on branches, etc. You want clean open lines.

Of course, if you have a tangled mess now, you can prune, it's just harder to see what's what with the tree loaded.

May. 16, 2012, 08:31 AM
I bought wrought iron bars that you would use to hang a hanging basket from. They come in different heights so the smaller ones are good for the lower branches and the taller ones get some of the main branches. I go through the peaches once a week or so and touch all the ones I can reach with my fingertip. That is enough pressure for the ones who aren't thriving for whatever reason to fall off. I also limit the super tiny branches to one peach if I can reach it. By that I mean the half the width of a pencil branch. Peaches are so hard to get 100% right, they seem to be feast or famine. I try to limit the chemical sprayings to as few as possible but if I err on the side of not enough I have lost them all.

May. 16, 2012, 08:38 AM
I'd charge $20 bucks a person to come pick for an hour :)

^ This.

People like me would pay, come pick, and then can them :)

May. 16, 2012, 09:45 AM
There are lots of ways to prune & manipulate the growth of fruit trees for ease (and us shorties!!); you may want to check that out.

How old is the tree? I'm assuming it's past the point you could be tying down taller branches?

May. 16, 2012, 11:07 AM
Thanks guys :D

That's what I thought 2 years ago :lol:
But then in addition to broken branches {EEK!} the harvest was small peaches. Tasty, but such a PITA to peel & they must be peeled before freezing - which is how I handle all surplus produce.

JB, Laurierace & Nes:
The tree is now 10yo - it was so small when I bought the farm I nearly pulled it out as a weed. Then I noticed the leaves looked familiar...

Propping the branches sounds like a plan, but the Queen of Procrastination (me) might not get to that in time :no:
I do not spray anything, ever...see above Queen of title :uhoh:
I did prune the tree when it was about 6' high - into the Google-recommended open vase shape.
Probably need to re-do that, eh?

boy, if you were close to me I'd say "C'mon Down!" pick all you want & pay me in canned peaches : 9
I did that a couple years ago with my pear trees. Friend's pastor's family came, picked, and gave me 3 lovely jars of my own pears.
I'm happy just to see the fruit being used. I feel terrible when it goes to waste.
The year of the teeny peaches, I took bushelbasketsful to the pantry I volunteer at and sent friends from the city home loaded :D
At least everyone was happier than the year I planted 15 zucchini plants....

May. 16, 2012, 11:10 AM
My peaches are the only thing that gets chemicals. I don't get a single peach without it. I researched and it seems peaches can be called organic with 6 or less sprays of chemical per growing season so even the organic growers called Uncle on that one.

May. 16, 2012, 12:16 PM
Laurierace -
My Midwest peaches are tougher than your Eastern Seaboard ones!
They don't need no stinking bug spray!

Actually I tell people things live on my place in spite of me, not because of me ;)

May. 16, 2012, 12:26 PM
We got our dwarf peach tree (named, of course, Schnapps) 3 years ago. My husband built a wood frame that goes around the tree at peach growing time that holds up the branches. We did lose one branch last year due to leaving too many peaches on the branch. We haven't had to spray it, we do put a fruit net over it to keep the birdies out. I made some awesome peach preserves last year with the exceess.

IMHO small peaches are because of leaving too many peaches on the branch.

May. 16, 2012, 05:50 PM
IMHO small peaches are because of leaving too many peaches on the branch.

:yes: Yup, but I was so aghasted at the potential bounty, it never occured to me that Nature does not always make sense.
Now I am wiser and do not wish to repeat the teenypeach fiasco of 2 years ago :winkgrin:

Try making peach butter in your crockpot. So easy & YUM!
I do not bother hot water processing, just fill clean jars and freeze them.
Ball makes attractive glass freezer jars in 1/2 pint, pint & quart sizes.
Perfect last-minute giftage.

May. 16, 2012, 07:16 PM
I grew up in an orchard - we grew peaches, nectarines, cherries, apples, pears and 1 plum tree. It's the primary reason why I have severe shoulder arthritis already! But I have lots of memories of time spent with my dad applying fertilizer, pruning, thinning, picking.... Hard work, but not all that bad when you get to enjoy the fruit, and believe me they taste WAY better fresh in the orchard than in the store.

You have to thin the peaches down by 2/3 of the total crop in a heavy year, down by 1/2 in a moderate year, and maybe nothing in a light year unless 2 fruit are sharing a spur in which case you take off the smaller one so that there is only 1 fruit per spur. This way, your remaining crop will still be plentiful, but MUCH bigger and better fruit. As well, less stress on the tree and the sugar content in the fruit will be better. If there are 2 fruit on a spur, remove the smaller one. The spur is where the fruit grow. Be careful not to break the spur as it takes about 3 years for the tree to replace. While you might cringe at all the "wasted" fruit on the ground, reality is, it is much healthier for the tree. Carrying too much fruit is too much stress for the tree. Peach trees are notorious for literally fruiting themselves to death. Next year you will probably have a light year and won't need to thin much at all.

This early in the spring, a fertilizer application of 20-15-15 around the drip line (at least a foot away from the trunk) and watering in very well and deeply will do it wonders. Technically, this should be applied in March and again in May and then that's it. Since it's already May, you're just in time for an application. ;) You can use the granular stuff, it's more economical. You apply it at 1/10th pound per inch of trunk diameter. Never fertilize a tree in the summer or fall because it needs to wind down for winter dormancy. In the summer after you have picked the fruit, spray on some zinc if your soil area tends to be zinc deficient. Peaches tend to need a fair bit of zinc and they absorb it better this way. If your peach tree leaves start to curl, it has a fungal infection called "leaf curl" (nice original, technical name), easily treated with a sprayed on fungicide.

After thinning, you may still have to prop up the weaker branches, but not always so. Definitely if the branches look stressed, prop them up as they can snap without warning and this usually causes significant damage at the trunk, sometimes causing the demise of the tree.

Large peach size is best assured by making sure it gets plenty o' plenty of water, especially from now until ripening. You can diminish watering after you've picked the fruit.

Have fun with those yummy peaches! :)

May. 16, 2012, 09:01 PM
Hey rodawn, if I may hijack a little - I've got a dwarf that rarely gives me good fruit :( It's at least 10 years old, probably more like 12, and since it's been moved to it's current spot where it's been for the last almost 9 years, I think I've had ONE good crop. The rest of the time there are plenty of flowers (thank goodness, at least it's pretty for a few days LOL) and lots of fruit, but by the time they're about the size of a nickel, they rot and fall off :( :(

May. 17, 2012, 06:41 AM
Thanks, Rodawn - great info :yes:

Looks like I'll be picking a lot of little green mini-peaches real soon!
I don't mind seeing them on the ground at all if it means bigger peaches for me this year : 9

May. 17, 2012, 01:24 PM
Hey rodawn, if I may hijack a little - I've got a dwarf that rarely gives me good fruit :( It's at least 10 years old, probably more like 12, and since it's been moved to it's current spot where it's been for the last almost 9 years, I think I've had ONE good crop. The rest of the time there are plenty of flowers (thank goodness, at least it's pretty for a few days LOL) and lots of fruit, but by the time they're about the size of a nickel, they rot and fall off :( :(

I'll have to ask my dad - he's the expert - but I'm thinking you have a serious fungus problem and that's usually from sitting in too damp of conditions. Fungal infections, once they get systemic to the whole tree is not really fixable, but more likely have to be managed/maintained. Sorry for the bad news. I can ask my dad, but I'm sure he'll say the same thing. Peaches are tough to grow in marginal climates - they don't like it too humid if it is combined with hot and humid, and they don't like it too cold where late frosts zap their blossoms. They do better where the air is dry, but there is plenty of moisture supplied, usually by irrigation, and where the soil has very good drainage.

I need a better description of what is happening with the fruit to know for sure which type of fungus is the likely culprit. Does the fruit rot slowly over a week or so and fall to the ground and also some leaves curl, turn brown and fall off too, leaving the tree looking scraggly? If so, that's botrytis and is devastating to a tree. You can try to fix that with periodic applications of antifungal spray that you can get from your local growers/farmers store.

Or, does the fruit turn brown, seemingly almost overnight, and go almost mummified and hang on the tree? If so, you have brown rot. This takes a LOT of work to fix and most home owners who only have 1 tree find it more economical to just pull out the tree, burn everything, leaves included, and dig out the soil and throw it away.

If you want to salvage the tree, then you have some work to do - it needs regular applications of antifungal spray applied thoroughly to every single part of the tree, starting from blossom time until near to harvest. Any fruit that drops, must be picked up and disposed of. Don't compost that fruit! It will spread the fungus to your compost.

If you're wanting to try to salvage the tree, this year pick off all the fruit and not let it fruit at all. This helps you get to fixing the fungal problem, and the next year once the blossoms are out, start applying your spray. This is now going to be a yearly habit for you which is why I recommend it is probably much better for you to just replace the tree.

All of these fungal infections come from warm, moist, humid conditions. Peaches are tough to grow in humid climates. They do better in dry heat where they still get lots of irrigation as long as the soil drains well. We grew in the Okanagan Valley (which extends from Washington State northwards into southern BC) which has dry, cool winters, and hot, dry summers.

So, on top of all that, you should check the soil where your tree is sitting. Peaches do not like heavy clay with poor drainage. They do really well in nutrient-rich sandy loam. While they like a lot of deep irrigation, they prefer to have that water drain away from their roots.

When you dig a hole to plant a tree, you should fill it with water before setting in the tree. If it readily drains away, about an inch per 30 seconds, you have lovely soil. If it sucks away the very second you fill it, you need to amend by adding some clay. If the water sits there and sits ... well you have a serious drainage problem and will need to aggressively amend the soil to improve the drainage.

If you have it planted in clay, I would dig it out and completely replace the soil. Be careful not to disturb the roots. Throw the soil away as it will contain the fungus spores. Replace with soil with good drainage and some sand content, and amend with some compost, not more than 1/8 of the total soil content. Water well and since it is May, add 20-15-15.

Peaches crave sunshine - 12 hours a day - don't let anything cast a shade on them (neither tree, shrub, or building) and should sit in a location where they won't get touched by late frosts on the spring (thus killing their blossoms). They also don't like to be touching other trees or shrubs. They must have lots of room. When you see a peach orchard, the tree are spaced quite widely apart. Even dwarfs need breathing room. They absolutely MUST have lots of airflow which is where your pruning skills get tested. Prune your tree in dormancy so that all the suckers are removed and plenty of air and sunshine can get amongst the branches and center of the tree - if you don't know how, take a course which should be available at your local agricultural university. Pruning is a peach tree's best friend to fight fungus and also improve growth and fruit production. Peaches tend to set fruit on 1 year old wood - I called them a spur in my previous post, but my dad corrected me... on peaches it is a FRUIT BUD. To quote from my dad - The goal is to eliminate overlapping and damaged limbs. The 1-year shoots usually have three buds at each node. The smaller, center bud is a leaf bud and each of the two larger, outer buds is a flower bud. Thus, the goal with pruning is to encourage and stimulate new shoot growth for next year's fruit. :)

I'm thinking since you only have 1 tree, it is just better for you to dig it up, dispose of it, and get a new tree. Plant it in a different location, however, or you'll just infect the new tree. Even in an orchard, if we just had 1 or 2 trees get affected, we would just rip them up and replace. If it was starting to affect a whole section of the orchard, we were just extremely aggressive with the antifungal spray since it impacted my dad's income and our livelihood.

Sorry, it couldn't be better news.

May. 17, 2012, 01:47 PM
Also, to both of you - when you have fruit just starting to ripen, it is better to pick them just a teeny bit on the green side, still firm, but the flesh will give beneath your finger - still good enough to eat, but not rampantly ripe! Once they start turning color, they have gained most of their sugar anyway.

May. 17, 2012, 01:59 PM
Thank you SO much, Rodawn, for the great advice! I'm printing off this thread and taking it home!

May. 17, 2012, 02:10 PM
Thanks rodawn! It sounds like brown rot :(. Yes, Summers here are warm and humid, but it actually has better air circulation now than the previous site/house. I also don't get why there was a really good year in the midst of bad ones. I wonder if that followed a very cold Winter...

Yes, it's red clay soil BUT where it is drains verrrry well - it's the build up end of our pool, and it's at the end of a line of blueberries that also would not do well in poorly drained soil.

Maybe I'll prune the crap out of it and see what happens lol. Fruit has already rotted this year but I'll look at fungicides anyway. Thanks!

May. 17, 2012, 02:18 PM
Well, good luck with that. But do be aware that once you have a bad fungal infection with either botrytis or brown rot, it's not really curable. The spraying just keeps it from overwhelming the tree and you have to be very persistently aggressive with it and you have to apply the spray several times a year every single year from now on for the life of the tree. For the average homeowner, it's not worth the cost of the spray applications. In the long-run, it's cheaper and less headache to replace the tree and plant in a different location.

The type of soil isn't so fussy, as long as it drains well. Brown/grey clay is sticky heavy wet awful stuff and really needs to be amended. Your red clay is clay, but has a fair bit of sand in it too, which is why it drains. Cold isn't a problem as long as the tree is dormant. It's those nasty frost snaps that happen right when it's trying to bud/blossom and zap! My parents lost a whole apricot crop to an unpredicted frost a couple years back which struck right at prime blossom. Gah. Every fruit type has their various problems and they take some work to maintain a healthy tree, but boy they're sure delicious when it all goes well. Even in Alberta at my farm, we have hardy apples and I'm just about to pick up a couple pears. We compete with the birds for our fruit.