I enjoyed meeting other gardeners at Saturday’s backyard fruits workshop. The weather was ideal for a Spring plant sale. The previous three posts covered what I shared in the first part of the class, and what follows will be a brief evaluation how challenging different fruits to grow in the Chattanooga area.
Since we are right next to the peach state, one might think peaches would be easy here. They are not. They are susceptible to diseases and to fruit worms. The plum curculio is a pest that loves peaches and other soft fruits. They can have several generations in our summers. An organic solution that has a positive impact on reducing fruit worm damage is kaolin clay. It is a fine powder that creates a sticky barrier that the adult egg layers don’t care for. It is effective enough that some non- organic growers use it.
But keeping trees coated with the spray barrier is difficult. As soon as blossom petals fall, trees need protection. It takes two sprayings to get a good barrier. Then after every significant rain it needs to be reapplied. Our current 10 day forecast has a better than 50% chance of rain 9 days. Its 40% the other day. It will be tough to keep a barrier of kaolin clay that will be effective. Rainy periods are common in the growing season. Growers who use it typically leave one tree uncovered and sacrifice the fruit on that tree.
Selecting an early ripening variety may help minimize the number of times the spray is needed. But selecting a different kind of fruit to grow would be easier. Other soft stone fruits like plums or cherries are also susceptible to the fruit worms.
Apples and pears are also attractive to fruit worms, but the firmer varieties get bothered less. Arkansas Black and Granny Smith apples are firm varieties that are less appealing to fruit worms than some others. The Kieffer pear is a variety that is seldom bothered by fruit worms. But it is so hard and a little grainy that eating it fresh is not appealing to many. It was a common yard pear tree when home canning was done regularly. Kieffer pears have a nice flavor when stewed, canned or made into wine.
Other sources may suggest additional varieties to try. Searching “old southern apples” may be helpful. The Johnson Nursery in Ellijay, Georgia has a good website and has helped many backyard growers in the Southeast.