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Raccoons are as big a fan of ripe peaches as any of us

For the first summer in a while, I am proudly picking and pigging out on peaches.

Growing peaches at home is a test of the human psyche and willpower.

There is only one reason to attempt it; a peach will not ripen at all once picked. Apples and tomatoes will, but not peaches. Plus fresh peaches do not last long.

Combine those two traits and what we get is the absence of truly ripe peaches shipped in from distant orchards. We can buy pretty peaches, even some which smell nice. But that slight crunch that comes with the first bite means the peach needed more time on the tree.

However, tough though it is, we really can grow peaches here.

Step one for growing peaches is to accept the fact peaches attract a wider variety of pests than any other food crop hereabouts acclimated.

Peaches attract fungi, bacteria, insects, arthropods, birds and mammals. Plant a peach tree and you’ll deal with all of them.

Now I know there are folks who have grown peaches and just cut around the worm, the rot spot and the pecked hole. That’s fine. But scale insects, peach borers and Phytophthora root rot will kill the tree. Besides, I want most of my peaches to be intact and I’ll accept the imperfect ones as needed.

Unfortunately, there are pests that show up before and after there are actual peaches present as well as the whole time we wait for green peaches to grow and ripen. Looking back, my personal “glutton for punishment” choices have been several reasonably successful episodes of growing peaches. It can be done, but peach raising for me is a “spray early and often” deal.

Since I opened telling this has been my first harvestable peach crop in a while, I should explain why.

I gave up a few years back. Despite the use of proper insecticides and fungicides, I was not getting a single peach. The reason was raccoons; evil low-life raccoons. Over time they had murdered chickens and chased my homing pigeons off into the wild blue yonder.

Of late, they denied me peaches. They do the same thing in backyard peach trees they do in a patch of sweet corn in a vegetable garden. They check nightly for ripeness. They no more want to harvest peaches and sweet corn before they are ripe than we do. And when you know today should be the day to get that first ear of corn, all you find are husks and broken stalks. And they will be back.

Ditto for peaches. They only take the ones that are ready. And they will be back.

This year I finally tried what I thought might work for racoon-proofing peaches. I put up an electric fence just out of reach of the trees. The bottom wire is three inches off the ground, the next one three inches higher and the top one another six inches up. So far it’s working and I’m eating too many peaches, freezing some and Googling recipes. 

 

Terry Rector writes for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District.