Fuzzy little babies

Well, ok, not the kind you probably thought. I’m talking about my peaches.

Six years gardening, and I have yet to eat a single one of my own peaches. The damn bugs get them every year – it’s a race between them and the brown rot. And yes, I’m aware that they’re just peaches, but I’ve been laboring so hard to baby these trees for the last six years – weekly nutrient sprays, regular applications of compost and fertilizer – I have so much energy invested in them that it’s just heartbreaking each time.

This year, I’m pulling out the big(ger) guns. I’ve added an organic insecticide in addition to my traditional neem oil. I sprayed once at leaf swell, once at petal fall, and for the last time after shuck split. Ugh, it stinks like turpentine and it has to be applied after the bees have gone to bed. But I haven’t seen any damage yet. Yet!

I applied it along with Surround (superfine kaolin), a passive clay coating strategy that’s a benign repellant – picture biting into an apple coated in clay and you’ll see why – which may be a problem. Because it’s Surround’s job to slough off easily (onto all the insect parts that brush against it, gumming up their moving bits), I suspect the insecticide is being washed off too soon to be fully effective…. but I don’t want to not use Surround, either. We’ll see.

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ma’am, your tree is covered in garbage.

I’m also desperate enough to try physical barriers. I made some insect barrier cloth, and some fine tulle, into branch bags. I even used twist ties to apply sections of nylons over tiny fruit clusters.

My highest hopes lie with the insect barrier bags, though I put them on late (after shuck split, when the fruits were already sizing up.) I like that the fine tulle bags let in more light and air, but I dunno whether the holes are too big to keep out tiny bugs like plum curculio. I’m also not sure it’ll stand up to a full season out in the weather. But it went on right after petal fall because it was what I had on hand, so if they work, chances are good that I managed to bag ’em before any damage was done. I hope.

The bags made of insect barrier fabric feel about as light as the tulle and they’re more durable, but I worry that because they block wind more, in a storm they might act like a sail and incur damage to the peach’s notoriously weak branches.

So far, so good.

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bigger than almonds.

I can’t find any damage so far… though that’s not saying there isn’t any. Dem bugs is small.

Still, this is right at the point last year when all the fruit, worm-infested and oozing all over with the clear goo that the fruits put off in response to bites, died and fell to the ground. I don’t see any piles of goo or insect bites on anything yet, so things look promising.

Heck, I’d try just about anything at this point – but I hope enough peaches survive that I can compare the effectiveness of the different strategies. So maybe I won’t have to do all of this again next year!

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