Those who have had the privilege of eating a tree-ripened peach know that there are few gastronomic experiences to equal it. Peaches that are available in the local grocery stores will never achieve a high level of quality because they are harvested early, extremely firm, and somewhat immature, making it impossible for them to achieve a high level of quality.
Soil and Location
Peaches can be grown on a wide range of soil types but they prefer a well-drained sandy loam that retains adequate moisture. Root rot diseases may become a problem if the soil is heavy and does not drain well.
Soil Preparation and Planting
Peaches should be planted in well-worked soil having an adequate supply of nutrients and with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test prior to planting is a good investment. Deficiencies should be taken care of before planting.
Unlike most fruit trees, peaches do not require two varieties for adequate pollination. However, peaches usually ripen over a 7 to 10-day period. If you select 3 varieties that ripen about 10 days apart, you will be able to harvest peaches over a 4-week period. While there are many new and excellent varieties available to choose from, I suggest that one variety that you select should be `Red Haven’. It is the most popular, and one of the most reliable varieties grown in the world.
Trees should be planted as early in the spring as the soil can be worked without causing compaction. Holes should be large enough to accommodate the entire root system, and deep and wide enough so that roots can rest on the bottom. Allow at least 10 feet between trees. Plant trees so that the largest root is pointing toward the prevailing winds and tilt the tree slightly in that direction. Soil amendments such as compost, composted manure or top soil may be added judiciously.
Chemical fertilizers should not be put in the planting hole since research has shown that it is not beneficial when added now and, frequently, it retards root 2 development. The graft union should be 3 to 4 inches above the soil line after planting. When the soil settles it will then be about 2 inches above the soil.
Tree quality from the nursery varies, so specific pruning recommendations are difficult. In general, trees should be headed back to 36 to 40 inches in height. Three to four well-spaced lateral branches should be retained and others removed. Branches that form a sharp angle with
the central leader should be removed, even if they are large. They will always be weak branches that will undoubtedly break in the future under the weight of maturing fruit.
Pruning of peaches is more important than for any tree fruit. They are pruned more severely than any other fruit tree under cultivation for several reasons. Pruning increases growth and flower bud formation for the following year. Peaches usually set an excessive number of fruit.
Pruning helps reduce crop load, improve fruit size and reduce limb breakage and tree damage due to excessive crop load.
Peach trees can be fertilized with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Application should be made in the spring before bloom and the amount should not exceed 5 pounds equivalent on a mature tree and not less than 0.5 pounds under a young tree. Spread the 10-10-10 uniformly within the drip line of the tree.
Mulch and Water
Grass and other competing vegetation reduces growth of peach trees and reduces fruit size. We recommend applying some type of mulch, such as hay or straw early in the season. This should be renewed each year. Frequently, mulch is pulled back from the tree in late summer to prevent the buildup of mice and to hasten hardening off.
This is then reapplied the following spring. Supplemental water may be required during the summer, especially during dry periods like we are experiencing this year. Adequate water is critical during the two weeks prior to harvest, since this is the time that peaches increase in size most rapidly.
Peaches generally ripen over a 7 to 10-day period. During this period fruit increase in size rapidly, soften, and the ground color changes to yellow orange. Usually 2 or 3 harvests will be necessary. Flavor does not improve after peaches are harvested. Therefore, it is best to wait
until fruit soften to the touch before harvesting. Why don’t you plant early, so that you can enjoy fruit at its finest from next year?