Few treats come close to the season's first bite into a freshly harvested peach, juicy and warm from the midsummer sun.
About This Plant
As with most fruit trees, the trick is to start out with the peach
variety that suits your climate. Peaches will grow in USDA zones 4 to 8; they do especially well in zones 6 and 7. Standard-size trees will bear fruits at 3 years of age, dwarfs at 1 to 2 years. Most varieties are self-fertile, so it is not necessary to plant more than one tree. Choose varieties that are right for your area and resistant to disease. A standard-size peach tree will stand 15 feet at maturity if kept pruned, 25 feet if left unpruned. Dwarf trees reach 6 feet in height.
Choose a site with well-drained, sandy soil. Avoid low-lying areas where frost settles.
Plant peaches in the spring, choosing large, vigorous 1-year-old trees. Set bare-root trees atop a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away without unduly bending them. Identify original planting depth by finding color change from dark to light as you move down the trunk towards the roots. If the tree is grafted, position the inside of the curve of the graft union away from the afternoon sun.
For container-grown trees, remove the plant from its pot and eliminate circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and cutting through the roots with shears. Don't cover the top of the root-ball with backfill because it could prevent water from entering.
Plant standard-size trees 15 to 20 feet apart, dwarf trees 10 to 12 feet apart.
Prune trees to an open center shape. Thin fruits to 6 to 8 inches apart 4 to 6 weeks after bloom. Peaches are susceptible to a number of different disease and insect pests, depending on region. Contact your Cooperative Extension office for information on managing pests in your area. Prune trees properly, thin fruit, and harvest fruit when ripe to minimize disease problems.
Pick peaches when fully ripe. There should be no green on the fruit, and fruit should come off the branch with a slight twist. Store peaches in a cool place.
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