Most peach growers in the Ohio River Valley had a great peach crop in 2016. Here are some observations from the orchard at Hayfields:

Proper pruning after planting is essential for training your peach tree.  The goal is to keep an open center and have the 3 or 4 main scaffold branches continue outward and upward in a stair step pattern.  This allows maximum  sunlight to reach the fruit.

Thinning of the fruit load is not an option, it is mandatory!  Peach wood is very soft and the branches will break if the load is not thinned.  Also you will not get big, juicy fruit.  Small, hard fruits will not develop into a delicious finished product.  One fruit every 7 inches is the goal.

Varieties:  I cut down my old Champion Peach.  There were several reasons.  First, I didn’t know how to prune the tree when I planted it 20 years ago.  Because of that, all of the fruit was at least 15 feet in the air making picking very difficult.  Also because the skin on that white fleshed peach is very thin, the stink bugs made piercings all over the outside of the fruit.  While the flesh was still good inside, the appearance made them impossible to sell.

I currently grow Red Haven, Contender and Blushing Star.  I am curious to try Mary Jane and Carolina Gold, two varieties that my friend touts as having exceptional flavor.

OEFFA Conference 2017

The annual conference of Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association will be held in the Dayton area this year.  There are several workshops and lectures that should appeal to local fruit growers.  Find our more information at:


The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences will host their Southwestern Ohio Specialty Crop Conference on February 7th, 2017 in Loveland, Ohio.  While not totally geared for the organic grower, they still provide valuable information on growing fruits and vegetables.  Check out their schedule at:


Watch this website for the scheduled dates of our pruning class to be held in late February 2017. A grafting class is also planned for early April.


The native american persimmon is getting more attention.  This tree is happy to live at the edge of your yard or in a sunny or filtered light situation in the woods.  The sweet fall fruits are enjoyed by most wild animals; raccoons, opossums, fox, coyote, etc.  I suspend a net under the trees to collect the fruit for myself.  This keeps the e-coli and debris off of the food for safe consumption.  The fruit is astringent and unpalatable until after the first frost but if left to develop and mature they are delicious.  I am experimenting with a persimmon/apple hard cider.

England’s Orchard and Nursery in McKee, KY have been collecting varieties from local plantsmen for years.  Check out their offerings on their website or visit the nursery.

Organic vs. Conventional Fruit Growing

There is constant conversation about the two methods of fruit production. I will address tree fruits in the Ohio River Valley.  First, ask yourself why you want to grow fruit.  If for personal use, I would consider organic methods.  You can store, use or sell any extra blemish free fruit and cut around damaged fruit and press or can the remainder.  By planting disease resistant varieties or old favorites with a healthy reputation, you can get by with few sprays of OMRI approved products or no sprays at all.

The next option is a combination:  use only a few early season chemical applications and then practice good observation and biodynamic methods.

The third option is to follow the OSU agricultural program which involves many chemical applications with a very high yield of perfect fruit.  Commercial growers choose this option because they could not produce enough clean fruit to stay in business with the other options.  A production orchard needs over 90% pack out fruit to stay in business.

Ohio has too many issues with pest pressure and especially late season fungal problems to make commercial organic production a viable option.  However the back yard grower can and should consider the organic approach.

I have attached links to a few studies showing if chemicals appear in fruit or juice.–90-of-wines-21199/


IMG_0539IMG_0546Gooseberries are small fruits that are underused in our home landscapes.  They are packed with vitamin C and are wonderful for jams, jellies and cooking.  I have grown them in shrub form in the past but am now trying them in single and 3-column cordons. This makes picking easier around the sharp thorns. The cordon method is popular in Europe because of their smaller gardens.  Gooseberries prefer part sun.

The variety ‘Pixwell’ is on left.  On right is a 2nd year ‘Tixia’ cordon.