Fresh Facts: So Whatcha Plantin’ Uncle Vern?

By January 23, 2014Newsletter

Volume 7, Week 21, January 17-18, 2014


 A couple of things happen in January every year here on the Peterson Family farm. First, it’s dormant spray time. What’s a dormant spray Uncle Vern? There’s just bare sticks out there and besides, you’re an organic farmer, how come you’re spraying anyhow?

 Excellent questions there nieces and nephews, let’s see what we can figure out. First off, when all the leaves fall off and the trees go to sleep for their winter rest, that’s called dormancy, or the dormant period, in the life of an orchard. But you can see the buds have started to swell now in preparation for bloom time. It’s at this early bud swell time that I like to do my dormant spraying.

There are two major insect enemies of our fruit—the twig borer and scale—that can be effectively controlled right now using an organically approved mineral oil mixed with water. A conventional farmer would also add a poison to the mix.

We just add more water and drive real real slow to get the trees really soaked and the scale and twig borer smothered. If you have roses in your garden, now would be a good time to do the same thing. We also add some organic copper to control Curly Leaf on peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Curly Leaf affects the young tender leaves when it rains, so I guess I’m being optimistic using it this year. It doesn’t bother plums or your roses.

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As an aside, this is the first fog-less winter I can remember—no rain, no fog—and dormant spray at early bud swell is usually a late, not mid-January thing. No fog, the afternoons warm up too much. An early bloom coupled with dry weather is scary frost-wise, but that’s a problem for another day.

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The other thing we do this time of year is plant new orchards. When we remove an old orchard, we let the ground have a year off from stone fruit and grow oats in the winter, and sudangrass in the summer. The sudangrass will grow ten feet tall and we incorporate all that organic matter back into the soil.

What this does is break the cycle of various soil-borne diseases and gives us a nice strong orchard. A conventional farmer would say that wastes a year and just fumigate the ground to kill those diseases. Working with biology is a lot nicer, don’t you think?

So whatcha plantin’ Uncle Vern? What you’re really asking is; what are we going to be eating in a few years and I’m so glad you asked.

There is a group of stone fruit breeders in France that have developed a line of incredibly sweet nectarines. Sweeter and more flavorful than anything I’ve eaten in my life. We have won the exclusive organic rights to these varieties in North America—something a group of small farmers like us would never be able to dream of conventionally.

The plan is to call ’em all La Dolce Vita. I know, French varieties with a backwards (should be vita dolce, I believe) Italian name sold to English speakers, but hey, I’m just the farmer who’s stoked to get to grow such wonderful fruit because I know flavor is what people really want. Besides that, I do believe Carol and I should do some additional varietal research in France this summer don’t you? Oh, lá lá!!

~Vernon Peterson

Author AHO Kitchen Team

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