Sunday, March 27, 2011

Man, it looks like an antler...

It's not though. It's a recently pruned peach tree.

All of them are Reliance semi-dwarf trees, one of the few peaches that will grow this far north. We have three of them, as well as four apple trees. The oldest two of the peach trees are about five years old and I've been pretty slack about pruning them, and over the last several years they've gotten a little out of control. Lots of young wood up high, out of reach, and not very good structure down low at arm's reach. Peaches develop on second year wood and in the case of these trees, that puts almost all of it way up high. Not what you want if you plan to harvest the crop.

Last week, I finally spent a little bit of time on You-Tube learning how to properly prune them to maximize fruit production and maintain healthy structure. Letting them run wild is counter-productive both from a fruit standpoint and also the long-term survival of the tree. It looks pretty drastic and I'm pretty sure I've pruned at least 50% of the wood from each tree. We'll see what happens this year. We won't have many peaches but hopefully the trees are on track now for lots of peaches next year.

At our old house, we planted two of this same variety and they quickly grew huge, just like these did, and produced a tremendous amount of peaches. The same bad pruning regimen doomed those trees because we allowed the horizontal limbs to get way too long, and when fully weighted down with peaches, the limbs bent down literally almost to the ground, and sometimes tore away from the trunk. We moved in 2005 to our new place and over the years those trees at the old house continued to deteriorate and the last time I drove by there, I think they were almost dead. The apple and cherry trees we left behind seemed to be thriving with zero maintenance, as the place is vacant and has been for several years. In fact, the house burned to the ground about a year or so after we sold it and there's nothing left but a hole in the ground, some outbuildings, and the perennials and fruit trees we left behind. Sad.

There are apple orchards in Iowa on old homesteads that are over a hundred years old and still producing fruit. Apples are a lot tougher in this area than peaches, and apparently don't require the same vigilance to keep them productive. Iowa is on the very northern limit for even the hardiest of peach cultivars. They don't live terribly long here under even the best of conditions, and I can't recall seeing a particularly mature peach tree since I've lived here. They seem to do better in Missouri, just a short hop south of us. I don't think that many people around here even try to grow them. Anyway, hopefully taking the trees back down to a manageable size, avoiding overcropping, and not stressing the limbs at the point where they join the trunk, will allow these trees to live as long as possible.

I love peaches.

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