Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thinning Peaches & Harvesting Asparagus

   Peach thinning began last Saturday.  This is a huge job each May when we have a peach crop, and will take over 500 hours to thin excess fruit on our 160 peach trees. With no thinning, limbs would break from excessive fruit loads, all the fruit would stay too small to sell, and fruit rots would spread quickly as fruit touch each other.  So we remove excess fruit, leaving peaches 6 to 8 inches apart so they don't touch, enabling peaches to develop good size and increased sweetness, and greatly reducing fruit rots.
I used a pneumatic limb shaker, powered by an air compressor on the tractor, to start the peach thinning process on our younger peach orchard on Monday May 4.  These smaller trees thin fairly quickly, but the older trees in the background take much longer.
   First we use pneumatic limb shakers to shake loose fruit from the trees.  We shake each limb of each tree, which takes about 40 hours for 160 peach trees.  Then we follow up with hand thinning, keeping the best and largest fruit and twisting off the rest.  This will take about 480 hours.
Before thinning, peach branches have far too many fruit, which would cause limb breakage and result in tiny peaches with much fruit rot if excess fruit weren't removed.

The same branches, after limb shaking and hand thinning, have a good number of fruit that will develop increased size and sweetness.
   With temperatures in the 80's, I'm also harvesting asparagus three times each day, so we have lots to sell. Asparagus harvest should go for the next 3 weeks or so.  These are nice thick spears and I snap them off where they break easily, instead of cutting them at ground level, so almost all of the spear is tender and usable.  Phone 620-597-2450 to order asparagus, which we sell harvested for $2.79 per pound + tax.

Asparagus grows so fast with temperatures in the 80's, that I have to harvest it three times each day, in between thinning the peach orchard in the background.
   We still have some harvested 'GoldRush' apples, both #1's and #2's, for sale now and for the next 2 to 3 weeks or so.  Harvested apples are kept in top condition in our cooler, which is now down to about 240 pounds of apples (about 80 pounds of #1's and 160 pounds of #2's).  #2 apple prices are still $1.00 less for each 20 lbs. than last fall.  Scroll down 4 posts for prices.
   We also still have 5-lb. bags of cracked 'Kanza' pecans for sale, for $14.86 + tax per bag.  We now have 7 bags (35 pounds) of pecans left before we're sold out (until next Nov.)
'Ouachita' blackberries are heavy with blooms now.  We should have a great thornless blackberry crop this year, from mid-June to early August.
   Strawberry harvest will start next week, and will run from about May 12 to June 5 this year.  Strawberries are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only, for $2.55 per quart + tax.  We already have people scheduled to pick strawberries from May 12 through May 19, and have openings from May 20 on.  Phone 620-597-2450 to set up a day and time to pick strawberries.
   From Dec. 1 to May 31 we're open by appointment, so phone a day or so ahead (or at least a few hours ahead) and leave a message on the answering machine saying when you're coming for asparagus, apples and/or pecans.  We'll be very busy thinning peaches all during May, and can't see the driveway or hear cars come in from the peach orchard.