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Growing Peaches

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on July 25, 2011

Growing peaches is one of those things that sounds like a good idea until you actually try it.  That is because, as one of the Extension Specialists used to say, peach trees are born trying to die.  While you might get away with having one peach tree and never spraying it, if you want lots of nice peaches, you are doing something from December until the peaches are harvested in the summer.

Snow in the peach orchard Before starting your orchard, it is important to find out what your average chilling hours are in your area.  This will guide you in what variety of peach you plant.  If you plant one that needs more or less chilling hours than you receive, bad things happen.

Most people buy one or two year old trees.  Plant them in a hole and use the dirt that came out of the hole to fill it.  If you put special dirt in the hole, the roots get lazy and do not want to leave, and your tree will die in a few years.

When you plant your tree, trim the top third of the branches off.  If you buy small bare root trees, this may have already been done for you by the nursery.  This procedure keeps the roots from working so hard to feed all this foliage that they cannot grow themselves and anchor the plant in the ground.

You will have to prune your tree every year.  There are tomes written about how to prune a peach tree.  Basically, if  a branch or stem points up, you leave it.  If it points down, it goes.  You want to develop two or three strong branches that then branch into two or three more sections, and so on.  If the branch is not strong enough, it will break under the load of the peaches.  Be careful when pruning.  It is easy to raise up into a tree branch and clock yourself.

It is not unusual for third and fourth year trees to bear fruit.  Sometimes they bear so much fruit their branches break.  It is recommended that when the fruit gets big enough for you to see it, you pinch every last one of them off.  This allows the tree to concentrate on growing those two years instead of having fruit.

From the fifth year on, the tree will be strong enough to have peaches.  However, you will still need to thin the fruit to one every six inches.  This allows each peach to develop into a large, healthy fruit.  It also makes sure there are not so many peaches in any one place that a branch breaks.  Broken branches are not only unsightly, but can seriously injure the tree.  You also lose the peaches on them.

I mentioned spraying.  Peaches require more sprays than anything but cotton.  In December, you have to spray with dormant oil for scale.  This starts a cycle of spraying something every week or two until the peaches are harvested.  Recommendations on when to spray and what spray to use change, so you need to consult your Extension office for a schedule of peach sprays applicable to your area.  This spray isn’t cheap, and most of it requires a pesticide license if you are buying enough for an orchard.

What is the pay off for spraying, pruning, thinning, and sweating?  You get really tasty peaches that are really pretty to look at.

ripe peaches on the tree

 Gardenbookfrontcoverthumbnail For more help gardening, buy my book, Preparing A Vegetable Garden From The Ground Up
Available in print or ebook from Amazon.com or other retailers, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today!


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben from Green Powder July 26, 2011 at 10:10 am

We used to have a peach tree. It died within a few years 🙁 I didn’t know they were so difficult to take care of. It was probably the “special” soil that you mentioned that did it. We were kind of glad when it died though. The peaches attracted these really big beetles that had iridescent carapaces and were loud and swarmed all over.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

Click beetles — Love peaches.

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Lizzy from Testosterone Therapy July 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Oh my gosh – I’ve just started gardening because I love how therapeutic it is, but it sounds like this might be more stressful than I am really prepared for! It’s a shame because I really love peaches and the idea of having fresh ones in my backyard is so tempting, but I don’t know if I’m up for the challenge just yet. So far I’m just doing flowers and a few easy veggies – are there any fruits that might be easier to grow for me as a beginner?

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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Strawberries are pretty easy. Pears are good, too.

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Caroline Scully August 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

Maybe I’ve been lucky or maybe it’s because I live in New England, but I’ve never sprayed my peach and have had great harvests. I have the variety Red Haven. I prune only a little and pinch off many small peaches to reduce the load. I keep pinching off smaller fruit as the branches show strain. My tree is about 6 years old.

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Stephanie Suesan Smith August 2, 2011 at 6:47 am

Red Havens are good peaches. We have lots of bugs in Texas and they all seem to eat peaches. Of course, they eat everything else, too.

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Becky September 15, 2011 at 10:19 am

We used to have a Red Haven peach tree too. It was a tiny tree and gave us great peaches with no work at all. We couldn’t find a Red Haven to plant at the new house and have a white variety (can’t remember the name). The tree is several years old, but has taken a lot of abuse from frosts. It had a ton of little peaches on it this year, but I did not know how many to pick off and they did not mature. Next year I will know thanks to your site!

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Stephanie Suesan Smith September 15, 2011 at 11:25 am

Glad to help. Hope you get lots next year.

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cindymarie October 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I see I have lots of work to do. I have 3 peach trees…two came up from seed and one my brother gave me. I have had all the peaches fall off prematurely and now I know why. My apricot tree did the same thing. Japanese beetles were a problem, and brown spots all over them,
That is why I am here – to have a good year next year!

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