Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the "dirty dozen" produce items that contain the most pesticide residue, and peaches are usually in that list. If you want to enjoy this delicious fruit organically, why not consider growing your own peach trees? You don't need the tropical temperatures necessary for citrus fruits like lemons, and you can also opt for flavoursome but thin-skinned types that are too delicate to make it to supermarket shelves.
Peach trees come in various sizes, even dwarf cultivars that you can grow in a container, so there's nothing stopping you from nurturing a peach crop that you can add to cobblers, canned preserves, smoothies, or salsa.
When grown from seed, they usually take around three to four years to produce fruit. Purchasing a young tree means you will enjoy a harvest sooner. Plant your peach tree during late winter or early spring, during its dormancy period.
|Botanical Name||Prunus persica|
|Plant Type||Perennial tree|
|Mature Size||4 to 6 ft. for dwarf trees; 25 ft. for standard trees|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy and well-draining|
|Soil pH||Acidic; 6.0-6.5|
|Hardiness Zones||4 to 9 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Stems, leaves, and pits are toxic to humans and pets|
How to Plant Peach Trees
When selecting a peach tree to plant in your yard, make sure it a cultivar suited to your climate and that you select a sunny, sheltered site. Water deeply and consider mulching around the root zone to seal in that moisture. A slightly elevated site is better than a depression where frost settles.
If you have selected a bare root tree, make sure that the hole you put them in will allow plenty of room for the roots to spread.
Peach trees are self-fertile, so you don't need to plant more than one to produce fruit. If you want to start a mini orchard, make sure they have the proper spacing to prevent them from shading each other at maturity. Plant standard peaches 18 feet apart, and dwarf peaches 5 feet apart.
Peach Tree Care
Peach trees need full sun. Those grown in shade lose their vigor, making them susceptible to pest and disease problems.
Peach trees need good drainage, and like their soil on the sandy side. Adding an organic mulch like leaf mold or compost helps suppress weeds and keeps the soil healthy and slightly acidic.
Keep peach trees evenly moist, especially in the first two years as they establish themselves.
Temperature and Humidity
Peaches like moderate temperatures and generally grow best in USDA growing zones 5-8. However, you can select more cold or heat-tolerant varieties to expand the growing zone to include zones 4 and 9.
Peaches need at least 600 chilling hours at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to trigger fruiting. Extended temperatures below zero may damage the trees. Peaches tolerate humid conditions, but excessive wetness can encourage fungal diseases.
Apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer around your peach trees each spring. Use a pound for new trees, and add a pound each year, up to 10 pounds for standard mature peaches.
Peach Trees Varieties
There are hundreds of peach tree cultivars to choose from. While peach trees can produce clingstone or freestone fruits, conveniently, most varieties sold for home gardens are freestone. You can also choose between yellow or white flesh and early or late-bearing peach trees.
- 'Halehaven' is a very sweet midseason variety. Even the skin is said to be sweet, and the trees are vigorous.
- 'Reliance' is an early season producer making it good for cold regions.
- 'Galaxy' and 'Saturn' are both donut-shaped peaches that have sweet white flesh.
- 'Bonanza' is a dwarf peach tree that only reaches 6 feet tall but produces full-sized fruit.
Peach Trees vs. Nectarine Trees
As a tree, peaches and nectarines are the same species—Prunus persica. The nectarine fruit is fuzz-free and somewhat smaller and sweeter than the peach. Peach trees may sometimes grow nectarines, and nectarine trees may grow peaches. Professional growers control their crop by growing grafted branches that previously produced nectarines and grafting them onto peach trees. Fuzziness is a dominant trait, but if your peach trees decide to go rogue and produce a nectarine crop, consider it a two-for-one bonus.
A planted peach tree won't usually produce fruit for the first year and those grown from seed can produce a decent harvest in three to four years. Following their showy pink spring blooms, peach trees will exhibit many tiny green peaches in the early summer months. However, in addition to the natural fruit drop that peach trees do in this stage of development, you must also thin your crop or face the disappointment of walnut-sized fruit at harvest time. Remove all but the largest fruits from each branch, leaving at least 6 inches between fruits.
How to Grow Peach Trees in Pots
Dwarf peach trees make great container specimens. Choose a container at least 3 feet across. Never let your peach tree container dry out and protect it from hard freezes in a sheltered area like a garage or shed.
It may seem strange removing healthy branches from a thick, bushy peach tree, but proper pruning is vital for managing the fruit size and ensuring enough light is received on fruit-bearing branches.
When pruning a peach tree, the finished look of the branches should have a herringbone pattern with an open center, like a vase. Perform pruning in July, removing upright shoots that shade fruiting branches in the tree's interior. The amount of light that you allow to reach these fruiting branches following pruning is important for the development of next season's flower buds.
The easiest way to propagate a non-grafted tree is through softwood cuttings. Take a nine-inch cutting in the spring when growth is soft and green. Dip it in rooting hormone to help the cutting take, plant the cutting in a sterile potting medium, and keep it moist. Roots should form in around a month.
How to Grow Peach Trees From Seed
Peach pits will grow outdoors with little intervention. Plant the seed three inches deep outdoors in the fall. Cold winter temperatures will allow the embryo to mature. The seed will germinate in the spring, and you can transplant your young tree to its permanent location.
Common Pests and Diseases
The most significant peach tree pest is the peach tree borer. This clearwing moth resembles a wasp and deposits its eggs on tree bark in the fall. The grubs hatch and burrow into the trunk, where they feed on the trunk and roots. Look for a jelly-like sap at the entry hole, and impale grubs with a wire.
In terms of diseases, a fungus can cause peach tree leaf curl, leading to leaf browning and deformity. Use a copper-based fungicide in late fall or early spring to prevent and control this issue.