Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Peach Trees Blooming

   Our peach orchard is in beautiful bloom now.  This morning it got down to 33 F, exactly as predicted, which doesn't hurt the peach blooms at all.  This Sunday morning, March 12, is predicted to go down to 29 F.  We still have over 4 weeks to go before the average date of the last spring frost.
These 'Challenger' peach trees are in beautiful bloom now, unfortunately earlier than usual this year.
   I chose peach varieties that ripen in succession over a 2-month period, have resistance to bacterial spot disease, and require as many chill hours as possible before blooming, so they tend to bloom later.  Thankfully, some of our peach varieties still have many flower buds that have swollen but not yet opened, which protects the pistil (female part of the flower that produces the fruit) from frost damage.
The 'Flameprince' peach tree at left, though our latest-ripening peach variety, requires fewer chill hours so blooms earlier.  'Glowingstar' and 'Blazingstar' peach trees in back have not yet opened as many flowers, and 'Contender' and 'Intrepid' flower buds are thankfully even less advanced.
   Pear flower buds have swollen but not yet opened.  We are praying that we will have a peach crop and a pear crop this year.
   Last week I planted 48 more peach trees, half 'Intrepid' and the rest two new varieties.  These will start to bear about 3 years from now, and continue bearing well until about 15 years from now.  I planted these new trees to replace some trees which have died, especially 'Intrepid', from our original peach orchard, planted in 2002 and now 15 years old.
   This week I'm transplanting more 'Natchez' thornless blackberries.  Last year we took out 2 rows of our latest-ripening blackberry variety, 'Triple Crown', and I herbicided the rows all summer to kill 'Triple Crown' sprouts that kept growing back.  Now we're replanting these rows to our earliest-ripening and largest fruited blackberry variety, 'Natchez'.
   We still have many apples and pecans for sale.  Just phone 620-597-2450 a day in advance, and leave a message on the answering machine saying your name and the day and approximate time you're coming to get them.
   The phone rings in the house, and I check for messages when I come in from working in the orchards or sorting apples in the sales building.  When the weather's nice it's especially important to call a day ahead, as I can't always see the driveway from some parts of the fruit plantings, and when I'm working on a tractor I can't hear vehicles come in if you just drop by.
   Small amounts of harvested apples cost $1.20 per pound + tax.  A 20-lb. box of apples costs $23.15 + tax, which saves $1.00 off the per-pound price.  I pack harvested apples into two plastic bags per box, so you can get a mixed box of one bag of each of two different varieties of apples, and still get the 20-lb. discount.
   We have many harvested 2nds apples, great for baking or for making apple butter.  Usually 90 to 95% of the fruit is still usable, but they're 69% the cost at $0.83 per pound + tax.  A 20-lb. box of harvested 2nds apples costs just  $15.74 + tax ($0.79 per pound + tax), which saves $8.00 off a 20-lb. box of #1 apples.  If you get 40 lbs. of 2nds apples, the price goes down to just $0.74 per pound + tax ($14.82 + tax per 20-lb. box).
   We also still have cracked 'Kanza' pecans for sale.  'Kanza' pecans are known for cracking out almost entirely in intact kernels, and our new high-efficiency pecan cracking machine cracks this variety so well that 2/3 of the shells are removed by the blower.  The price for pecans is $15.28 per bag + tax.  Each bag has the equivalent of 6 pounds of in-shell pecans, and when you pick them out, you get at least 3 pounds of nutmeats.