It's peach harvesting time here at Poppy Corners, and so far this year we've got a bumper crop. We've processed them for freezing, for icebox pie, for jam, and of course we've been eating them at every meal. They're delicious and we realize our trees must have had plenty of chill-hours this past winter to get such a good crop. (We don't know the variety of this peach tree, since it was here when we moved in, and is probably at least 25 years old. It's a wonder it's still alive, let alone producing. With global warming, who knows if it's getting the requirements it needs at this point.)
This morning, Adam made breakfast for Tom (our homemade sourdough toast, topped with thick-cut bacon, sautéed greens, and a crispy fried egg freshly laid from our chickens) and it included a cut-up peach. As Tom got down to the bottom of the dish of peaches, he noticed a bit of extra protein - a small white worm. This grossed us out so badly that we took it out to the chickens before we had a chance to take a picture of it or look more closely.
Further research reveals it was probably a Plum Curculio larvae.
This insect is apparently the 'Achilles Heel' of the orcharding community. I had no idea and have never seen it before. But now that I have, I need to deal with it.
Every university extension seems to recommend pesticides. We are committed to avoiding pesticides at all costs. Time and experience have shown us that there is always an organic way to deal with pests, usually some kind of predator. Research shows that ants are the primary predator of plum curculio, and we have plenty of those. But we need some sort of deterrent, and that is where a product called Surround comes in.
Surround is made primarily of kaolin clay, and with repeated applications can completely coat the fruit so that insects cannot access it. This apparently works for all kinds of terrible orchard insects, including the coddling moth, which we have also had in our apple tree in the past. Here is a great blog post about this product. The problem is, it needs to be applied as soon as the flowers drop, just before fruit begins to set. So I've missed the window this year. I've put a calendar reminder in to order this (not cheap) product in January. Arbico Organics has it for a good price.
I also need to remember to spray copper as a fungicide for the peach tree, as it had minor peach leaf curl this year.
Many people think fruit trees are kind of a 'plant-it and forget-it' sort of thing. I'm finding that they take a little bit more work than that. Pruning is something that needs to be done yearly, if not twice a year; the trees need adequate organic matter (compost or worm castings seem to be best); and now this issue of pests.
For now, we'll just enjoy the fruit while looking a bit more closely at its contents!
We noticed this good predator on the hops the other day...
... and while birds can be pests, they can also be helpers. We've had some territorial California Towhees mating in our yard. They can eat a lot of insects. Mourning Doves are often scratching and pecking around the chicken coop, picking up seeds the chickens have flung out with their back feet, helping me avoid unwanted germination. I've noticed Robins in our vegetable beds, probably looking for worms (we have plenty) but hopefully also eating some sow bugs and cutworms as well.
In other news, we've all had one cherry tomato each (Mexico Midget wins the prize for first ripe tomato) and there are some plum tomatoes ripening quite quickly.
The peppers are coming along almost as quickly.
And some junior sunflowers are recovering from the Reign of Turkey Terror and getting closer to blooming.
Our Father's Day plans including making more jam, fixing a ripped sprinkler line, and opening the beehive for a check. The bees have been very busy and may need more room.
We're also taking in a Blues show later. Should be fun!