I've been eyeing my neighbor's peach tree. Its branches are loaded with small fruit and the tiny treats are just calling to me.
Because it's my neighbor's tree, I do what I can to help out, and she is generous with a basket or two of the fruit when it's ready.
Spring pruning is really important to get your tree ready to hold its bounty. Shape the trees before they start to form buds in the early spring. You will get bigger and better fruit, and waste less money on spraying branches that are just using up good fertilizer and the tree's own food.
Fruit trees should be shaped almost like an umbrella. Fruit trees have a central strong trunk, called a leader, and the other side branches grow out of that main leader. You don't want too many side branches. Keep the strongest ones and try to give them enough space all around to let the wind blow through the tree. This might mean you have to cut off some of the horizontal branches to make room for the healthiest ones. Always cut any crossing or damaged limbs and get rid of any vertical branches. The horizontal branches will give you the best fruit.
Now is the time to give your tree some help. Look for branches overloaded with fruit and use a notched board to help hold them up. As the fruit expands, it will need the extra leverage to keep the branch from breaking.
The secret to a perfect peach crop is good pruning practices and putting fruit trees on a yearly spray schedule. Peach, apricot, and plum trees are on the same spray schedule. It is similar to the apple tree's schedule, and some chemicals can be interchanged.
Always spray on a calm day. You don't want your fungicide to be wasted in the wind. In the early spring, spray the trees with captan or a multipurpose fruit spray. You should do this before the buds start to swell. This treatment will help control peach leaf curl and plum pockets. When the buds start to turn pink and show a bit of color on the ends, spray them again with a mixture of captan or benlate. They are fungicides that will prevent some of the fruit rot caused by bacteria. Rotate use of each chemical to get a combination of fungi. It is important not to spray your trees with insecticides early in the spring. A spray that you thought would protect your tree from harmful bugs would actually be killing the workers pollinating your fruit.
Now, look for buds to break and start to bloom. To keep blossom blight under control, give your trees another treatment of captan or benlate. Then, when the husks begin to split and pull away from the base of the fruit, the trees are ready for another treatment. Use wettable sulfur plus captan or a multipurpose fruit spray plus sulfur. The sulfur will fight scabs on peaches. Keep spraying with the same mixture every week to 10 days until about four weeks before harvest.
About two weeks before harvest, give your trees a treatment of malathion plus captan, and one week before you harvest peaches, give them one more shot of captan fungicide to control brown rot.
Always remember to spray before it rains. Give your spray enough time to dry on the branches before a rain or it will all get washed off. Keep separate spray canisters for your herbicides, fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides. Keep track of how much spray you use on each application and only make enough for a single spray session. Rinse out the container when you are done so the nozzle doesn't get clogged.
Oh, and don't forget. Share a basket of your bounty with a nice neighbor!