Thank you all for coming back for month 2 of my blog! We have been so busy this month. When I came back to the farm in June of 2019, I thought if I can just make it to September, everything will slow down! However, peach reason ran into pumpkin/corn maze season which ran into the holidays. Now, here we are in February and it’s time to start promoting our spring and summer crops. We have also spent the past several weeks planning new orchard sites! February as we all know is the month of love, and what better way of spreading love than through the preparing of soil and planting of new trees.
The process is a little bittersweet. Orchards generally last 15-20 years. We lose trees to soil-borne microscopic worms or root diseases. As we pushed up around 100 acres of old trees this year (like we do almost every year) I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather’s smile and him helping me reach the biggest peach on the tree. Those trees have seen a lot and each one has produced about 4500+ peaches over its lifespan.
Before we plant a new site, we generally wait about 3 years. We rotate in small grains to help break disease cycles. It is very crucial that the new site be clean and free from any wood material left behind. The smallest piece of wood material left behind could harbor disease and shorten the life of the new trees planted. Once our orchard is prepped and ready, we select where each peach tree and variety is to be planted.
We get the question all the time, “where do you get your peach trees?” Well, I am about to reveal our secret! Back in June, we plan our new orchards by picking specific peach varieties that we want to plant. Because peach varieties only bear fruit for typically 2 weeks, we plant over 40 varieties In order to maintain a consistent supply of peaches from the end of May to the beginning of September. Once we have the varieties we want to replant, our nursery partner from Tennessee comes down to take cuttings from our currently planted trees. Cuttings are twigs cut from a mature tree that will be used in a process called grafting. We tell the nursery exactly what varieties we would like to plant in the new year. The nursery then takes the cuttings all the way back to Tennessee where they will be physically attached to a root stock that we have selected. Just like peach varieties, there are all different types of root stocks (however, we can’t give away all the secrets by disclosing which root stock we use!) Basically, the cutting from our original orchard has the right genetics to bear a delicious peach, and the root stock has the right genetics to fend off disease and pest pressures. Once grafted the nursery will continue to grow the tree until December. At this point they will dig the tree up, grade it, and ship it back to us for planting.
And now the work is up to us! We have received our trees, the rows are ready, and the McLeod’s are ready for the next 15-20 years. To see those old trees rooted up is a sad sight. However, when I watched the guys plant the grafts in the ground a couple of days ago I imagined smiling while lifting my children up to reach the biggest peach on the tree…and the fact that they could be doing the same thing with their little ones in 20 years.