I’ve been lurking for a while, but I finally have something to report:
My new screenhouse orchard:
I followed fruitnut’s example and moved my fruit trees under cover. I gave up on my small orchard, from which I lost all but a handful of fruit over 10 years due to the assaults by pine voles, deer, squirrels, birds, japanese beetles, stink bugs, as well as the usual diseases prevalent in the mid-Atlantic (zone 7, ~100 mi down the road from Scott Fraser Smith). This was a shock to me coming from So. Cal, where I would plant a tree and 4 years later be giving away bags of fruit.
Since it’s really hot and humid here, a greenhouse was no go. I screened in a portion of a 96’ cold frame and this May brought in a dozen trees that I potted up in spring 2017 or 2018 (15 gal rootmakers with Carl Whitcomb’s tree production mix - similar to Al’s gritty mix). I got a few huge, perfect peachs from my O’Henry and Kit Donnell trees w/o spraying. They were the best peaches I’ve ever tasted, and only cost $500 a piece. The four apples (Gala, Spartan, Fuji, Y. Delicious*) had rust and some fungal disease when I put them under cover. Even with 40 mesh screen, they still get some aphids. Amazingly, each variety gets a different type (golden, green, black or wooly). A couple trees have an apple or 2 on them. The Warren pear dropped some leaves in the recent heat blast; the plums (Santa Rosa, Satsuma) and Craig’s Crimson cherry look good but didn’t fruit yet. The plan is to take down the screen before snowfall and put it back on after pollination.
*I would have gone for resistant varieties but these are the fruit the cold-frame erector likes
After my success with peaches, I’m in the market for more. I got the current ones from Raintree and Bay Laurel mail order nurseries. Only half of the trees I got from these vendors survived. Does anyone have better luck with other online nurseries? I went through Scott’s list of sources but so far, I’m not finding the varieties I’m looking for: (any four of the following) Desert Gold, Eva’s Pride, July (Kim) Elberta, Loring, Mid Pride - all from recent DWN Taste Test 100 lists.
The outside orchard set hundreds of fruit this year, but I only got a few - from the 10 yr old peach tree the dogs rest under, and those were scarred and not as tasty as the screenhouse ones - probably because of they are different varieties. At the time I planted them I was going on local extension recommendations and hadn’t found Dave Wilson’s taste comparisons.
TIA and hope you have a good rest of the season.