Growing your own peach tree is not hard. Look down almost any street and you can see peach trees. A Peach tree can make a beautiful addition to your yard.
Peaches might be the best tasting fruit and everyone waits all year for peach season. There are of course peach tree orchards, but look down almost any street and you can see peach trees. A Peach tree can make a beautiful addition to your yard.
Where You Can Grow A Peach Tree
Before you can consider growing your own peach tree, you have to find out what growing or hardiness zone you live in. Peaches can be grown in zones 5 though 9. If you live in the colder zone 4, you can try growing the Reliance or the Wisconsin Balmer peach varieties. If your winter minimum temperature rarely gets lower than -10 F (-23C) to -20 F (-29C), you are in zone 5.
Growing Peach Trees From Pits
A Peach can be grown from the pit, but it might not taste or look the same as the peach the pit came from and you don’t know if the pit came from a variety that will grow in your area. Most of the peach trees you buy have been grafted onto rootstock.
Use a brush to clean the flesh off of the pit thoroughly. Let the seed dry overnight and then place in a plastic bag. Leave the bag slightly open and place in the refrigerator. Do not put apples or bananas in the refrigerator with the peach pit at the same time. Or store the pit at room temperature out of sunlight.
In the fall, plant the peach pit approximately 4 inches deep. Cover with dirt and an inch of straw or other type of mulch and water. If the winter is dry and without snow cover water the seeds. They should germinate in the spring. You can also start these in pots and move them to a permanent location when they are a foot or taller.
How to Buy and Plant a Peach Tree
Ask the nursery or county extension office about which peach tree varieties do best in your climate. Peaches need what is called a chilling requirement. A certain amount of time with temperatures between 32F and 45F, each variety has a different chilling requirement. Buying a tree from a local nursery should have the proper peach tree varieties for your climate.
Buy a peach tree that is about 1 year old and has an established root system. Make sure that the leaves; roots and the trunk look healthy. Some peach varieties can grow quite tall and some can be shorter and bushier. Make sure you know how big the tree will grow and plan the area accordingly. Most, but not all varieties are self-pollinating.
Location is important. If you live in an area where a late spring frost is a concern, do not plant peach trees on hot southern exposures. The extra heat on the south side could cause the tree to bloom early and if a late frost happens, you will not have peaches that year. Peach trees require full sun and good air circulation around them and do not like to compete for the nutrients in the ground. Plant the peach tree at least 3 feet from other trees and bushes.
It is best to plant a peach tree when the tree is dormant; January through March is a good time. The soil and area must be well drained. If you have places in your yard where water seems to stand a long time after watering, the soil and ground need to be worked so it is well drained. Peach trees like a soil pH of about 6.5.
If the roots are in a burlap sack, take the burlap off. If the roots are in a peat pot, you can slice the pot so the roots can grow outward more easily. Make sure you do not cut any of the roots.
Soak the tree roots for 6 to 12 hours prior to planting. Dig the hole deep enough that it will contain and cover the entire root system of your new peach tree. Do not leave any of the roots above ground. Plant the tree so that the bud union (the notch at the base of the tree) is about 2 inches above the dirt.
Do not add fertilizer to the hole since that can burn the new roots. Just put plenty of water and compost in the hole.
Use a support for your new tree for at least a year. Winds can cause the tree to grow at an angle or damage the tree.
Peach tree in full bloom. Photo by StevenY/Flickr.com
Preventing Disease and Bugs of Peach Trees
Proper fertilizing of the peach tree can help prevent bugs and disease. A 10-10-10 fertilizer is needed twice a year. Spring and mid summer, again this depends on your climate. A root-feeder or fruit tree fertilizer spikes can also be used to fertilize the root system. Some organic peach growers use a seaweed spray on their trees.
Spraying the tree with dormant spray oil is important and can help control many problems like aphids, scales and leaf curl. Spray when the tree is dormant, before any budding. You can use liquid lime Sulphur or Superior Oil. Some organic growers spray the tree with Bt.
Brown rot starts out as a small brown spot on the peach and spreads to the entire peach. Pick these peaches and clean up any fallen peaches and twigs to prevent the spread of brown rot. Brown rot also causes blight on the twigs, branches and blossoms during the spring. If these peaches are left on the ground, it can cause brown rot to spread.
Peach scab is a fungus that causes hardened spots on the peach. This can be prevented by proper pruning, which will allow good air circulation throughout the branches.
You can have someone prune your peach tree until you learn the proper way to prune or you can ask your local state university extension office for a diagram of proper pruning of a peach tree.
The peach tree borer is a bug that can kill a peach tree if not controlled. They can be hard to control since they are under the bark most of the time. Borers usually get into the tree through cracks or other open areas of the bark and that is why important pruning and care of the tree can prevent borers.
A preventative insecticide spray can be applied to the trunk of the tree in mid summer; the time of year depends on your location. You can also use a pheromone trap to attract and trap the male borers. Your local county extension office should have more about this for your area.
A ring of mothballs at the base of the tree can also help alleviate this problem. Make sure the area is cleaned. Put the mothballs about 2” from the base of the tree and cover a 5 “ to 10” mound of dirt. Do not let the mothballs touch the tree trunk.
How to Harvest Peaches
When picking the peaches, be careful not to tear the bark. You should hold the branch near the peach stem and pull the peach with the other hand, preventing the bark from being torn.
During a good year for peaches, you might find you have so many peaches on the tree that the branches are bending down. I have seen years with so many peaches on the trees that limbs broke. Have some 2 x 4’s ready. Cut a notch in the top of the 2 x 4’s and use these to prop up heavily peach loaded branches.
And not long from now you will have enough peaches to eat, can, freeze and cook peach pies with.
© 2010 Sam Montana
References and Helpful Websites
Colorado State University - Peach borers
Find your local county extension office
Midwest Organic Fruit Growers Association
US Hardiness Zone Map
How to Save a Sick or Dying Tree