Few things are more rewarding for a gardener than the first harvest of a fruit tree you’ve been carefully nurturing for years. Although they can be a challenge to perfect, peach trees provide a delicious prize.
Peach trees, native to Eastern China, require specific growing conditions to thrive. Many different cultivars exist that can be grown in zones 4-10. Your local nursery should be able to help you find a suitable variety for your climate.
Once you find a great candidate and provide the proper conditions, your peach tree should flourish for many years. This article will discuss how to select, plant, and care for peach trees – and how to deal with issues that may arise during the process.
Caring For Peach Trees
As far as fruit trees go, peach trees are one of the more challenging ones to grow. The ease of care partly depends on whether they have the correct growing conditions.
To set yourself up for success, you should learn how to pick the appropriate variety for your climate before learning how to care for them, since their needs vary by variety.
Peach trees are picky about the temperature needed for entering dormancy, coming out of dormancy, and their growth period.
Peach trees are hardy in zones 4-9, but certain cultivars require different chill hours than others. Chill hours are the amount of time between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit needed to break dormancy.
Suppose you grow peaches with the minimum chill hour requirement and have some unseasonably warm weather in the middle of winter. In that case, your tree could start growing too early and suffer damage once temperatures return to normal.
The temperature needs are just one example of why it’s important to know which cultivar you’re purchasing and whether it will be successful in your area. The best way to be sure is to buy your tree at a trustworthy local nursery.
Peach trees are typically grafted onto a rootstock. The rootstock determines traits like size, hardiness, and harvest frequency. A reputable nursery or greenhouse will know which cultivars will succeed in your climate.
Planting Peach Trees
Once you’ve selected your ideal tree, you’ll be over the first major hurdle. The planting process is relatively simple. Here’s how to do it:
Step One: Plant at The Right Time
If possible, plan to plant your peach tree the same day you bring it home in order to minimize stress – especially if it’s bare-root. Potted trees can wait for a short time if necessary.
Depending on where you live, you can plant your peach tree during late winter or early spring, when the plant is still dormant. If the ground freezes in the winter in your area, wait until the ground has thawed and the soil is not in danger of becoming saturated from melting snow.
Step Two: Select a Location
Peach trees grow and fruit best in areas with full sun and well-draining soil. Heavy clay soils can be amended with organic materials to aerate and improve drainage.
According to Utah State University’s Yard and Garden Extension, the soil’s pH level should be lower than eight and low in salt. You can purchase a soil test kit from most stores that sell plants.
Step Three: Dig and Plant
Dig your hole so that it’s large enough to spread the roots out completely. Your hole will most likely end up being wider than it is deep. Set the tree into the hole so that the original soil line of the tree is at ground level, then spread the roots out.
If planting multiple peach trees, refer to your cultivar’s planting instructions for spacing. Depending on their size, they should be placed 12-18 feet apart.
Step Four: Fill the Hole
Fill the hole with soil until it’s about two-thirds of the way full while firming the soil around the roots. Then, fill the hole with two gallons of water before you finish filling the rest of the hole with soil. If the soil settles when you water it, you can add more and lightly tamp it down.
Watering Peach Trees
Peach trees are similar to other fruit trees in terms of watering needs. In its first year, your tree should receive about an inch of water per week during the growing season.
This includes natural rainfall and irrigation. Using a rain gauge is the easiest way to measure how much water your tree receives.
Once the peach tree is established, you can scale the watering back to one inch every ten days during the growing season. You might need to water more frequently during heat waves, though, since water will evaporate from the soil quickly.
Fertilizing Peach Trees
When fertilizing a peach tree, a simple 10-10-10 all-purpose solution is sufficient. To apply, scatter one-half of a pound of fertilizer around the tree trunk, about eight to twelve inches away from the trunk.
You won’t need to fertilize your newly planted tree until about a week after it’s planted, then again eight weeks after planting.
After it’s been two years since the tree was planted, apply three-quarters of a pound of fertilizer in the same fashion. Repeat this the following year (three years since planting).
After four years, the peach tree is considered mature and can receive up to two pounds of fertilizer twice per growing season.
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fertilizer schedule for peach trees.
Pruning Peach Trees
When maintaining a peach tree, it’s essential to keep a good balance between vegetative growth and fruit production. To do this, you must be vigilant about pruning during the first several years of planting.
Peach trees should be pruned into an open “V” or vase shape, with four or five evenly spaced main branches (also called scaffold branches) that form the vase. To accomplish this, select strong branches that fit the desired shape and remove any competing branches.
When suckers (growth that emerges from the tree’s base) appear, you can remove them as soon as you see them.
Do Peach Trees Need To Be Pruned Every Year?
Healthy peach trees grow vigorously and need regular yearly pruning to maintain their shape and fruit production. Experts recommend pruning up to 40 percent of a peach tree each year to encourage new growth and fruiting branches.
Remember that new growth will eventually be taller than you can reach. Therefore, you should keep taller branches trimmed to a height that you’re comfortable reaching to harvest the fruit.
Removing dead, broken, or diseased limbs from the tree throughout the season is also important. Failing to do so leaves the tree vulnerable to diseases and could weaken it.
Peach Tree Pollination
Fruit trees, like apples and pears, often need to be planted in pairs so that the two can cross-pollinate. Peach trees, on the other hand, are self-pollinators.
In proper growing conditions, the trees should be able to pollinate successfully. To ensure that your peach tree completes this process efficiently and provides a good harvest, remember the following tips:
- Optimal conditions: If your tree doesn’t receive enough sun, or another tree or structure is blocking its sunlight, pollination could be affected.
- Regular maintenance: Pruning, fertilization, and good watering practices are all instrumental in successful pollination.
- Support your pollinators: Attracting pollinators by planting things they like is a great way to support them and the health of your peach tree.
- Add a second tree: Although it’s not necessary, acquiring another variety of peach tree will increase the chances of successful pollination and subsequent fruit production.
Peach Tree Diseases & Pests (Plus Remedies)
As with any tree, peach trees are prone to several different diseases and pest infestations. Here are some of the most common and how to treat them:
- Peach Scab: This disease, caused by a fungus, presents as small dark spots on the outside of the fruit. This usually occurs the first year the tree bears fruit. To treat peach scab, apply a fungicide at 10-14 day intervals.
- Brown Rot: This fungal disease begins when the tree’s flowers bloom and causes the peaches to rot. To prevent the disease in future growth, apply a fungicide when the flowers are in full bloom, followed by two subsequent sprays at 10-14 day intervals. Also, be sure to remove diseased fruit from the tree and the ground and dispose of it.
- Peach Twig Borer: This pest appears as brown larvae on peach limbs in the spring, which cause twigs to wilt and die. The second generation enters the fruit in summer. The best way to treat borers is with a (preferably environmentally sound) insecticide such as bacillus thuringiensis.
- Aphids: These pests are tiny insects that suck the sap out of tree leaves. Signs of aphids on a peach tree include leaf curling and sticky leaves. To treat them, apply an insecticidal soap or 1% horticultural oil.
If you see signs of peach leaf curl, you can learn more about it here.
A peach tree may not be the best option if you’re looking for a passive, low-maintenance edible plant to grow. But if you have the time and are up for a challenge, the harvest is incredibly rewarding.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.
About the author:
Kathryn is a plant enthusiast and freelance content writer who specializes in home and garden topics. Based in New York, you can get in touch with Kathryn at https://kathrynflegal.journoportfolio.com/.