The Environmental Working Group produces a list of the “dirty dozen” food items with the highest pesticide residue levels yearly, and peaches are frequently included.
Consider cultivating your peach trees to enjoy this delicious fruit organically. Citrus fruits like lemons don’t require tropical conditions, and you can pick flavorful but thin-skinned varieties that are too delicate to make it to grocery shelves.
Peach trees come in various sizes, including dwarf cultivars that can be grown in a container, so there’s no reason you can’t cultivate your peach harvest to use in cobblers, canned preserves, smoothies, or salsa.
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How long does it take for a peach tree to grow?
They normally take three to four years to bear fruit when planted from seed. If you buy a young tree, you’ll get a harvest sooner. Plant your peach tree late in the winter or early in the spring while it is dormant.
Different types of peach trees
Peach trees can produce both clingstone and freestone fruits. However, most types available for home gardening are freestone. You can also choose between yellow or white flesh and peach trees that give fruit early or late in the season.
- Halehaven is an exceptionally sweet midseason variety. The trees are considered vigorous, and the skin is pleasant.
- Reliance is an early-season producer that thrives in chilly climates.
- Both Galaxy and Saturn peaches feature sweet white flesh and are donut-shaped.
- Bonanza is a dwarf peach tree that grows to about 6 feet tall yet bears large fruit.
Peach trees versus nectarine trees
Peaches and nectarines are both trees of the same species, Prunus persica. The nectarine is a fuzz-free fruit that is somewhat smaller and sweeter than a peach. Nectarines and peaches can both be found on peach trees and nectarine trees.
Professional farmers manage their yield by grafting nectarines onto peach trees from grafted branches that previously produced nectarines. Although fuzziness is a prominent feature, consider it a two-for-one benefit if your peach trees decide to go wild and produce a nectarine harvest.
The ideal time to plant peach trees
- Plant peach trees when they’re dormant, which is usually late winter or early spring, depending on the climate.
- Planting should be delayed in areas where the ground freezes in the winter until the soil has thawed and the land is no longer soggy from snowmelt or strong spring rains.
- To prevent stress, it’s ideal for planting the trees the same day you obtain them if feasible. Potted trees can go for a while without being planted, but bare-root trees need to be planted as soon as possible.
- Choose a tree with a strong root system that is around a year old. In general, older trees are less productive and vigorous.
How to grow peach trees in pots
Dwarf peach trees are excellent container plants. Choose a container with a minimum width of 3 feet.
Never let your peach tree container dry up, and keep it in a covered spot like a garage or shed to avoid strong winters.
How to grow peaches from seed
Peach pits will develop in the open air with minimal help. In the fall, sow the seed three inches deep outside. The embryo will mature in cold winter conditions. In the spring, the seed will germinate, and you will be able to transplant your young tree to its permanent location.
Growing your peach tree from seed is a rewarding experience if you don’t mind waiting a few years for your peach tree to develop fruit. Eat a peach, keep the pit, and follow these instructions.
- Remove the kernel from a peach pit by carefully cracking it open. Both a hammer and a nutcracker will suffice for cracking nuts. Although you can plant the entire pit without first cracking it open, the seed germinates more quickly when the outer shell is removed.
- In a plastic bag, place the peach pit kernel. Fill the bag halfway with potting soil that is somewhat damp. Close the bag.
- Place the plastic bag in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Cold stratification, a form of cold treatment that simulates winter conditions, causes the seed to germinate in the refrigerator.
- After two to three months, check for germination. Remove the pit from the refrigerator once the roots have developed to a length of at least half an inch.
- In a container, plant the peach seedling. Maintain a sunny place for the seedling and enough water to keep the soil moist. After the last frost, move it outside in early spring.
- Get ready for peach sprouts for the outdoors. After your peach tree sprouts, acclimatize it to the outside to prepare it for transplanting, as it will quickly outgrow its container. Place the peach seedling outside in a sheltered area for two hours after it has at least two sets of true leaves and all frost threats have passed. Place it outside for three hours the next day. Increase the time by an hour each day until the peach plant is used to the sun, wind, and temperatures outside.
Trees should be planted.
Choose a location for your peach tree that receives full sun and has good drainage. Dig a hole deep enough to fit the peach plant’s tap root without injuring it. Keep your peach tree hydrated during its first growing season. It will take around three years for the seedling to mature, at which point it will be ready to produce blooms and fruit.
Selecting and preparing where to plant
- The tree should be planted in a location that receives full sun throughout the day for the best fruit output. The morning light is especially important since it aids in the drying of morning dew from the fruit.
- Choose a location with well-drained soil that is somewhat fertile. Peach trees do not thrive in regions where the soil is compacted or moist all of the time.
- The pH of the soil should be somewhat acidic, between 6 and 6.5.
- Planting in low regions will allow cold air and frost to settle more quickly, affecting the quality of your peaches.
How to plant a peach tree in your yard
When choosing a peach tree for your yard, make sure it is a variety that is suitable to your environment and that it is planted in a sunny, sheltered location. To seal in moisture, water deeply and consider mulching around the root zone. A somewhat elevated location is preferable to a frosty depression.
If you’ve chosen a bare root tree, ensure the hole you’re planting it in has enough room for the roots to spread. You don’t need to plant more than one peach tree to get fruit because they’re self-fertile.
If you wish to develop a tiny orchard, ensure the trees are spaced properly to avoid shading each other when they reach maturity. Standard peaches should be spaced 18 feet apart, whereas dwarf peaches should be spaced 5 feet apart.
Growing a peach tree from seed takes three to four years to bear fruit, so buying a young tree from your local nursery to put in your backyard is a better option.
- Choose a peach tree that thrives in your region. Peach trees thrive in places with hot summers and temperatures below 45°F in the winter. Most peach cultivars need to be exposed to low temperatures for a period of time to grow properly. A peach tree’s “chill hour requirement” refers to this period of cold dormancy. Look up the number of chilling hours typical of your climate before selecting a peach variety to ensure it matches the requirements for your selected peach variety.
- Late winter or early spring is the best time to plant. Early spring is the best time to plant a container-grown peach tree, so it has the entire growing season to acclimate to the environment before winter. Late in the winter, plant bare-root peach trees or dormant trees stored without soil on their roots.
- Select a planting spot that receives full sun. A position that is exceptionally sunny and wind-protected is ideal. Aim for a location with well-drained sandy soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Plant your peach tree in a raised garden bed or a container full of sandy, fertile soil or potting mix if your soil has poor drainage.
- Make a planting hole and insert a tree stake into it. Dig a hole a few inches deeper and twice as wide as the tree’s root ball. Next to the hole, hammer the tree stake into the earth at least two feet deep. At the bottom of the planting hole, make a tiny earth mound.
- In the hole, place the tree. The roots of the tree should be spread out over the soil mound. The graft union (the bump in the lower trunk between the scion and rootstock) should be two to three inches above ground level, while the top of the root crown should be at ground level. Half-fill the hole with dirt and carefully work it around the root system.
- Fill in the planting hole and water the dirt. Soak the soil in water and then wait for it to drain. Check if the tree’s trunk depth has changed and make any required adjustments. Fill the hole with soil the remainder of the way.
- Create a dirt basin. A three- to six-inch high ring of soil should be piled around the root zone. This soil basin collects water and allows it to soak into the soil over time.
- Apply a layer of organic mulch to the root zone. Mulch keeps moisture in the soil and enriches it.
- Side branches should be pruned, and the tree’s top should be trimmed. Reduce the height of the tree to 30 inches. This ensures that your young tree produces a lot of fruiting wood, resulting in a higher fruit yield as the tree matures. Using tree ties, secure the tree trunk to the stake.
Alternative planting techniques
You might want to attempt an approach used in England if your circumstances allow it. It entails planting a miniature peach tree on the south side of the house or other structure directly beneath the eaves. Over time, the gardener prunes and trains the peach tree to espalier in a fan-shape against or very close to the house’s wall.
Like a lean-to tent, plastic sheeting is fastened to the eaves and hung to cover but not touch the tree. This keeps the tree dry in the winter and provides year-round warmth from the sun, both directly and reflected off the home.
During the bloom season, the plastic should be opened or lifted to allow pollinating insects in and on hot, sunny days to allow the tree to breathe and avoid foliage burn.
Peachtree care tips
Peach trees require full sun to thrive. Those growing in the shade lose their strength, making them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Peach plants prefer sandy soil and require good drainage. Organic mulch, such as leaf mold or compost, suppresses weeds while keeping the soil healthy and somewhat acidic.
Keep peach trees equally moist, especially during their first two years of growth. Two liters of water per week should be given to new trees. This is the same as one inch of rain. Peach trees can survive for a week and a half on the same quantity of water once they reach maturity. Maintain an equal moisture level in the soil, but never to the point of being soggy.
Humidity and temperature
Peaches grow well in USDA growing zones 5-8 and prefer mild temperatures. You can, however, broaden the growing zone to cover zones 4 and 9 by selecting more cold or heat-tolerant types.
To start fruiting, peaches must be chilled for at least 600 hours at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Temperatures below zero for an extended period may cause tree damage. Peaches can withstand high humidity, but too much moisture might promote fungal illness.
Each spring, use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer around your peach trees. For new trees, start with a pound and increase by a pound each year, up to 10 pounds for typical mature peaches. Apply a slow-release fertilizer in the early spring. To get the greatest results, choose a fertilizer that is heavy in phosphorus and low in nitrogen.
Prune trees once a year.
Peaches produce fruit on second-year wood, so appropriate pruning this year impacts crop yield the next year. During the first, second, and third years of a tree’s existence, prune it in the early summer. After the third year, prune in late April to keep the tree’s shape by cutting branches that grow from the tree’s heart.
When should peach trees be pruned?
When many fruiting plants benefit from pruning while dormant, this is not the case with peach trees. Pruning them when cold weather makes them prone to dieback and less cold-hardy.
1 Peach trees should ideally be pruned once a year in the spring, just as the buds swell and begin to turn pink. Pruning a little too late is preferable to pruning too early. Shoots forming in the tree’s heart, however, can be removed at any time because they restrict sunlight and air from reaching the fruits.
Furthermore, removing them during the summer usually means less to remove the following spring.
Major pruning should begin when a peach tree is at least three years old and mature enough to generate good fruit production. Before this, pruning should be confined to developing the tree’s fundamental shape.
How to prune peach trees
- Remove any branches that are dead, damaged, or diseased. Remove all branches in bad condition with long-handled pruners, or a pruning saw. When you see such branches, you should remove them. This is true for all trees, but especially for species that produce fruit on new growth, such as peach trees. Removed branches should be cut into manageable pieces and bagged or bundled for disposal.
- Select the main branches and remove the others. Select three to five primary upward-growing “scaffold” branches along the edge of the tree in the early years of its life. Then, remove any competing huge branches using a pruner or pruning saw. Remove any branches growing downward or horizontally, as well as those growing in the heart of the tree. The idea is to make a tree with a V- or vase-shaped profile and an open center.
- According to most gardeners, the first of these scaffold branches should be no more than 18 inches from the ground. The trunk’s major branches should be evenly spaced around it, with a vertical offset of about 6 inches between neighboring branches.
- All scaffold branches should ideally emerge from the trunk 18 and 36 inches above the ground. This results in a compact tree that may be harvested without using a tall ladder.
- When pruning, try to avoid narrow, V-shaped crotches that are weak and prone to splitting when the branches carry a big fruit harvest. Crotches that are 45 degrees or wider are less likely to separate.
- Tall branches should be trimmed. Trim the ends of any tall branches with a pruner. The goal here is to keep the tree at a harvestable height. Pruning without a ladder entails pruning the branches to heights you can reach from the ground.
- Interior spindly branches must be removed. Prune any little, spindly branches that grow inward from the main scaffold branches. Remove any sprouts that point straight up or down since they will prevent the peach tree from growing into the desirable V.
- Reduce the number of red shoots that remain. Cut the fresh red shoots back to around 18 inches in length with pruners. Cut to within a quarter-inch of an outward-facing bud. These are fruit-producing shoots; therefore, maintain them close to the main branches, so the fruit is sufficiently supported and easy to pick. Also, remove the suckers at the tree’s base. If they are small enough, you can take them off with your hand; they are less likely to regenerate if removed rather than sliced.
- Plan for future growth of the tree. Remove the entire branch if there is no new growth within reach on a tall branch. These are unlikely to be productive, and removing them guarantees that the tree’s energy is directed toward plenty of new product development. If the tree doesn’t have enough upward-curving main branches, look for a subsidiary branch with new upward-curving growth and cut back. This will be one of the primary branches in subsequent seasons.
Remove the smaller peaches and thin them out.
Take the tiny peaches out about a month after your peach tree blooms, leaving the larger ones spaced six to eight inches apart. This allows the remaining fruit to get more nutrients.
Pest control and disease prevention
Peach leaf curl and brown rot are destructive to crop yields, but both can be controlled with the right fungicides. Peachtree borers are dangerous pests that can be controlled using insecticide. Apply fungicides and pesticides now, rather than waiting for these pests and diseases to attack your peach trees.
How to harvest your peach trees
A newly planted peach tree will normally not bear fruit the first year, but those developed from seed can yield a good crop in three to four years. Peach trees will produce many little green peaches in the early summer months after their stunning pink spring flowers.
However, you must trim your crop in addition to the natural fruit drop that peach trees experience at this stage of maturity, or you may be disappointed with walnut-sized fruit at harvest time. All but the largest fruits should be removed from each branch, leaving at least 6 inches between them.
Softwood cuttings are the most convenient technique to propagate a non-grafted tree. In the spring, when the growth is tender and green, take a nine-inch cutting. To help the cutting, dip it in the rooting hormone, plant it in a sterile potting medium, and keep it moist. In about a month, roots should appear.
How to store your peaches
- They should last around 5 days in the fridge.
- Fresh peaches can also be used to make peach jam or peach butter.
- For long-term storage, peaches can be canned or frozen.
Pest and diseases
The peach tree borer is the most common peach tree pest. In the fall, this clearwing moth, which looks like a wasp, lays its eggs on tree bark. The grubs hatch and dig into the trunk, feeding on the trunk and the roots. Look for a jelly-like sap around the entrance hole and use a wire to impale grubs.
In terms of illnesses, a fungus can induce peach tree leaf curl, which results in browning and deformation of the leaves. To prevent and control this problem, apply a copper-based fungicide in late fall or early spring.