By Lisa Mileur, Mileur Orchard
It was a beautiful day here at the orchard so my husband and I decided to go out and check some buds. The purpose of this is to see what has survived the cold temperatures we had 2 weeks ago in addition to the wind and hail storms we had a few days ago! So we hopped into the golf cart and started touring. First stop was the early peaches, the PF 1s and the early whites, I can’t remember their name, we cut about 5 buds and three of the five were fine. What you are looking for when you cut the buds, is a dark spot right in the middle of the baby peach. The baby peaches at this point are about an eighth of an inch in diameter and look like a miniature onion bulb. So far so good!
We headed across the highway to the apple trees and the older peach trees. The apple trees are in full bloom right now, but the bloom this year is a little light because last year’s crop was pretty heavy. Apple trees are biennial, which means they like to put on a heavy crop every other year. The goal of the orchardist is to thin the apples so that the crop is even every year, but sometimes it doesn’t work as well as it should. That happened with us last year, he thinned as heavy as he thought was prudent, but as it turned out, it wasn’t heavy enough. There will still be plenty of apples this year, just not as plentiful as we might wish for! And not all varieties thin as well as others, the Goldens and Jonathans look great!
We went to the back of the orchard to survey the nectarines, Summer Beautes, and the Cresthavens. The Cresthavens showed about 75% and the nectarines about 50%. I was pretty happy at this point because normally, we will thin about 50-75% of the baby fruits off of the trees in order to ensure large fruit and to keep the trees from being overburdened. You want your trees to last their lifetime, which for peaches is about 15-18 years. If you let them bear all the fruit they produce, you will break down the limbs and wear them out!! Mother Nature is helping us out a bit by doing some of the thinning for us.
I was feeling pleased for myself until my husband reminded me that we are not out of the woods yet. There are still plenty of natural enemies out there waiting to knock the baby fruits off of the trees. Wind, heavy rainstorms with hail, critters like squirrels and raccoons that like to eat the fruit, you are never sure of your crop until you have it picked and in the box!!
We then checked out the pluots and apriums. That was a little more of setback; although we had a great bloom this year, nighttime temperatures dropped down to 24 degrees right in the middle of their bloom and we lost a lot of fruit. I am not sure, but there might be a 10% crop of those. Consider, though, that we only get a crop of them once in about every 5-7 years, we are overdue! Pluots are a cross of plums and apricots on a plum rootstock; they look like a plum but have some apricot characteristics of the freestone and a neutral tasting skin. Plums have that very bitter taste to their skins. Apriums are again a plum and apricot cross but on apricot rootstock so they look like an apricot but have some plum characteristics with some tartness to the flesh and a beautiful reddish tinge to the flesh. I have my fingers crossed that we have at least a partial crop to share since it has been at least 5 years since we were able to pick more than a half dozen fruits from any of the aprium or pluot trees!!
We are hopeful for this year despite a few setbacks and are looking forward to sharing our peaches, nectarines and apples with you and maybe a few pluots and apriums!