Thinning Season May 25, 2015
It never occurred to me until the past few years that peach “trees” are actually bushes that have been trained into the form of a tree. Since I was a child, the peach orchard was always filled with trees that had the “tree shape,” characterized by a trunk exiting the ground, branching into a few main limbs that housed the many twigs from which the flowers, leaves and fruit hung.
The reality of these types of stone fruit is that they are really bushes. If we were to plant a peach pit into the ground and let it run its course without pruning it, there would not be one main trunk exiting the ground, but many. The overall volume of the plant would be the same but the shape would be much different – it would look like bush; it would be a bush.
The reason for pruning a bush into a tree boils down to the fact that we like our peaches large not small. A peach bush would produce peaches, but they would be tiny little pieces of fruit. The reason for this is that one tree has a finite amount of energy to devote to the growing of seeds – from the tree’s point of view, the flesh around the seeds (the fruit) is a marketing product for the seed.
During the spring flowering process, the pruned peach tree has significantly fewer blossoms than a peach bush would have. The reason for this is that we have pruned away many of the twigs that provide flowers. With fewer flowers, there are fewer pieces of fruit. Now the peach tree has that same amount of energy to devote to fewer pieces of fruit. The result is larger peaches!
Most of the thinning is done during the fall pruning process. However, now is the time of the year when the tree has committed its fruit for the season, and we can see how much it will produce. In order to further maximize the size of the fruit, we need to make sure that each piece of fruit has enough space to grow to its full potential. This is accomplished by sending a crew through to thin off the clusters of fruit, leaving one peach every six inches along the branch.
It is really quite clever how we have been able to trick a plant that wants to produce thousands of seeds with enough fruit around them to attract the birds into producing 50-100 seeds each with much more fruit around them than the plant intended. The total volume of fruit produced by a peach bush and a peach tree would be about the same. The difference is that we have pruned the tree to concentrate that mass into fewer pieces making the process of harvesting and eating it much simpler for us.
Enjoy your boxes this week and make sure to check out photos of our tomatoes us on Instagram (@farmfreshtoyou) and (@farmerthaddeus)!
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