FAQ & Tips

Frequently Asked Questions & Tips

Chill Hours and Low Chill Fruit Tree Selection


Chill Hours are the total number of hours that a plant must be exposed to less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit during its dormant period in order to produce properly developed fruit. Chill Hour Calculators and Cumulative Chill Hours By County provided by U.C. Davis Tree Selection Tool Based On Chill Hours provided by Dave Wilson Nursery. Good Tasting Low Chill Fruit Picks by Tom Spellman.




Plants in the Central Coast Area


Fruiting plants that grow in the Central Coast area: our members share their first-hand experiences.

Las Pilitas Nursery, which we thoroughly enjoyed visiting during our May 2018 meeting, has a wealth of information about native plants on their website, including Incredible Edibles and Drought tolerant native plants for a San Luis Obispo area garden. Bay Laurel Garden Center has a wide variety of bare root fruit trees in the winter, as well as other plants and garden art.




Choosing Varieties For A Long Harvest


Q. "I am trying to figure out which peach trees to plant in my orchard. I currently have a May pride and an Elberta. I want to add two or three more peach trees but I want to pick varieties that give me the longest harvest. Do you have any suggestions on good low chill varieties that might help with this?"
A. "You are doing the right thing by planning your harvest times early. My first suggestion would be to go to the Dave Wilson site and look at the harvest chart, it shows harvest times for a wide variety of fruit, note the late peaches, then cross reference with their low chill peach list. You could further narrow by seeing if any of the late low chill peaches are also on their top taste test winners list." Larry Hollis




Avocado Trees, Heat, And Fruit


Q. "I live near foothills in El Cajon, CA, suburb of San Diego. Some of my avocado trees do not have much fruit this year. Also, my Hass had a gazillion leaves and avocados, starting to drop all leaves then all fruit then slowly totally died. At that time I also had a Lamb Hass, tons of leaves, fruit, glorious, then we had temps go over 100 degrees, died in 1 day, just died." A. "All avocados are very alternate bearing so if the crop is small the next year the crop is large. That is the way my Hass and Reed have been producing. My greatest producer is Reed and I pick the fruit from August until January once it has been on the tree 17 months. Sharwil, Julia and Hellen need a little over a year on the tree. I am sorry that your trees have had such a tough time in the heat. The heat made many avocado trees drop their crop. Before a very hot day is forecast the best way to keep the trees alive, pretty and the fruit from falling is to water very heavily so the trees can respire the extra water and not dry out." Julie Frinkdemo




Orchard Ladder Safety


Useful tips on proper use of orchard ladders from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Risk and Safety Services. Joe risks life and limb to show you what not to do on an orchard ladder!




Pollinators


At our August 11, 2018 meeting Cameron Newell gave us an overview of the Xerces Society and the work they do. He discussed the current state of pollinator and other invertebrate population health, some of the current initiatives they are implementing and how those relate to the fruit growing and agriculture industries. Listen to Cameron's talk on YouTube: Part 1 of 3 | Part 2 of 3 | Part 3 of 3
Thank you Tom S. for recording the video.

Cameron is a Pollinator Conservation Specialist and Bee Better Certified Coordinator from Xerces Society's Southwest Regional Office in San Diego. The Xerces Society is an international nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat.




Peach Leaf Curl


Written by CRFG CC member Lori Bright for the April 2020 Newsletter Well it’s a Fabulous Year For A Fungus! Yes, if you are a fungus this is the year for you. Late rains with warming temperatures are a fungus’ best friend. I don’t know about you but Taprina deformans is running amok in my orchard. That’s Peach Leaf Curl to us non-fungans. Peach Leaf Curl is generally going to run its course and be only cosmetic. For those really bad infections and especially if you have Peach Leaf Curl year after year, it can in fact, weaken your tree. If you have a really bad infection, you might see russeting of your fruit. Did I mention that Peach Leaf Curl only affects Peaches and Nectarines? If you have other trees with curly leaves you should look elsewhere for your diagnosis. From the Chuck Ingels book The Home Orchard, “The fungus overwinters as spores on the surface of twigs and buds. When the buds begin to grow in spring, the spores grow into the developing tissue. The fungus grows between cells just under the leaf, fruit, or shoot surface, causing abnormal cell growth in young plant tissue that results in the characteristic distortion.” Don’t Pick Those Leaves! Any leaf is a good leaf, even if it’s ugly. Let those ugly leaves make food for the tree until they drop and become replaced with healthy leaves. What to do, what to do. Well applying dormant spray is the time tested method to avoid Peach Leaf Curl but there is a catch. You must do it while the tree is Dormant and you must use it at the right time, and you must find a product that will do the trick! Let’s break that down. The best sprays are Copper and oil or lime-sulfur and oil. Copper or lime-sulfur act as your fungicide the oil component works to kill any hidden insects that might carry a pathogen to the otherwise uninfected tree. Easy Peasy? Not so much, lime-sulfur is restricted and the copper we buy in our garden centers has a low level of copper in it. Where we once sprayed with a 40-50 percent solution of copper, we are lucky to find a 10 percent solution in our products today. So working with what is available we spray the tree. We once sprayed the tree on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday. Three applications. What we know now is that two appropriately timed applications works best. The first application (based on your immaculately kept records from previous years) should be approximately three weeks before bud break. The second application, at popcorn stage. Popcorn stage is pretty much just as it sounds, it is bud break with some added swelling. If the flowers open fully and you apply, you will impair pollination. Yes, this takes some close attention, but what else do you have to do in your garden on those gloomy days before Spring? Be sure to coat the tree completely, that includes the trunk. But that’s great for next year you exclaim, what do I do now? So just as heavy applications of Nitrogen in Winter might push your tree to grow too rapidly, (possibly exacerbating the happy pathogen) once the climatic conditions have passed, adding that extra Nitrogen might help to push new uninfected leaves to the forefront. Our best course of action today is to wait until we are reasonably sure that the rains have passed and apply some nice organic fertilizer that’s heavy on the Nitrogen end. The granular products are fine (Dr. Earth “Fruit Tree” or Espoma “Tree-tone”) but there are faster products. I like Fish Fertilizer or Blood meal. Fish Fertilizer is a liquid so a couple/few applications would be best. There are some Peach and Nectarine varieties that tout Peach Leaf Curl Resistance. Resistance, mind you, not imperviousness. Check out Dave Wilson Nursery's Peach and Nectarine varieties if you like, they have several resistant possibilities. Most important I think, is to keep your trees healthy. Water and prune as needed, monitor pests, mulch and keep weeds down. A stressed tree is a susceptible tree. Give your tree love throughout the year and he will be better prepared for these seasonal bumps-in-the-road such as Peach Leaf Curl.




A New Take on Vermacomposting at Home


Written by CRFG CC member Lori Bright for the April 2020 Newsletter What to do with Worms: I, like many garden geeks bought one of those worm condominiums. Yeah, it works ok but I’m always trying to improve upon a good thing. So let me introduce you to a couple of really fun inventions that I like even better. The first one is something I fandangoed from things I saw on the internet and some of my own silliness. This is a Worm Bag. So the idea here is that because worms always 1) Stay where it’s dark and 2) Eat their way from their wormy waste to new fresh food sources I decided that this Worm Bag method would be just what I needed. First you throw some decent soil into the bag. This will fall to the semi-transparent bottom portion of the bag. Worms avoid this area because of the light. Next as you do with all Vermiculture Ventures you add green waste and carbony substances. The worms do their work in the darkened area of the bag and the golden castings build up on top of the original soil that you put in the bag. After the bag is close to full you simply open up the bottom of the bag with your handy dandy draw string pull. Let out half of the bag at this first use, as you will have a mix of soil and castings together. After that first release all the material released from the worm bag will be pure castings. The biggest drawbacks to this method are a) Where to place the bag?. Ideally you want the bag positioned up high enough to make the casting release from below easy but low enough that adding the worm fodder to the top is accessible. 2) This is an item you would make yourself. So you would need to be a bit industrious and then when you have your design and are ready to go you still need to find quality materials that could go the distance. Here is one that I’m really happy with. We’ll call them Worm Tubes. This one works best if you use raised beds. You will need some PVC or ABS type pipe. Four, five or six inch would work. Cut your pipe so that a portion of this pipe will be above ground (6”) and a foot or two will be below ground. In that portion that is below ground you will drill a multitude of holes. (This will allow the worms to come and go from the pipe) I used a ½” bit and placed the holes 2-3 inches apart. Knowing that worms have a delicate “skin” I softened the edges of the holes with a little sand paper. Now simply place your pipe at an interior corner of your raised bed. You can secure it with a little plumbers tape if you like. Voila! Feed your Worms in your Worm Tube. I rotate kitchen scraps with shredded paper. I love this one, I think you will too!