A couple of weeks ago I took a picture and it’s only just now that I’m posting it.
Check out these plums from my Chickasaw plum graft:
Those were harvested off the improved plum branch I grafted onto my wild Chickasaw plum tree last February.
We got about a dozen fruits off that branch and they were delicious. Chickasaw plum is a really scrappy tree that can handle nematodes, drought, poor soil and lots of abuse… unlike most cultivated fruit trees. Taking advantage of its excellent root system by tacking on better fruit makes a lot of sense. You just need to support the resulting branches or else they’ll outgrow the rootstock and pull the tree down to the ground.
In case you missed it, here’s a video I recorded recently on this Chickasaw plum graft project. You can also see the nectarine and peach scions I grafted onto the wild plum this year:
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Quite a few of my fruit trees and blueberry bushes are blooming right now. The cool but not freezing winter has had quite a few warm patches that have confused the trees greatly.
My mulberry tree out back – the same Illinois Everbearing I mentioned in yesterday’s post on festooning – is pushing a lot of blooms and new growth.
The risk, of course, is that we’ll get a harsh overnight low in the next month or two that will burn off all the blooms and new growth, eliminating the year’s harvest of fruit.
I really hope that doesn’t happen. This is a tricky time. I can cover some of my smaller trees to protect them but the larger trees are now on their own.
Three of my peaches are blooming:
It’s hard to find more beautiful trees in the spring than peaches. The nectarine out front is also blooming but since it’s a tiny tree I don’t really want it fruiting yet so if any nectarines start to develop I’ll pinch them off. It needs to get good and tall before having babies.
My Anna apples are in bloom right now and the black cherry is also about to pop. Fortunately, my Japanese persimmons, pears, cherries, plums and other apples are still sound asleep.
I hope they stay that way for another month at least. Or that we get lucky and don’t see a cold snap that goes much below freezing.
Parts of Georgia share some climate similarities with North Florida. My relatives live on the west side of the state in some rough pine land that’s prone to drought. I’d say they’re a pretty solid USDA Growing Zone 8, meaning it’s too far north for citrus (with the exception of trifoliate orange… and maybe kumquat) and it’s too far south for most really good cherries, apples and pears.
Fortunately, I stock a few plants in my nursery that can handle the cold and the heat. I didn’t have any higher chill-hour peach trees (mine are UF selections) and I only had one small pecan tree in stock (you need two types for pollination), so I brought two of my favorite trees: a Japanese persimmon and two Illinois Everbearing mulberries.
In the middle of the picture is the persimmon; on the left and right edges are two small mulberries. You can also see the bean bed we dug, marked off by some reclaimed blocks I found at the edge of the yard.
Here’s a close-up of the persimmon in its new home:
Since I didn’t have any mulch or leaves, I cut up some brush and tree limbs that were hanging over the fences from the neighbor’s yards. Beneath that I put a layer of cardboard as weed block. The organic matter of this soil is really low and there’s basically nothing to harvest and use in the yard, other than clippings from the grass.
Fortunately for the trees, there’s also a Starbucks nearby and my youngest sister (whose car I rode up in) is a coffee addict. She picked up a bag of grounds along with her iced coffee (they provide the grounds for free as compost for gardeners: kudos to Starbucks!) and I dumped those around the trees after planting.
Here’s one of the mulberry trees:
Planting fruit trees in Georgia takes a pickaxe!
That’s one of the $12.00-sized trees I sell from my nursery booth on Thursdays. Mulberries grow really quickly, so don’t think this baby is going to stay small for long. My bet is that it will hit 8′ by the end of next year, provided it gets enough water and doesn’t mind the hard ground. The year after that, my nieces and nephew will be eating themselves purple.
Next time I go up, I hope to bring a pair of pecan trees, a fig and perhaps some chestnuts and also see if we can find a local nursery with appropriate varieties of pears, peaches and plums and maybe even some sour cherries. It all depends on how much stuff my dear sister and brother-in-law will let me jam in their yard.
If you have a backyard… why not use it to grow your own organic delicious fruit? Georgia has a wonderful mild climate – you could grow your own food for very little money, plus enjoy looking out your windows at lovely fruit trees.
Growing peaches in Florida is pretty easy. Georgia gets all the credit when it comes to peaches; however, Florida is now giving them a run for their money thanks to improved low-chill varieties. Props to UF.
Our climate allows for a peach harvest a week or more before the Georgia crop starts, meaning Florida peach growers get a jump on the national market.
For the backyard gardener or homesteader, peaches are a rich spring and early summer treat.
If you’ve never had a peach fresh from the tree, you’ve never tasted a peach.
Life rarely gets any better.
The first time I grew peaches was in Tennessee. There I could grow classic Southern varieties such as Elberta and Belle of Georgia. I had both in my yard and the fruit was wonderful, though when you grow peaches, late freezes have a way of taking your blooms right before the “all-clear” of frost-free spring arrives.
Here in North/Central Florida, I’m growing Tropic Beauty, Flordaking, Flordaprince and a Sunraycer nectarine, not to mention the many seed-grown peaches I’ve planted.
Why would I include a nectarine in my list of peach trees? Well, they’re simply a peach without fuzz, able to cross-pollinate with peaches.
As a survival crop, peaches are somewhat lacking. They only produce at one point of the year, then take up space the rest of the time.
They’re also too sweet to be used as a staple and the only thing on a peach tree you can eat is the fruit itself.
But hey – getting through the Apocalypse will be a lot nicer with honey-sweet peaches, right?
Decapitate a zombie… eat a peach!
Watch the mushroom clouds billow overhead… eat a peach!
Wonder as the global financial system crumbles… eat a peach!
Suddenly we need a soundtrack:
If you aren’t yet growing peaches in Florida, I recommend you plant a few. However, pay attention to your chill hours. Not all cultivars will grow in all parts of the state.
Here – I looked it up for you over at IFAS:
You’re probably not going to have luck getting peaches to fruit south of Lake Okeechobee, but why would you care?
YOU HAVE MANGOS YOU LUCKY SONS OF —
Look up the chill hours for various cultivars, then plant accordingly. I recommend growing a couple different varieties with some chill hour variation. That way if one wakes up early and blooms during a warm snap, then loses its blooms, you can hopefully get fruit from the second tree that wakes up later in the spring. Genetic variation is your friend.
Peaches respond very well to pruning. Chop them in half and they’ll snap right back. I like to prune in January before they wake up. Be brutal – you’ll be amazed how they snap back.
Alternately, I’m just letting my seed-grown peaches find their own shape without any pruning at all. If they fail to produce well that way, I’ll start cutting. If you get potted trees from a nursery, you’re stuck with pruning since they’re already been grafted and shaped. Quit pruning and you’re likely to get few fruit, not to mention breaking branches and a terrible shape to the tree.
This brings up another point: modern peaches WAY overproduce fruit. You need to thin, thin, thin the little fruit in the spring when they’re about the zie of marbles. Thin them to at least 4″ apart from each other, otherwise you’ll get tons of tiny peaches crammed close together. Trust me – the peaches are much better when thinned, plus the branches are less likely to break from the stress of carrying hundreds of fruit. Tiny peaches are also a pain to process.
As for pests, the worst ones are the plum curculio and the peach borer. The curculio tunnels into the growing fruit… the peach borer tunnels right into the tree. My feeling from a permaculture perspective is that both problems can be minimized through occasionally running chickens beneath your trees, as well as mixing them into a full ecosystem, rather than growing them in a monoculture.
Other than insects, you have to fight the squirrels for peaches. They’ll chew a hole here and there and knock fruit off the tree like the destructive rats they are.
Shoot and eat the squirrels. If they’re been eating peaches, they come pre-stuffed.
Nematodes are also really bad for peaches. Load up the root zones with compost and mulch. Also throw on mustard greens, grow marigolds around them, etc. Or spit lots of tobacco juice there. Anything to knock the nasties back.
Whatever you do, don’t grow peaches that are surrounded by a ring of hot, dry sound since that’s nematode heaven.
Growing Peaches From Seed
Now you know I like doing this. It’s not recommended with peaches and nectarines because of the afore-mentioned nematodes, but they grow so danged fast and well I think it’s an acceptable risk. Normally, peaches are grafted onto nematode-resistant root stocks, but your seedling peaches won’t have that advantage, so take care of them.
On the upside, they grow WAY FASTER than potted, grafted trees.
From sprouting a pit to getting this fruit took 2 years. That’s a FAST fruit tree.
My young seedling trees are taller than all the potted trees I planted a couple of years ago… and healthier, at least for now. Time will tell, but I’ve already gotten enough free peaches to make the experiment worthwhile.
If you want details on how to grow peaches from a pit, click here. I’m working on germinating about 200 right now. Yep. 200. Go big or go home.
Overall, peaches are a very worthwhile addition to the survival garden. When you get a big crop, can it, dry it, freeze it or turn it into something flammable, then you can enjoy peaches all year long.
And enjoy them you will.
Name: Peach Latin Name: Prunus persica
Nitrogen Fixer: No Medicinal: No Cold-hardy: Yes Exposure: Full sun Part Used: Fruit Propagation: Grafting, cuttings, seed Taste: Very good Method of preparation: Fresh, dried, canned, jams, jellies, moonshine, cobbler Storability: Moderate Ease of growing: Moderate Nutrition: Good Recognizability: High Availability: High
As I illustrated previously in a weird cartoon, growing peaches from pits is easy and worthwhile. Germinating peach pits is easy – it just takes a little time.
This is the time of year to gather local peaches from Farmer’s Markets and roadside stands and start growing your own. Make sure they’re moderately local fruit, however, as varieties grown up north may not meet the chill requirements here in Florida. (Of course, you could try anyhow – let me know if you have luck!)
My peach trees are almost done with their first crop. The fruit was absolutely superb in flavor, and we harvested at least a dozen fruit off one of the two trees I planted out back. The other tree wasn’t as precocious in its fruiting as the other and is also holding its single fruit for longer. Perhaps one will be an earlier season bearer and the other will be a few weeks later. That’s how it seems at this point, since the one tree is picked out and the other hasn’t finished yet.
Very exciting, and a good testimony to the value of genetic diversity on a homestead.
Remember, these trees are still LESS than TWO YEAR OLD.
They’re almost 10′ tall at this point and have completely beaten the 6′ tall trees I planted three years ago from potted and grafted nursery stock.
To fight nematodes, I’ve thrown lots of compost around their bases, including mustard and cabbage greens, which both reputedly beat back our tiny creeping enemies.
Another interesting thing about these seed-grown peaches: the shape of the tree is naturally growing in a multi-trunked vase shape that’s quite easy to pick. I’m not going to prune them at all and we’ll see what happens.
Even if I lost both of the tree at this point due to nematodes, I’m only out a little bit of time… and we’ve already enjoyed a nice basket of peaches.
Other trees worth trying to grow in this fashion: plums, nectarines and cherries, if you can find any from low-chill trees. If any of my cherry trees manage to fruit, you know what I’m doing with the resulting pits.
Now go – find some peach pits to plant! Follow the stratification method in the comic linked above and you won’t be disappointed.