Sunny Slope Orchard

Sunny Slope Orchard
In the coast range foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley

Saturday, May 10, 2014

When will our fruit be ripe?

Ripening time
In the past few weeks we've had several people ask when our peaches/cots/plums will be ripe and our answer so far has been, "We have no idea." Typically we will see the first ripe cots and peaches in the first week of June with the main pick around mid-June. Recent years have been quite variable from two weeks early to almost two weeks late. But as I write this on May 10th I can at least say that the harvest is not likely to be early.

We check the green fruit daily, watching for signs of pest damage and just to monitor their progress. Right now the cots and peaches are still smallish and very green, and have not yet begun the rapid sizing that happens in the last three weeks before ripening.

A recent mixture of sun and thunderstorms produced
this partial rainbow
Ripening time is determined by temperature and rainfall amounts throughout the winter and spring. Given that, all bets are off since this past winter and the current spring have been the most erratic I can recall. Winter gave us weeks of above average temperatures punctuated by a couple of brutal cold spells. Rainfall was completely absent for many weeks, then finally arrived in good amounts in March and April. Meanwhile the temperatures continue to yo-yo up and down between the 60's and 90's, with next week predicted to approach 100.

Rain damaged fruit
We are thankful for the better-late-than-never rains we received this spring, but the downside was bad timing. Wet conditions during bloom and early fruit stage promotes fungus, so many apricot blooms rotted and fell off while the fruit that did set ended up with a fair amount of cosmetic damage from shothole fungus. This is a very common problem in apricots that causes spots on the fruit skin and holes in the early leaves. And this year the Santa Rosa plums even suffered the affects, something I have never seen before. Happily there is no effect on taste and no need to trim away the damaged skin unless perfect appearance is necessary. 

Shothole fungus spots on apricots caused by spring rains

Peaches were unaffected by the rains, and are now golf ball size

Tree vigor looks good
During the record dry spell before the March rains we had all but resigned ourselves to stripping all fruit from the trees to save them the double stress of growing fruit while suffering extremely dry soil. But with the minimal rainfall we finally got plus meager but nonstop irrigation starting last fall and continuing to the present, the trees look remarkably vigorous. Leaves are glossy green and shoot growth is only slightly less than during a normal year, so we are now confident that the trees will have no problem putting the needed energy into good sized tasty fruits.

Fast growing new apricot shoots show their characteristic red tips
So for now we wait and watch, and will post again here when we start seeing ripening fruit. To be notified of new posts just enter your email address in the "Follow by Email" box at the upper right of this page.

In the meantime we're busy mowing, hoeing, and weed eating trying to keep things neat and prepare for the coming fire season. The hills are still green but the first signs of brown are showing on the knolls and ridges. Summer is getting close.