When we established our little farm, we planted a number of fruit trees and bushes.
The two dozen raspberry bushes produced fruit the very first year and have continued to expand and produce like crazy. The five apple trees haven’t fared quite as welll–two are thriving and promise to give their first crop next year, but the other three are unlikely to make it. Of the four pear trees, only two are still alive, but they too are doing well and will likely show fruit in one more year.
To our immense surprise and delight, the single peach tree decided to fruit this year.
But the peaches just wouldn’t ripen.
The first thing we noticed was leaf curl.
This is a fungal disease that can really diminish fruit growth and, in the worst possible conditions, can kill a tree altogether.
In the spring, when the tree leafed out, we noticed an unnatural curling of the leaves as well as a CRAZY looking fungal growth. After reading a bit about leaf curl, we decided to remove all the affected leaves and see if that had any effect on stopping the spread.
While this is not a guaranteed method of control, it did manage to work for us (maybe we caught it early enough) and the leaf curl seemed to have been stopped.
The second thing we noticed was that our goats really like peach tree bark.
And apple tree bark. And pear tree bark. And–well, we found ourselves having to use Treekote (a wound sealant) to paint over and protect the areas that the goats had wrecked.
Many folks are anti-wound sealant on trees, and I would never use it on a clean cut made by pruning because trees are smart and efficient and heal themselves just fine, thank you. But in the case where the goats have wreaked their havoc, the Treekote has saved the affected trees. The two pear trees we lost have visible goat damage that we didn’t see in time to save it.
What Treekote WON’T stop is sap weeping.
This is when the tree is in fruit and the previously-made wounds allow the running sap to “weep” through. It is good to know that this is possible, because at first we thought we had fruit tree borers. The result looks exactly the same.
There were clusters of an orange, jelly-like substance everywhere the goats had worked the bark off the tree. When the jelly was scraped away, we looked for evidence of borers (holes in the trunk and destruction of the trunk base at ground level) and found none. This was incredibly reassuring, as borers can be the final nail in the organic fruit tree coffin if they are present.
Despite the rocky start, the fruit did eventually start to appear and begin ripening.
The trouble was that it didn’t rain for the ENTIRE MONTH OF AUGUST where we live and this did not help the tree in its production endeavors.
We started giving the tree about five gallons of water around the roots every other day until it finally rained.
And they were covered in peach scab!
Now, this is somewhat surprising because peach scab (a stone fruit pathogen) is typically found in warm, humid areas and, what with the whole no-rain-for-the-summer thing happening, humidity wasn’t really part of the equation.
Our tree is a late-bearing variety, however, and that is another factor contributing to the likelihood of scab.
Left untreated, the scab can affect the entire tree and all of its fruit. The peaches may only show spotting or they may become SO infected that they will actually crack and become inedible.
The most effective treatments for scab are pesticides, which we don’t use. There is also an organic treatment of wettable sulfur that is considered to be equally useful that we are going to try out.
In the meantime, we are happily cutting away any tougher patches of spotting or cracking and enjoying what is still some amazing, juicy, and sweet fruit underneath!