Time for tickling

It is that time of the year when the peach blossom has burst forth. Peaches and cherries produce arguably the most attractive display of spring. Aside from admiring them, during flowering one must pay a little attention to pollination, or the crop is likely to be rather meagre. Although we have a veritable hoard of honey bees pitched up not so far from the glasshouses, at this time of year they only fly during good weather and seldom seem to find their way into the glasshouses even on mild and sunny spring days. There are few other pollinating insects around at this time, so to ensure that a reasonable amount of fruit sets, they must be hand pollinated.

Hand pollination is a simple task but takes some time to do thoroughly. A rabbit’s tail was the traditional tool for the job, but I prefer to leave the rabbits alone and use a soft watercolour brush instead. Pollinating is simply a matter of brushing pollen from the stigma to the stamen, gently tickling each flower a couple of times then moving on to the next. It is well worth doing this in a systematic way so that all of the flowers get visited. It also needs to be repeated, ideally every day whilst in flower, but at least every couple of days, preferably during good weather when there is plenty of pollen available. The pollen should be quite evident on the brush. It is a bit of a chore, but the thought of juicy fresh peaches should be more than adequate motivation.

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