We greet each new season with fresh hope and excitement to enjoy the beauty Mother Earth has to offer and prepare for the work that comes with tending her. In Winter, I enjoy studying on subjects of gardening such as pruning, soil amending, and researching what's new to plant this year. I'm always searching for ways to do less harm and protect the environment. My studies include biological weapons to keep the honeybees safe and ways to protect my beloved earth worms that I work so hard to keep healthy, which in turn helps my plants thrive.
I spend time on YouTube looking for inspiration and listening for solutions to problems I have encountered throughout my years of gardening. I will list my favorites at the bottom. One of my goals this year, is to grow healthy, succulent, edible peaches. Now given that Georgia is the Peach State you may believe that growing peaches is an easy task, but I can assure you they are fickler than you would think. Last year, my experience was disappointing. When I looked upon my beautiful peaches, they were perfectly formed and starting to get that pink hue. I decided to leave them on the tree one more week for ripening. I Grabbed my picking basket and was ready to pluck them from the tree only to realize each one had been infested with a black fungus. Man, was I bummed! As much as that felt like a failure, every avid gardener knows it takes trial and error to produce healthy plants.
So here is where the study begins. I have learned that new peach trees seem to thrive in the beginning and as they get older and more established is when growing peaches takes more diligence in pruning, spraying, building healthy soil and mulching. Stonecrop varieties such as cherries, plums, and peaches are very trying in Georgia because of all the pest and funguses that thrive in the weather conditions.
First, I pruned heavily so I can keep my tree manageable. I no longer want to get on tall ladders to spray and pick. So once temps get above 40 degrees, I can start spraying my heavier oils such as orchid spray, with Pyrethrin's which come from chrysanthemum cinerariifolium. Spraying every 2 weeks will help kill fungal diseases and over wintering pest. Then the last time to spray this oil spray would be just before bloom when clusters of flowers are just beginning to open. Next spray would be when small green fruits set and blooms are gone. That way the honeybees won't be affected. I will make a lighter spray as the weather warms, out of 2 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Dawn dish soap and a few drops of cinnamon oil, with every cup of water. I will spray that every two weeks for controlling fungus and insects. Other biological sprays would be Sulphur, B. T. (bacillus thuringiensis), Neam oil, Safers insecticidal soap. Hanging pheromone traps or painting wood with bright yellow paint and adding sticky glue or molasses to attract pest.
Let’s talk about building healthy soil. Mycorrhiza Fungi is a key for that purpose, Mycorrhiza fungi is a mutual association between fungus and plants root system, it plays an important role in plant nutrition, soil biology and soil chemistry. Rotting pine bark and decaying leaves help feed Mycorrhiza. It is the tiny little root hairs that are often white that brings sugars, phosphorus, calcium, and micronutrients that help plants thrive. It's very important in growing fruit trees. It gives the trees stronger trunks and helps them fight off disease much like our own microbiome. Mulching will help keep soil healthy. Adding compost continually creates a new layer of decaying matter which will break down to feed the Mycorrhiza and so forth. Other important soil additives are composted animal manures, sand in our heavy clay soils, wood chips, leaves, peat moss, fish, and seaweed fertilizers.
It sounds like a lot of work, but healthy fruit will be worth the trouble. If you’re interested in other lower maintenance fruit trees, I recommend berry, pear, apple or fig.
Following is a list of my favorite YouTube channels: Back to Eden, Paul Gautschi; Garden answer, Laura; Roots and Refuge with Jessica; Mike Kincaid on, Easy and fast cuttings; Mycorrhizal fungi; Georgia extension service, growing peaches in Georgia