The first rule of thumb when growing peaches is sunlight, peaches require plenty of sunlight to grow and prosper. The next consideration should be the soil, You should have a rich deep sandy soil with good drainage.
Like most fruit trees Clay soils and Poor drainage will destroy the trees root system and promote funguses and disease. Soil pH should be maintained around 6.2 to 6.7.
Most peach trees are self fertile, they don’t need other peach trees for pollination. In order to produce fruit you need pollination. You should only have to plant one peach tree. There are exceptions to every rule, some varieties, such as J.H. Hale require pollination from another cultivar
How to Plant a Peach Tree
- Prep the ground properly before planting your tree. Rake out the soil and hoe it until it has a smooth weed free surface with minimal rocks and no soil clumps. The soil should be prepared as deep as you will be planting the peach tree.
- Normal sized trees should be spaced roughly 15 to 20 feet apart. Miniature and Dwarf peach trees should be spaced roughly 10 to 12 feet apart.
- Soak the tree roots for six to eight hours before planting it.
- Dig a hole large enough for the root system to spread comfortably within it.
- Fall and Early spring are the best times to plant Peach Trees. [See: Fall Planting Peach Trees] Dig a hole that is slightly deeper and wider than the full spread of the root system. Place the bare root trees in the holes center, leave a small mound in the holes center to spread the roots over and around. The roots should placed so that they grow away from the center. Try not to bend them anymore than is absolutely necessary.
- If the tree you are planting is visibly grafted, position the graft union northward away from the sun. The graft junction should be kept several inches below the soil level if possible.
* For container trees, once you remove the tree from its original container you should trim off any encircling roots by laying the tree and its root ball on their side and shearing or snipping off excess roots. Don’t overdo it .
After planting, the peach tree, it should be pruned back to 26 to 28 inches, snipping off any small side branches. This will help to ensure you have a higher quality crop.
Care and Maintenance of Peach Trees
About 1 1/2 months after planting, fertilize the peach tree saplings with about a pound of high nitrogen fertilizer. Come the second season, do the same but use about 2/3 of what you used the previous season. In the second year this should be done once in the early spring and once in the early summer. After the third season, when the tree reaches maturity, add slightly less than a pound of actual nitrogen annually to the mature trees in the early spring. Never fertilize within 2 months of the first fall frost date or when the fruits are maturing.
Prune the tree to have an open center . In the first summer, trim off vigorous new shoots that form on the top of the tree by 2 – 3 buds each. As soon as you have three relatively equally spaced wide angled branches, prune it back so that these three wide angled branches are the trees primary branches.
In the early summer of the second season, prune back the branches in the center of the tree to short stubs and cut off any shoots developing below the three primary branches.
Other factors to consider are fruit size, taste, color, disease resistance, and pollen compatibility, all of which are important factors.
After the trees third year, remove any new shoots that appear in the center of the tree, in order to maintain its shape.
Peach trees should be pruned annually to encourage quality and quantitative production. With pruning the trees should achieve 10-18 inches of new growth annually.
Thinning The Crop
If need be, you may have to thin the crop to about 6 -8 inches apart once the tree starts bearing to ensure survival and quality of the best peaches. Should you leave all the peaches on the tree,they will probably still ripen, but you’ll have generally smaller and less tasty results.
Peach trees, like most fruit trees have a long list of potential problems, certain insects love peaches as much as we do, and diseases are not uncommon. Aphids, are soft bodied, insects that suck the juices from plants and tree foliage. In fruit trees it can cause them to become twisted and curled, and stunt their growth . Severe infestations can kill off younger trees, at the very least it will reduce quality and quantity of harvest. See: Aphids
Scales, are occasional problems on peach trees. they feed on plant juices, eventually killing the plant, they also excrete liquid waste called “honeydew.” Honeydew is not only unsightly, it gets on foliage and prevents photosynthesis , contributing to the plants early demise. See: Scale Insects
Leaf Hoppers have also been known to attack smaller younger peach trees See: Leaf Hoppers
Diseases of Peach Trees are generally fungus infestations, most can be treated with the appropriate fungicide , if caught in time. The damage to the harvest , and overall long term health of the tree minimized as well.
Black Knot of peaches is a widespread fungal disease common throughout the U.S. and Canada. The black knot primarily affects small twigs, branches, and fruit spurs. Although sometimes the tree trunk also becomes diseased. Infections however will begin on the youngest growth first. Black knot first appears as soft pale green knots and / or elongated blemishes and swellings which form on the smallest twigs and branches. They eventually develop into a black, cylindrical galls up to 1 1/2 inches round and as much as a foot long. Branches are frequently stunted, and sometimes die off. At first sign of black knot, or any suspected fungal disease a fungicide should be applied.
Leaf Spot is more common in humid areas. Fungus will attack peach tree leaves and stems. Dark colored spots appear on the leaves, yellowing and premature leaf drop. In wet weather you may also notice white spots on leaves.
Brown Rot effects blossoms, fruit and sometimes small branches. Cankers, fruit rot, brown gray tufts can be seen on the twigs or fruit especially when wet.
Powdery Mildew is a Fungal disease that attacks twigs and leaves. Signs are white powdery spots on new leaves and premature leaf drop. See Image of Powdery Mildew
Copper Based Fungicides should never be applied after full Bloom. The most readily available fungicides for home gardeners are copper based products. Copper ammonium fungides can be bumped up in effectiveness by adding 1 – 2% horticultural spray oil to the mix.
The only serious non copper fungicide available for home use are sulfur based ones. Sulfur based fungicides are primarily effective against Scab, a fungus which attacks peach trees.
Ripe peaches will lose their green tint and much of their firmness . Over ripe peaches – will be overly soft, ‘just right’ peaches will still be firm but not rock hard like immature ones. Try not to leave over ripe peaches on the tree, they will attract insects, and contribute to mold and fungal diseases, the next stage after over ripe is rotten.
Pick the peaches gently so as not to bruise them. Don’t apply excessive pressure , a ripe peach should snap off with little effort – not fall, but just snap off.
Peaches will keep in the refrigerator for a short time, a week , slightly more sometimes. If you have an abundant harvest, other than giving to friends neighbors and family you’ll want to preserve some. Try some of our Peach Recipes and preserving tips and tricks. See: Preserving Peaches