May. It's that time of year when you feel as if you've put a lot of effort into your kitchen garden - and it's not paying off yet - as there isn't an awful lot to harvest. It's too early.
But look at these. They are very small peach fruitlets left over from thinning our Avalon Pride peach tree.
It's been quite a journey for us all. The tree went in two seasons ago (in autumn 2007). The first year it was hit badly by frost, and despite being sold as 'peach leaf curl resistant' it got peach leaf curl too.
I sprayed with Bordeaux mixture the first year, didn't want to do it again if it could be avoided, as this is no longer recommended for organic fruit growing. So I decided to start growing garlic around it. I'd heard garlic is a natural antiseptic and that it would keep fungal diseases like peach leaf curl away. So far we're in luck.
Peach trees are said to flower very early in the year, and that presented us with another challenge. It gets quite windy down on our allotment plot, and it's almost impossible to keep decent frost protection in place on a small tree. Also, as regular readers will know, our plot is some distance away from the house and I can't go down there every day, so even if I did use frost protection, I couldn't take it off regularly to allow pollinating insects to get at the flowers. I have heard that some people use paintbrushes to pollinate peaches. But if you ask me, life really IS too short...
So this spring, we decided to let our peach tree fend for itself. It survived the frost. I don't exactly know whether this was due to the weather alone, or the fact that the tree is now older and taller - (and therefore less susceptible to frost). We now have some frost protection in the shape of a Cherry Plum hedge, (cherry plums were once used as a wind break for orchards) so that might have been a factor.
As far as pollination goes, this is supposed to be tricky too. The reason is the same - the early flowering - there aren't so many pollinating insects about. But this year on our allotment our rosemary bush flowered really early too - and I noticed a lot of bee activity early on.
So, as you can see - we ended up with quite a number of fruitlets - some of which I have removed to enable the other peaches to grow strongly and well. There were about twenty five fruitlets on the tree, and I've removed about ten. I hope this was the right thing to do, so far I've not found anybody who is growing an Avalon Pride Peach Tree in the U.K. I'd be glad to hear from readers if they know someone I can swap notes with...
So - looks like all we need now is a hot summer....and for the vandals to stay away.