Oozing peaches

lilacs_of_mayAugust 17, 2008

My peaches should be getting ripe enough to pick in the next two or three weeks. After a summer of drought conditions and record breaking temperatures, this last week it's dropped into the 50s and we've had tons of rain, at least 2-3 inches in my area in the last 10 days.

I just came in from checking my peaches. They're still green and nowhere near full size, but quite a few of them are oozing a clear gel, especially if they've been punctured or injured in some way.

This is the first time I've seen this. Is this a disease? Or has the tree sucked up so much of the recent rain that the peaches are waterlogged, and they're kind of exploding?

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Your peaches have been visited by the oriental fruit moth. The damage probably occurred some time ago, but is now becoming easily visible due to the oozing of pectin. The peaches may continue to ripen (although some may fall), but when you take them down the affected peaches will be seriously deteriorated around the pit area, and some larvae may be present.

I don't know how long you have been growing peaches, or the severity of OFM pressures in your particular part of Colorado. In my area of Northern Virginia OFM is a constant presence from early spring right through midsummer. I either have to spray in a timely manner, beginning right at the fruit thinning stage, or bag the peaches in shoe store "footies", or both. I would expect OFM pressure to be less in the dryer, higher climate of Colorado, but in a given year it could be pretty bad.

Weather has not caused your peach problems, nor is it a disease. It's a very nasty moth.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 10:54AM
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Could this be the reason why, earlier this year, quite a few (even most) of the newly developed peaches shriveled on the vine when they were barely dime sized? Granted, I've only owned this place for a couple years, but I've never seen that before.

We had drought and high temperatures this year, following a dry winter.

That's very disheartening. I was looking forward to peach pie. Is there an organic treatment I can use next year? I don't want to put any honeybees at risk. A couple months ago I had a beeswarm in my peach tree.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 1:54PM
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Bagging the peaches in shoe store footies is "organic", if you can get them past the fruit moth to the quarter-size thinning and bagging stage. I cannot, and have to spray with permethrin or the OFM can ruin many of the larger peaches I want to keep.

I also keep honeybees, who seem none the worse for wear from my occasional applications of insecticides.

If you mean actually killing the OFM, I know of no organically acceptable treatment that will do the job. If you are not spraying with anything after petal fall, that does explain why you have an infestation of OFM on your peaches. You should always remove and discard any peaches that shrivel up or fall from the tree and discard them to prevent the OFM hatch cycle from continuing.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 4:46PM
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Hmm. Discard them or compost them? I've been tossing them into the compost bin, and now I'm having second thoughts about that.

This does explain why a lot of the oozing seems to come from an injury to the fruit. I thought perhaps it was just a twig sticking them when the wind blows them around, but in hindsight I bet that's the insect entry point.

I didn't bother thinning this year. The squirrels and the shriveled up peaches thinned them plenty enough. As for bagging them, a lot of the peaches are way out of my reach, even with a ladder, either too high or on the other side of the fence, so I couldn't bag them. Where do you buy the footies?

Every year I grow edibles, I learn something, usually by trial and error.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 11:27PM
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Most of us who use footies on peaches buy them at Store Supply Warehouse. Google them. You want the ladies size, not the men's.

I can think of a couple of options that might allow you to grow edible peaches next season. The first would be to prune the tree down to a height you can reach from your ladder, then select the best undamaged young fruitlets and thin off all the others until they are a minimum of 7-8 inches apart on the twigs and branches. Then bag the selected peaches immediately before the insects reach them.

You could also leave the tree as is, and select and bag as many as you can reach, essentially writing off all those peaches you cannot. I would favor option #1, but that does involve some pruning, perhaps heavy pruning. I am a believer in keeping peach trees under control unless you want to grow them as landscape specimens.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 1:48AM
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I inherited this peach tree when I bought the house, and it was the size it was. Any heavy pruning would probably have to be done by a professional, and someday I'll get to that. Quite a few of my trees need to be pruned.

I guess next year what I'll do is bag the ones I can get to and let the rest go. I have a long fruit grabber, so I can get some of the peaches that are high up. I just wouldn't be able to bag them. If the bugs get them, I'll have to write them off. But I may well be able to get a lot that the bugs haven't gotten to.

We'll see. Thanks for your comments.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 3:44PM
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