It all started with radishes. I don’t even know anybody that eats radishes these days, but to a six year old, radishes can be priceless.
My wife, Diana, and I started Schwan Orchards on Catawba Island eight years ago by planting one hundred peach trees. Those trees are full grown now. We open our little roadside stand daily during the summer to share those wonderful golden globes with those who share our delight in dribbling juices down the front of their shirts. The whole experience has been a delight, not only on sales days but also during the unseen sweat-filled days that lead up to the first sales of the year.
The average peach lover has no idea how much work goes into helping nature grow those fuzzy wonders. In fact, to this day, I often think back to the words of wisdom I received from another local grower when I proudly announced that I planned on growing peaches. At the end of a long day of working in the trees these words echo through my mind. “Peach trees are cute, when they’re little!”
The peach year starts in February and March. During those cold, miserable days you will find peach growers out in the orchard pruning their trees. This is necessary to improve the health of the trees as well as keep them from breaking later in the year from the heavy crop that fills their limbs. By the way, I found out the latter the hard way!
The next steps involve spraying for things like peach-leaf curl, mites, and all those insects that attack fruit as well as the trees themselves. There are also fungi that must be taken care of with sprays. We spray about every ten days.
Then, if all the peaches aren’t destroyed by a killer frost (also learned the hard way), Diana and I spend days thinning peaches. That’s right. We actually twist off hundreds of baby peaches from each tree. Some years, like this one, are especially busy. After an hour of thinning on each tree, peaches blanket the ground below.
If you come by our orchard these days you will see almost every branch being propped up with boards to help support the great weight they bear. My fellow growers are better than me at pruning and thinning and don’t need this artificial help as much.
Birds and hail are probably the last of the natural enemies that daily attack our treasures. If you know anything that works to keep birds from pecking as many ripe peaches as they can, please stop by and let us know.
After reading all this, you might think we don’t enjoy what we do. Just the opposite! We love every (no, most) minute(s). You see, when I was about six years old, my father gave me a tiny corner of an already small garden in the back yard. Into that brown, lumpy, clay-filled earth, that little boy planted a couple rows of radishes. At that moment there were more than radish seeds sown! With total delight and amazement I daily witnessed nature at its finest. I don’t think I even liked radishes but the seeds of nature were planted in my soul and to this day I truly love being out there assisting however I can.
I hope you will spend a little time with children and nature. Believe me, those little moments can last a lifetime. If you don’t have a way to share nature with them, come to our orchard. We will gladly walk around with them, and try to spark a little light. See you at the stand!