Monday, 19 January 2009

The Peach Tree Challenge

Sometimes we do apparently foolish things don't we?

My daughter was just about a year old (remember the hot summer of 2006?) We were in town, she was really thirsty and I was searching for a snack she could easily eat whilst sitting in her push chair. We passed our organic supermarket and I bought two fresh, organic PEACHES for her to eat on the way home. I will never EVER forget the look of delight on her face as she scoffed them. She was so proud to hold the huge fruit in her tiny hands herself and the juice ran down her face, quenching her thirst in the sun.

It was at that moment I made a momentous decision. I was going to BUY, PLANT and GROW peaches for her, and I was going to TRY to do it ORGANICALLY. Planted our peach tree (in the autumn of that year - 2006). Didn't know what I was letting myself in for. Didn't really understand why organic peaches are such a challenge to grow well in this country. You live and learn!

I knew about the fungal disease PEACH LEAF CURL , so I settled on the peach variety AVALON PRIDE - (which is said to have some resistance) thinking it would solve the problem. It didn't. The first picture shows the flowers on the tree in early Spring of 2007. Shortly after they appeared the tree came down with what I thought was Peach Leaf Curl. Leaves started dropping off - and so I sprayed with Bordeaux Mixture at the appropriate times. (Not really recommended as an organic remedy anymore but so far it has sorted that problem).

The tree was now in good heart. But in the early Spring of 2008 I still had the frosts to deal with. The flower buds appear early in the year - if there is a ground or air frost they can be completely destroyed and turn black. That's exactly what happened in 2008.

Why didn't you use FROST PROTECTION you might ask? Well, if I had a back garden, or of the tree were growing against a wall, it might be an easy matter to watch the forecast and pop the fleece or frost bag on and off whenever there was a danger of a freeze. However, my lovely allotment is some distance away, and it's just not possible to be dashing down there in the dark every evening to do the biz. I tried building various structures too (this one is made out of the fleece which comes with a mini-greenhouse)...
...but the winds on our allotment got the better of me, and they never stayed on long enough to do any good.

The good news is, as the tree gets bigger it may be MORE resistant to frost. The persistently cold weather we have been having this year may also help. I haven't been too bothered that the tree didn't fruit in the first two years, as I know it needs to build up strength to do so. But I'm going for the burn this over to you, my (loyal) readers:

Who else has tried growing an AVALON PRIDE or other FREE STANDING peach tree in this challenging British climate of ours and how did you fare? You can send comments via the comments box on this page. Do tell!

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