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Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop To Be Held Saturday, January 29

Learn what pitfalls to avoid, what things you do need to do & you'll have tasty, home-grown fruits!

by Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture
January 19, 2005

Gardening: Christmas SnowWhen it comes to fruits, if flavor, juiciness and freshness are important, then grow your own- it's not an impossible dream. The truck bed of homegrown peaches shown above was grown by Herman Auer in Santa Fe.

Photo Credit: Herman Auer

When was the last time you ate a piece of fruit that was so flavorful and juicy you gnawed the pit to get every delicious shred? Well, that has been too long! If flavor, juiciness and freshness are important, then grow your own. It's not an impossible dream.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29: Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop to be held Saturday, January 29, from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m., at the County Extension Office located at 5115 Highway 3 in Dickinson. While there is no registration fee for participation, reservations are required (281-534-3413, Ext. 6 or GALV3@wt.net) due to space limitation

Coming soon:
Fruit Tree Seminar & Sale will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 5.

So, if the decision has been made to grow fruit, where do you start? Or, if you already grow fruit trees and you're getting mostly tree and little-to-no fruit, what can you do about it?

You have two upcoming opportunities to get on the right track to producing your own delicious, home-grown fruit. The first is a Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop to be held Saturday, January 29, from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m., at the County Extension Office located at 5115 Highway 3 in Dickinson. While there is no registration fee for participation, reservations are required (281-534-3413, Ext. 6 or GALV3@wt.net) due to space limitation.

Then, a Fruit Tree Seminar & Sale will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 5. A wide variety of fruit trees will be available including apples, peaches, plums, pears, figs, persimmons, oranges, lemons, nectarines, blackberries, apricots, grapes, kumquat, and tangerines which can be successfully grown in this area. Now, that is an impressive list! Additional details on the sale will be provided in a later column, but put the date on your calendar now!

Back to the upcoming Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop. It's no surprise that "where, what, when and how" are the words that start most questions on growing just one or two peaches or plums in the home landscape or on establishing a small home orchard. Texas Master Gardener Herman Auer will discuss site selection and preparation, when and how to plant, when and what to spray, and when and how to prune to grow peaches and plums successfully. Much of this information will also apply to a variety of other types of fruit trees that can be grown here. In addition, Herman will also discuss which varieties perform best under our growing conditions.

As a lifelong resident of Galveston County and a graduate of the 1983 Master Gardener Class, Mr. Auer is experienced and knowledgeable on the "where, what, when and how" to start a home orchard. Whether you're contemplating planting just a couple of fruit trees in the home landscape or establishing a mini-orchard, this seminar will be of value in getting started. This program is presented free of charge as a public service of the Galveston County Master Gardeners.

Now, to cover a few things you should be aware of in growing fruit trees. First, be aware that ALL FRUIT TREES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL! To be successful, there are several major factors to be considered in making the choice of which variety to plant.

Being plants, all fruit trees have basic requirements of proper soil, sunlight and moisture. Remember that most fruit trees will in fact develop into small trees, so adequate space is needed for limbs, branches, and roots. Next to the house or in the flower bed is not an ideal location!

Fruit trees can vary from giants of well over 20 feet to dwarfs, so most home landscapes should be suitable for some type of fruit tree. Survey the landscape for a suitable planting site meeting the requirements of space, full sun, and good drainage.

In order to set fruit, some fruit trees require exposure to a minimum number of hours of temperatures between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This minimum number is called "chill hour requirement," and the amount can vary widely for varieties within a given fruit class. This growing area has a range of 600 chill hours to less than 200 chill hours. If an ad says the tree is hardy to sub-zero degrees for a zillion hours, then don't expect a lot of fruit if you grow it locally! Look for a variety that says it needs "low chill hours" or 400 chill hours or less.

If the landscape has a space limitation for only one tree, pollination can become a problem for some types of fruits. Unless you can persuade the next door neighbor to plant a "friend" for your tree, a self-pollinator will be your best choice. Many popular fruits are self-pollinating or have some self-pollinating varieties. Occasionally, trees are double grafted with a pollinator.

To insure sizable fruit that is more than just pit and skin, thinning at the early stages of production is recommended. I know, it hurts to throw away that baby peach, but it can save the tree from splitting limbs that are weighed down with too much fruit.

Pruning in late winter will also shape and control tree size. During the first two years of growth, the goal is to build a good scaffold of widely spreading, sturdy limbs. Always remove suckers emerging below the graft and limbs that cross and rub. Try to keep the center of the tree as open as possible to aid air circulation and admit sunshine.

It really is a blessing that all fruit trees are not created equal because variety is truly the spice of life. If you've ever tasted a home-grown peach, plum or other fruit plucked right off the tree, then you know it's well worth the effort to grow your own!

NOTE: Please include the following as a shaded inset, if possible. Thanks!


SATURDAY, JANUARY 29: Home Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop. 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon at the Galveston County Extension Office. Slide presentation on variety selection, establishment, insect pest & disease control, and general care of peaches and plums. No fee but reservation required (281-534-3413, Ext. 6 or GALV3@wt.net).

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 5: Master Gardeners' Annual Fruit Tree Seminar & Sale. New location at the Wayne Johnson Community Center located in Carbide Park at 4102 FM 519 in La Marque. Seminar at 8:00 a.m. on "Fruit & Citrus Trees for the Upper Gulf Coast." Plant sale from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Wide selection of fruit tree varieties available including apples, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, and citrus. Many hard-to-find varieties.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12: Home-grown Tomatoes Workshop. 9:00-11:30 a.m. at the Galveston County Extension Office. Learn about the secrets of growing tomatoes from Master Gardener Sam Scarcella. This workshop will discuss variety selection, planting and growing techniques, and insect and disease control. No fee but reservation required (281-534-3413, Ext. 6 or GALV3@wt.net

Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County
Extension Office of Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University. Visit his web site at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm

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Gardening: Oct. 10 Plant Sale & Seminar To Feature Butterfly Gardening - Butterflies Bring Color, Motion to Garden - October 2, 2004 article

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Gardening: Trees and Shrubs - December 23, 2004 article

Gardening: Cold Weather Impact - January 4, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Checklist For January Includes Several Educational Programs - January 7, 2005 article

Gardening:Announcing the 2005 Galveston County Master Gardener Training - January 13, 2005 article

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