Last Sunday, George Patton and I decided to take on the task of weeding out the devil grass that’s growing below the peach tree in front of las trincheras. This is a tree that’s planted in a parkway hole carved into the sidewalk.  The tree has been pretty much neglected, as well as being abused by cars colliding with branches, as well as occasional abuse from pedestrians passing by and breaking branches. The devil grass below it is pretty rampant, which I think drains water and energy from the tree. It has hardly fruited at all for years… so we figured it was time to give it some care, in hopes of a fruitful spring.

Here’s a before picture, including myself sitting around hard at work:

Joe and the Neglected Peach

Joe and the Neglected Peach (photo: Maeve Johnston)

I sat down and began to pull weeds. There were quite a few sucker (leggy green) branches that were shooting up from the base of the tree, some of these were poking right into my face as I weeded. It’s generally a good idea to cut off these suckers, especially when they’re often growing out of the rootstock of a grafted tree. The rootstock is usually something fairly fast-growing, and it’s grafted onto the bottom of a slower-growing good-fruiting variety tree. Suckers grow off of the good fruiting varieties, too, and should be cut there, too – as they generally are less strong than other branches and I think that they generally fruit less.

I got our my loppers and started cutting away some of the suckers. To see into the interior of the tree, I pulled off some of the leaves… and I got to thinking… it’s the middle of December and this peach tree still has its leaves. Usually these leaves are falling in November or so, and we pull of the last of the leaves as we prune in December. It’s good to denude the tree of leaves when pruning for a few reasons: it signals the tree to go dormant for a bit, and it takes away old dead leaves that can pass diseases on to the new leaves.

We’ve had such a warm fall that our leaves haven’t really fallen much (as seen in the photo above.) I think it’s a sign of global warming… which is disorienting some of our plants. We had serious record-breaking heat waves in September and even into late October, and a lot of the fall vegetables are behaving a bit erratically – growing crooked and drunken-looking. This is mostly the cabbage family – a lot of the broccoli and cauliflower seems more stunted stunted and twisty than usual… Onions, too. To me it seems as if they’re disoriented by the summer weather, but it could be just soil or neglect or natural variation.

So back to the tree. The leaves were very easy to pull off; the tree had begun to let go of them. The way tasks happen in the garden, I cleared of some of the leaves and some more and some more… and then I was far enough along that I just finished it off. I had started some pruning, then decided to just complete the job.

As I mentioned, this tree is growing in the parkway, with the sidewalk to one side and the street to the other. For these trees, I prune them in a somewhat espalier-style, so that growth is focused parallel to the curb and not a lot of the tree sticks out into the sidewalk or street. Here’s an after shot – yes, it’s bare, but this is what a peach tree is supposed to look like in Southern California in December!

Peach Tree All Pruned (Perhaps this looks kind of dead compared to the other picture, but, trust me, this is how a happy and healthy peach tree looks in the Southern California winter)

Peach Tree All Pruned (Perhaps this looks kind of dead compared to the other picture, but, trust me, this is how a happy and healthy peach tree looks in the Southern California winter)

After pruning, George and I weeded away the devil grass and moved on to other garden tasks. Like most garden work, it’s not quite done – I plan to build up a small lip around the base of the tree, in order to harvest rainwater. I did this at the base of the adjacent apple tree and it seems to work ok, and I have an idea for improving on the design slightly. Once I complete it around the base of the peach, I’ll let all you LAEV Garden Blog readers know.