Peaches!

Let's go back to the story of the orchard. When we left off, we were cautiously optimistic about the peach crop. We had spent hours pruning the trees, thinning young fruit, clearing away weeds, and mulching the rows in an effort to increase light penetration and airflow and decrease competition. All the right cultural practices were in place; the only other step to stave off fungus was to spray.

We're lazy. Even though I had researched what and when to spray, and where to buy the chemicals, we never got around to buying any spraying equipment. Most products we saw in stores were little backpack sprayers that held about 2 gallons; with ~100 trees needing 4-6 gallons each, we would need a much more substantial spraying system. We weren't ready to make that capital investment, so we forewent spraying, and crossed our fingers that the cultural practices would be sufficient.

Two weeks after the trees leafed out, I spotted signs of peach leaf curl fungus. Rats. The good news about leaf curl is that, once you have it, you can't do anything about it, so we didn't spend hours trimming off the affected twigs, but rather let the fungus run its course. The thickened and curled leaves eventually turned red, then, brown, then fell off. The infection was not extensive enough that any trees seemed weakened by the loss of a few leaves. Whew.

As we got into June, we found some trees with ripe fruit. I hadn't expected that; I thought I knew (based on last summer's experience) which trees would ripen first, and I had been watching them instead. But apparently some trees had already fruited and finished before we arrived last year. So what do you do when you discover seven trees of ripe fruit in your orchard? Well, you pick it. You share it with your visiting family, and let your young nephews eat as much as their parents allow. You make a couple pies, and a big pot of peach butter, and two batches of jam, and a double-size peach crisp. Then you freeze a few quarts because you just can't stand to eat another peach yet. And after all that, you mop the kitchen floor and put some ads on Craigslist and Nextdoor and stick a sign in the front yard, and you sell the rest.

We're still picking. More trees keep coming ripe, and there are a couple rows of trees that still have little hard green fruit on them, so I'm expecting peach season to last through most of July. The best news? The brown rot fungus is not claiming very many fruits. I think our cultural practices have had a good effect.

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