How To Grow Peach Trees

Home grown Peach on a branch
Home grown Peach on a branch

Peaches are such attractive trees and have such delicious fruit – no wonder they are a favorite with many gardeners in the climate zone. Peaches are a delicious, fresh taste of the summer and there is nothing better than being able to pick these juicy fruits from your garden.

Choosing a Peach Tree

Most peaches are self-fertile and so will not require a companion tree to fruit. However, you may wish to consider choosing different peach varieties to be able to harvest these delicious fruits over a longer period. Peaches that do well in zone 8 gardens include Gulf Crimson, Early Golden Glory, Bicentennial, Sentinel, Redglobe, Milam, and Fayette. Ask your local garden center, master gardener or agriculture extension office for other examples of peach trees that will do best where you live.

 Planting a Peach Tree

 Peach trees will require a sheltered site in full sun.  Moisture-Retentive and yet well-drained soil is best. Be very careful to avoid planting in a frost pocket or a windy or exposed location, as peaches blossom early and so can be damaged by late frosts in some areas.

 Caring For a Peach Tree

 The first year after planting It is important to deepwater your peach tree to ensure that the roots do not dry out. During the growing season, you should deepwater regularly, and during periods of extreme heat,  you may need to water more frequently.  Use of a drip irrigation system is strongly recommended. A good layer of compost and two to four inches deep mulch will help to retain soil moisture and will help feed your tree.

Underplanting with a beneficial guild of companion plants will also help with soil cover and moisture retention, as well as aiding your peach tree by attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects to your garden.

Prune your tree as required for shaping and size requirements. Pruning aims to replace fruited wood with new growth. Peaches mostly grow on the previous year’s growth.

When fruits appear, these should be thinned to give a final spacing between fruits of around 15 cm. Remove any small or misshapen fruits when they are around the size of your fingernail. Keep an eye on fruits and if necessary, protect them from birds and other wildlife.

 

Harvested Peaches in a bowl
Harvested Peaches in a bowl

 Harvesting Peaches

 Peaches should be ready to harvest between July and September depending upon weather and the variety of peach. Peaches are ready to pick when they are fully colored, and the flesh close to the branch stem feels soft. Cradle each fruit in the palm of your hand and then lift gently. You will need to harvest over more than once as the peach become individually ripe,  as not all the peaches will develop and ripen at once; especially if you have planted different varieties. Do not leave picked fruits uneaten or unpreserved too long. Peaches are most nutritious and flavorful used immediately after harvest.

 If you do have a large harvest of peaches, you can also turn these into a range of delicious desserts, or preserves to see you through to the colder months.

Related References

A Permaculture Garden Guide To Composting

Aging Compost Heap
Aging Compost Heap

One of the key skills any permaculture gardener should learn is how to create good compost. Creating a good compost is key to creating abundant, productive and sustainable permaculture gardens. If you want to be able to grow your food using permaculture principles then creating compost is one of the foundations upon which your garden will be based. This guide to composting in a permaculture garden will help you make your garden the thriving, resource-rich ecosystem that it should be.

Why Composting is Important

 Composting is an important element of gardening because it allows you to adhere to the permaculture ethic of returning the surplus to the system. It allows you to eliminate waste, and make full use of the natural resources at your disposal. It enables you to care for the soil of your growing areas, and to make them rich, fertile places to grow a range of fruit trees and other edible and useful plants. When you create and use compost in your garden, you are completing the natural cycles and creating systems that can endure and sustain for many years to come.

Black Compost Bin
Black Compost Bin with two compartments, which tumbles

Composting Methods

 There are some different ways to create compost. The main methods used in a permaculture garden are:

  • Composting in Place (Sheet mulching with organic materials and allowing them to decompose on top of the soil of your growing areas.)
  • Cold Composting (Creating a heap or large bin in which compost is slowly created.)
  • Hot Composting (Creating the conditions for faster, warmer decomposition in a bin or other container.)
  • Vermiculture (Creating compost with the help of special worms.)
Mushroom growing in Forest Floor Compost
Mushroom growing in Forest Floor Compost

Creating Compost in a Permaculture Garden

 No matter which method you are using to create your compost, the principles at play remain the same. You are taking organic materials that are considered to be ‘waste’ and creating the conditions for their decomposition. Once decomposed, the compost is used to conserve or enhance the fertility of the soil.

Creating a good compost involves a basic understanding of the different sorts of material in a compost heap. The materials are grouped into two categories – carbon-rich ‘brown’ materials and nitrogen-rich ‘green’ materials. Both types are necessary to create a good-quality compost. Brown materials include cardboard, straw, twiggy material, wood chips, and bark. Green materials include green leafy matter, grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable scraps.

To get a good mix in your compost, you should add ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials in thin layers. Adding in thin layers allows for the right conditions for aerobic decomposition and helps to ensure that your compost does not become too wet or too dry.

In addition to thinking about getting the right mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials in your compost, creating good compost also involves thinking about getting a good balance of the main nutrients that plants need to grow: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as the various micro-nutrients needed by plant life. Adding a good mix of different ingredients to your compost will help to create compost with a good nutrient balance.

Creating compost is not rocket science. Anyone can create good, crumbly compost for use in their forest gardens or polyculture vegetable beds.

 Related References

 

A Guide To Attracting Wildlife in a Permaculture Garden

Fox In The Shade
Fox In The Shade

 If you are a keen gardener then doubtless you love watching the wildlife that comes into your garden. You may enjoy watching the birds, for example. In a permaculture garden, you will discover that the whole ecosystem teems with life. Food forests and other diverse garden ecosystems are great at attracting wildlife – far better than a boring lawn! This guide to attracting wildlife in a permaculture garden will help you understand the reasons to attract wildlife and learn how to attract wildlife in a range of different ways.

Bee Covered In Pollen
Bee Covered In Pollen

 What Wildlife Can Do For Us

 It is lovely to watch wildlife in your garden – but this is not the only reason why, as gardeners, we should do all we can to encourage a range of creatures into our backyards. Here are some of the many things that a diverse range of wildlife can do for us:

  • Pollinate our fruit trees and other food crops.
  • Predate pest species such as aphids and blackfly, slugs and snails.
  • Add fertility to the garden soil (through droppings, for example).
  • Spread seeds and propagate useful plant material.
  • Aerate soil and aid in nutrient transmission and spread.
  • ‘Recycle’ old plant material and help in decomposition.
  • Naturally ‘prune’ plants and trees through grazing.
  • Increase diversity and beneficial interactions, thereby making your garden ecosystem more stable and resilient.

Almost every mechanism and natural cycle in an organic garden involve some form of wildlife in some way. The more you think about what wildlife is doing for you, the more you will appreciate the creatures, large and small, with whom you share your space.

Cardinal On Holly Branch
Cardinal On Holly Branch

 Attracting Wildlife Through Planting

 One of the most important things that we can do as gardeners to attract beneficial wildlife to our gardens is to plant a wide range of wildlife-friendly plants. For example, certain flowers will be particularly good at attracting bees and other pollinators, while fruiting trees or bushes may attract birds and mammals that eat pest species.

When planting for bees and other pollinators, it is important to consider providing for these insects throughout the year by choosing appropriate plants that are in bloom in Spring, Summer, and Fall. A useful list of bee-friendly plants for Central Texas gardens can be found here: Central Texas Bee-Friendly Plants. You’ll also be able to find out more about which plants to choose to attract different types of wildlife by chatting to other local gardeners and the staff of local plant nurseries and garden centers.

 Attracting Wildlife Through Habitat Creation

 Beyond choosing the right plants, there is more than gardeners can do to attract wildlife. By creating a range of different habitats in your backyard, you can attract a wide variety of different creatures. For example, a garden pond could encourage aquatic creatures to move in and can also be a boon to birds, mammals, and insects. A brush pile will provide shelter for bugs, beetles, and other creatures. Bird boxes, feeders, and baths can help to create a bird-friendly habitat. Try to create diverse environments of shade and sun, cool and hot, to increase the natural diversity in your garden and make it more resilient.

Related Reference

Perennial – Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) flower With bumblebee
Elephant garlic flower With bumblebee

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) is a perennial plant belonging to the onion genus. It is not a true garlic, but are a variant of the garden leek. It has a tall, solid, flowering stalk and broad, flat leaves much like those of the leek, but forms a bulb consisting of very large, garlic-like cloves. The flavor of these, while not exactly like garlic, is much more similar to garlic than to leeks. The flavor is milder than garlic, and much more palatable to some people than garlic when used raw as in salads. It is sometimes confused with solo garlic.

The mature bulb is broken up into cloves which are quite large and with papery skins and these are used for both culinary purposes and propagation. Also, much smaller cloves with a hard shell grow on the outside of the bulb. Many gardeners often ignore these, but if they are planted, they produce a nonflowering plant in their first year, which has a solid bulb, essentially a single large clove. In their second year, this single clove then, like a normal bulb, divides into many separate cloves. While it may take an extra year, it is desirable to plant these small bulbils (several can be produced by each bulb) and the harvest increased, though delayed a year.

Elephant garlic or Giant garlic as it was originally called was first introduced to the commercial and gardening market in 1941 by Nicholas Garden nursery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in the United States. The nursery noticed the enormous garlic was being grown by local immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Northern Yugoslavia who had brought it with them from their homeland. Seeing the market potential for such a unique shaped and flavored allium they purchased twelve pounds to cultivate for commercial distribution. After 10 years of growing, it was given the name Elephant garlic and Nicholas Garden placed newspaper ads to promote it and began selling it throughout the United States and Canada. Since that time it has grown in popularity and seeds have been sold around the world in Europe, South America, South Africa, Australia, and Russia.

Unlike many kinds of garlic, elephant garlic does not have to be harvested or divided each year but can be ignored and left in the ground without much risk of rotting. The plant, if left alone, will spread into a clump with many flowering heads (one stalk and flower from each clove, once the bulb divides). These are often left in flower gardens as an ornamental and to discourage pests. Of course, once they get overcrowded, the plant may not do as well, and growth is stunted, with some rotting.

Elephant garlic is not generally propagated by seeds.

The immature plant tops can be topped off (cut) when the plant is young and they are still tender, as can be done with onions, and chives, along with the very immature flower bud, and are called scapes. They can be pickled, Lacto-fermented, stir-fried, added to soups, etc. The scapes (whether elephant garlic, garlic, onion, chive, or garlic chive) can also be frozen without any cooking, and generally, remain fresh for a year or so without freezer burn, to be added to any soup, stew, stir-fry, etc. Topping the plants off also helps more of the plant’s energy to be directed toward the bulb. Since the seed is not generally gathered from elephant garlic, this is the best use of resources and helps the bulb, though it does detract from the aesthetic value. A few scapes can be left to mature to into stalks to flower.

Like regular garlic, elephant garlic can be roasted whole on the grill or baked in the oven and then used as a spread with butter on toast. Fresh elephant garlic contains mostly moisture and foams up like boiling potatoes, whether on the stove or in a glass dish in the oven. Drying in the basement for a few months reduces the moisture content, and bring out a fuller flavor.

How To Plant Elephant Garlic

With elephant garlic planting, most any soil will do, but for the largest bulbs begin with a well-draining soil medium. Dig down a foot into the soil and amend with a 1.5-gallon bucket of sand, granite dust, humus/peat moss mix per 2’x 2’to 3’x 3′ section and mix in well. Top dress with some well-aged manure and mulch around the plants with chopped leaves and/or sawdust to keep weeds at bay and also to nourish as the amendments decompose or break down.

Hardiness

  • Zone 3-9

Location

  •  Elephant Garlic prefers full sun and can be grown in temperate regions all the way into tropical zones.

Size

  • Height 18 inches,

Days to Maturity

  • 120 day to mature.

When to Plant

  • Can be planted fall, summer or early spring.  In cooler climates, plant in the fall or spring while in warmer regions the herb can be planted in spring, fall, or winter. Break up the bulb into cloves for propagation. Some cloves are much smaller and are called corms, which grow on the outside of the bulb. If you plant these corms, they will produce a non-blooming plant in the first year with a solid bulb or single large clove. In the second year, the clove will begin to separate into multiple cloves, so don’t ignore the corms. It may take two years, but eventually, you will get a good head of elephant garlic.

Attracts

In my experience, elephant garlic attracts:

  • Bumblebees
  • Honeybees
  • ladybugs
  • Butterflies

How To Use Elephant Garlic

When cooking with elephant garlic, remember that it is not a substitute for the ordinary form. Instead, it should use where a subtle hint of garlic is wanted without overpowering the rest of the food. Treat it as a “similar but different” ingredient when creating or experimenting with recipes.

There are many uses for elephant garlic. It’s often served raw in salads or it can be sliced and sautéed in butter (be careful when cooking, it browns very quickly and can turn bitter). It’s also frequently used to give a hint of flavor to soups and stews.

Roasted Garlic Recipe

Arguably the best and simplest way to enjoy Elephant Garlic. Is just by roasting it whole!

Ingredients

  • 1 bulb elephant garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200C).
  • Chop your elephant garlic bulb in half horizontally.
  • Drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Put the bulb back together, loosely enclose in foil and place in the preheated oven. Depending on the size of the bulb it will take between 40 minutes and 1 hour to roast.
  • Turn down the oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit (180C) and leave for an extra 30 mins to get a more caramelized flavor.
  • Once roasted it can be simply spread on bread, served as a side to barbecued or roasted meats or added to sauces and soups.

Cooking Substitution

Elephant garlic produces milder flavored garlic than its relatives. Generally, you will need to use more elephant garlic to achieve an approximation for soft neck garlic, about double.  Many people do not fin elephant garlic to be a satisfactory substitute for soft neck garlic.  I would use them according to taste rule and do some experimentation.  However, if you are looking for a general guideline are some.

Cooking Substitute For Elephant Garlic

  • Regular garlic (stronger) = about one half the volume
  • Equal amounts of chopped leek + minced garlic clove of an equivalent volume

Cooking Equivalents by Approximate Size

  • 1 clove elephant garlic = 2 medium cloves of regular garlic

Related References

Ask The Gardener: I recently planted some Lavender, but it is dying?

Question

I recently planted some Lavender, but it is dying! What am I doing wrong?

I thought lavender did well in drier soil, it is on the west side of the yard planted in front of the house, and I know it does well here because the municipalities plant it all over the place. I have two French lavender plants and 2 of a different variety.

Answer

Without seeing your plants is a little hard to say. So, we will take the general approach. If I were going to solve this problem sight unseen, I would do the following:

  • Make sure you are watering the plants enough.  While it is true that lavender, once established, is hearty and hot dry weather tolerant, the first year they need extra care. I would deep water them with drip irrigation or by building a mound of dirt around them and filling it as much as possible creating a basin. During the hottest weather, you may need to do this daily really hot weather. If you put your finger in the soil near the plants, the soil should feel moist (not sopping wet) and slightly cool.
  • Just in case of disease or fungus, I would treat my plants for disease and fungus. Perhaps, a good brand of  3-in-1 Insect & Disease Control Plus Fertilizer.
  • If your soil is poor quality:
    • side dress your plants with half an inch to an inch of composted manure, which is normally available at your local yard and garden supply store.
    • Consider adding fertilizer stakes near the plants.
    • Mulch your plants; you will want to put down 2 to 4 inches of mulch and you will want to mulch out a couple of feet from the plants to make sure you cover all the root base.

Related Reference