Let me just say peach trees are worth the effort, and in the Pacific Northwest that’s some effort. Our rainy cool climate tricks the peach into blooming early–early enough that no bee worth his knees is going to be foraging for pollen or nectar. Even the heavy hitter pollinator of the hood, the orchard mason bee, is barely stirring with night temps visiting the 30s. As day temperatures lumber up to almost 50, the peach tree begins to awaken to a lonely garden, where few fellow photosynthesizers have even peered above the soil line. I did see one bumblebee, but my burly bomber was more interested in bluebells and tulips.
Being the resourceful fellow that I am, I called upon the best and most available pollinator I knew: me. After one hour and 15 minutes of my household scavenger hunt to find my old artist paintbrushes (from my faux finish period), I discovered them next to my gold leaf, glue gun and fishing lures in a bottom drawer reserved for neglected hobbies. I took my lovely sable Daniel Smith 75-01 and strutted out to the orchard to save my peach trees from a fruitless year. I use one brush for all the trees, assuming a cornucopia of various peach pollens are bound to find a home on a willing pistil. With brush in hand, I ‘paint’ each open blossom with gentle swirls, collecting and distributing pollen as I go about the limbs. Sure I may look silly, but it’s never stopped me before and besides, come July, August and September my mockers’ memories will fail to recall my April escapades when they’re wiping peach juice from their chins.
Where’s the bees? One of my plan Bs
One week later and still no bees! My neighbor just loaded up her hive and mine is on death’s doorstep, the smooth pollinator has not yet retired from his duties as Vashon’s biggest flightless bee.
I sat under one of the trees the last sunny Saturday and I saw two honeybees after 5 minutes…better go get my paint brush and stepladder again. Unfortunately my bees did not survive the winter.
“Smoooooth pollinator”…you are too much! How is the bee situation? My “grandfather in law” was a bee keeper. I’m trying to get some info for you! Keep buzzing baby.
[…] I discovered the benefits of Mason Orchard Bees years ago when I stumbled upon Brian Griffin of Knox Cellars at the Washington State Flower and Garden Show. He was selling bee starter kits and generously sharing his keen knowledge of this unsung native pollinator. In the cool, wet springs of the Maritime Northwest, Mason Orchard bees are little pollinating powerhouses at a time when honey and bumble bees are holed up in their hives. As grateful as my fruit trees are, some years I even have to help with hand pollination. […]
Tom – I pollinate our pumpkins but compared to your gentle approach its more like date rape. On pumpkins it is easy to tell the guys from the gals. The girl pumpkin has a fist sized globe right behind the flower and the guys don’t. Kind of opposite of what we are used to…well think of it as the baby. I actually pinch off the male bloom and jam it right into the female bloom. The blooms come out over a period of a couple of weeks so it is usually a monogomous arrangement. The boys help so I’ve got the Bee’s side of “the talk” covered with them, pretty sneaky. I’m still working on the other luckily all the cows at the farm are steers.
How do you discern gender on your trees? trees?
Who knew pollinating fruit & vegetaqbles could get so racy. Love that you managed to incorporate your birds and the bees talk with a gardening exercise. You are a resourceful father. As for most fruit trees, it’s a different ballgame. They require cross pollination from other like fruits. Some fruits do have both male and female flowers such as the kiwi, and the seaberry. How’s that for your hort 101 class today?
[…] years ago: He’s a Smooth Pollinator, Yoga or Plan B: Fish and […]
Thank you for this post! It was exactly what I was looking for! We live in Redmond and my peach tree is starting to bloom indoors. Its in a pot and we moved it in for the winter. I know its still too cold to move it outdoors (plus probably no bees anyways) so I am going to give this method a try!
[…] critters, there have been some years when I’ve had to take matters into my own hands and pollinate by hand. (And yes, I do look relatively ridiculous, paint brush in […]
[…] In the Pacific Northwest it’s a challenge, stemming from a shortage of heat units and poor pollinating conditions during spring bloom (namely incessant rain, the kind Seattle is famous for). Now, west of the […]