40 Years of Quality Fruit & Memorable Experiences
Sunset on 40 Great Years of Fruit Growing at Marburger Orchard
Marburger Orchard is no longer open for retail and pick-your-own sales.
Message from Gary Marburger, owner/operator of Marburger Orchard
March 9, 2019
Marburger Orchard will not be open for strawberry picking this year. We normally plant approximately 16,000 new plants each October, for harvesting the next Spring…..we did not do that last Fall. Therefore, no strawberries for 2019.
Here’s what’s happening at the farm. After 40 years of producing a crop each year, the peach trees and I have become pretty well exhausted! I have decided to retire (or semi-retire…..I still enjoy growing things!), so that I can have more time to enjoy family and friends, and other activities while I am still physically able!
I am so appreciative of all the good, loyal customers we have had, and especially those of you who have been coming for so long that I consider you more as friends than merely customers. I will truly miss seeing you; and seeing the experiences of young and old customers.
Also, we will not be open to the general public during the peach harvesting season. Instead of pick-your-own, and retail sales, here at the orchard, I have decided to sell our peach and blackberry crops to other local growers, for resale at their nearby roadside stands. (As we get closer to that time, I will try to post more specific information about locations for you here.)
There are several motivations for drastically down-sizing our operation this year. First is that my family all have other wonderful life “callings”, and, as much as they love the orchard, they are not able to participate in its daily operation. Another huge factor is the age of our peach trees. Peach trees have an average productive life span of only about 20 years….it has been about that long since we last planted new trees. About a third of the remaining orchard is still trees from our original planting over 40 years ago….they are miraculously struggling to stay alive, and produce fruit! Each year we continue to lose production to limb and total tree death. In the peak years of the orchard, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we had approximately 4500 full grown, heavy producing peach trees. Today, with reduced tree size, due to old age, we are down to the equivalent of less than 1000 of those healthy, large trees that we had 25 years ago.
With shrinking production, and therefore shrinking income, here at the orchard, I have for the last several years encouraged Manuel and Carlos, who have been the backbone of our operation for more than 30 years, to prepare for their future, by seeking other opportunities, knowing that I would not be able to continue to support them here. I am happy to say that Carlos is now able to be with his entire family full time, having gathered them all together in Waco. Manuel, and his wife Petra, still work for me a few days per week, but Manuel has secured a very promising job, with a reliable new employer, who is anxious to have Manuel switch from part-time to full time as soon as possible (being considerate of my on-going, current needs here at the orchard this Spring). Even if I wanted to try to find replacements for these two men, in the extremely scarce Fredericksburg labor market, it would be impossible to find anyone, with the loyalty and dedication, to do the job they have done!
This year’s peach crop. Another factor in deciding to close the orchard to the general public this year is the anticipated loss of peach crop, due to freeze damage. We had prolonged freezing weather March 3-6, which has significantly limited the prospects for this year’s peach crop. And, historically, there is still the possibility of more freezing weather for another month. Our crop is most vulnerable during, and anytime after full bloom. Although most of our peach varieties were not yet at full bloom during the early March freeze, the duration of the freeze, along with temperatures in the low 20’s, not only killed all open blooms, but also some unopened blooms. There may also be some latent damage, which may not be detectable for several more weeks, when the tiny fruit either begins to grow, or fall off. Because of the reduced crop production, along with the other aforementioned circumstances, it is no longer practical to open the orchard to the public. With a much smaller operation, hopefully, I will have more time to enjoy “farming”, rather than always “managing”!
Blessings to you all, and may this be an opportunity for you to build new, mutually beneficial relationships with other local growers of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables!
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Typical happenings at Marburger Orchard from previous years
Our peach trees blooming in March, 2014!
Bounty peach trees in bloom 3/18/14
Orchard tasks, year-round!
(The following was posted late Spring 2013.)
The major orchard task from January through March was getting all of the peach trees pruned before they bloomed in mid-March.
Peach trees need an accumulation of "chilling hours" during the winter months in order to grow vigorously and produce a good crop in the spring and summer. Because of a mostly mild winter, our trees had inadequate chilling. Therefore, we did a chemical spray of the trees during the second week of February, which we hoped would enhance this chilling requirement. It appeared that this spray did help. However, there were some varieties, and some individual trees, that showed the effects of inadequate chilling by being slow to "leaf out". This delayed start in the spring was probably responsible for some of the delayed ripening that we saw on some of our peach varieties.
Other ongoing orchard tasks include mowing, spraying weeds, irrigating, fertilizing, and monitoring for insect pests.
Normally, in April and May we devote the majority of our time to "thinning" excessive fruit off of the peach trees, so that the remaining fruit can grow larger in size. Of course, with the loss of most of this crop to the severe freeze in late March, there was very little need for thinning this year.
Once there was very little chance of additional late freezes, during the first week of April we planted our tomato plants and most of the seeds for our summer vegetables.
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Pictures of Events During Past Years
January 4, 2013 -- snow pictures!
Fayette peach trees
Peaches are our primary crop!
We have 10 varieties, normally ripening between mid-May and early August. Each variety lasts approximately two weeks, with the peak of production being in the middle of that two weeks. Since the ripening dates for each variety vary from one year to the next, based on constantly changing weather conditions, I can only estimate the ripening dates for the varieties. I continue to revise these estimated dates during the harvest season.
January through early March is the time when each tree in the orchard is meticulously hand-pruned, to create the most desirable structure for a healthy crop. Peach trees produce best when they have had adequate "chilling hours" during their winter dormancy, from November through February. During this dormancy, freezes do not usually cause any harm to the trees. The trees bloom and set their fruit in March, followed by the emergence of the new foliage. In April, our workers begin the tedious work of thinning. Thinning is the task of removing excessive fruit, so that the remaining peaches can grow to larger size. This work is done almost exclusively by hand, one peach at a time, and is usually not completed in all varieties until late May!
From late February to early April, we are always vulnerable to freezing weather, which can result in either a partial or total loss of the year's peach crop. Springtime is also when there is the threat of thunderstorms, accompanied by hail, which may scar or devastate the crop.
A lot of pruning, irrigating, fertilizing, insect prevention and weeding goes on year-round, in order to maintain healthy peach trees, and to produce good quality fruit.
Blackberry season is May and June. We have four varieties, that ripen at different times over that two month period. The plants are tied up on trellis wires, with grass walkways between, for ease of picking.
Because of the threat of killing freezes, most of our summer vegetables can not be planted until early April, which results in harvest being mostly in June and July. The exception is our onion crop, which we normally start digging by the end of April or early May. We try to have a good assortment of vegetables each year.
We do not usually grow fall and winter vegetables.
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For information on where to find peaches, and other fruits and vegetables in the Fredericksburg/Stonewall area:
Click here to go to the Hill Country Fruit Council
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Looking for something else to do while you are in Fredericksburg?
For other activities in the area, click on the link to the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce below.
click here for Spring 2010 peach bloom pictures
559 Kuhlmann Rd.
Fredericksburg, TX 78624