Monday, August 6, 2012

Peaches, Pesticides and Pennsylvania

Peaches are like wine grapes, and wine grapes are like peaches. I was talking with a vineyard owner last year about growing wine grapes in Pennsylvania. He pointed out just how much viticulture has grown in recent years. Then he very shrewdly said that modern pesticides are the only reason so many people can grow wine grapes successfully. I'm sure there are plenty of organic wine grape growers in this state, but it ain't easy. That's for sure! After 5 years of caring for 6 mature peach trees, I'm ready to conclude that the same is true about growing peaches in this state!

We inherited our peach trees when we moved into this home. We sprayed a regiment of pesticides diligently for the first couple of years. And we had bumper crops. I'm talking hundreds of pounds. Belle couldn't process them fast enough. I sold the extras to passersby.

Last season we decided not to use pesticides. We amended the soil heavily with composted manure.  We sprayed oil up to the time of blossom. We used fish emulsion and organic fertilizer. We even used a little copper spray to resist fungus. WE GOT NOTHIN'. Well, we got 12 pounds. From 6 mature trees, that's nothin' in my book.

This year we did all the organic stuff again, but we also sprayed pesticide right at blossom time when the butterflies lay their eggs. We didn't have hardly a single worm, But we still had major problems with fungus (see below). We harvested only 56 pounds. That's not nothin', but it's not much either, especially when you consider the hundreds of pounds of rotten fruit that fell to the ground. We picked and processed at least 200 -250 pounds of fruit. After the work of boiling, cooling, peeling, coring and cutting, cutting, cutting away the rot, we were able to keep just 56 pounds!

Hence my point. If you want to grow stone fruit successfully in this region, you've got to spray.

We don't know what to do. We love peaches. We love our trees. We hate pesticides. Any  thoughts and recommendations are quite welcome!

Please stop by Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Monday to see what other gardeners are gathering from their gardens this time of year.

One of many buckets of half-rotting fruit.

Processing buckets and buckets of half rotting fruit.


The stores in process.


  1. Oh that's really a shame that so much fruit rotted. But it could be weird weather effect too.

  2. Sorry about your peaches. I know nothing about them living in this cold climate and am not an organic gardener so even less help. Hope you get some answers.

  3. Are there sprays that are more on the organic side that you can use? Or could you be low spray, meaning not using as much as commercial growers but just enough to have a good harvest and be at peace with what is being sprayed. We have an orchard near us that is low spray for the same reasons.

  4. I had the same problem with my peaches, finally gave up and cut down the tree. Sorry, no help.

  5. oh no!! sorry to help here as it is too cold to grow peaches in Saskatchewan

  6. So frustrating! We don't like to use pesticides either, but we have given in on occasion. Good luck!

  7. It's the same with peaches here in Indiana. The worms aren't usually bad, but our humid climate makes brown rot a certainty. And I all I know to keep that really controlled is Captan. I had several mature peach trees at my old place and that was what I found. We have a few overgrown ones here at HA. We've let them go because we can't get to the peaches to thin, spray or harvest them!

    Our two young peach trees aren't quite big enough to bear yet, but when they do I'll have to make similar choices. My plan is to spray, because at least then I will KNOW it has been done as safely as possible. Right now we buy peaches from a local orchard, which I'm sure have been heavily sprayed because they are spotless. I don't mind a few imperfections, even a few worm holes, so I think less spray will be better.

  8. I use pestisides ocacionally when things are out of control. Pest nowadays can overcome the organic spray...sigh!
    Hope you harvest more peaches next season!

  9. We have the same problem with our apple trees. I don't like it but if we don't spray, we don't get an edible harvest. I don't know about peaches, but we had our greatest success with our apples last year using Bonide Fruit Tree Spray. It didn't eliminate all our issues, but we were able to pick some nice apples. We do take a break at blossom time until petal fall to allow the bees to do their thing.

    We didn't spray this year, but frost nipped most of the blooms so we wouldn't have a great harvest anyway.

  10. When I was researching fruit trees I really wanted some peach trees. After talking to more than a few people I came to the same conclusion that you have. I don't think you get huge yields from organic peach trees anywhere :(.

  11. Oh now you have me worried. I have two peach trees in my front yard. I really want peaches, but don't want to spray nasty toxins on them. Actually I won't. I'm really sensitive to a lot of such things and it would be bad for me to spray that stuff.

  12. Your conclusion confirms what I have read often about the stone fruit trees. I dont' keep anything but a few small apple trees which are being manaaged with organic practices but will likely yeild far less as a result (they are young so no producing yet).