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Fresh Facts: It’s Blossoming on the Farm

By February 21, 2016Fresh Facts, Newsletter

Seems every time you blink there are more blossoms open now, but it hasn’t come as fast as I would have guessed when I wrote this note last week.

Our experience got skewed by the past several dry, warm and thus early and fast springs. This winter having more normal (whatever that is) wet and cold is letting the flowers open at a more leisurely pace.

If you’re hankering for a blossom filled ride through fruit country, the 20th through the 27th would be the most rewarding.

So you can impress your friends with your blossom knowledge, here are the terms we use to describe the process of a stone fruit tree blooming.

• Bud swell: like an expectant mom showing.
• Pink bud: you can see the petals beneath the sepals.
• Bloom: open blossom
• Petal fall. Self explanatory
• Jacket shuck: the fruit swells and bursts out of its protective coat.

It’s important that all of us involved in stone fruit production be on the same page; because bloom time is the most vulnerable time in the fruit’s life, and the most difficult and intense time to be an organic stone fruit farmer.

Like a vulnerable little baby, the tiny little flowers that hope to one day be peaches are very susceptible to various types of blossom blights both fungal and bacterial. In the day–prior to WWII when everything would have been organic–varieties were selected for resistance to decay. Decay stopped being a selection factor with the development of an array of brand new chemicals called fungicides.

A little aside: The reason Red Haven is still the leading variety in Georgia and the Carolinas is; Red Haven can take rain and humidity. Not much to look at, doesn’t taste that great, but it doesn’t rot that easy.

We organic farmers are prohibited from using such chemicals at any point during the growing cycle, so on our farm we use probiotics; a new word as big to us as the new term fungicide was in the 60’s. Probiotics are simply good or positive microorganisms that deliver the results we want.

It is an astounding field that has implications for everything from garbage disposal to curing cancer in the long run, but in the right now, different little guys have been identified that help us prevent blossom blight. We multiply them here on the farm kinda like making sour dough pancakes and then spray them on the blooms to be like microbial guard dogs in a sheep pen.

It’s more complicated and expensive and isn’t as long lasting as the chemical alternative, but the results are sound, we are really motivated by this style of farming, and you’re going to feel very healthy eating fruit produced this way.

So every five days if the weather’s nice (every day if it’s raining) from pink bud through jacket shuck, you’ll see our spray machines out accompanied by a rousing chorus of “Who let the dogs out” For the sake of our valley and state, I hope we have to spray every day.

 

Author Uncle Vern

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