The Q&A Archives: Peach Tree in the Low Desert

Question: I moved into a house with a peach tree in the backyard. How do I take care of it? No peaches have appeared during this first year that I have lived there. There must have been peaches in the past, the pits are all around the yard.

Answer: Peach trees require slow deep watering, with water penetrating 3 feet deep and out to the dripline, or edge of the canopy. In winter, water about every 3-4 weeks; in summer, about every 2 weeks, or perhaps more frequently depending on your soil type, sun exposure, weather conditions, rainfall, etc. The tree shouldn't be stressed for water. Deciduous fruit trees are fertilized with nitrogen when they begin to leaf out, usually in February. After flowering and pollination, fruit trees will set more fruit than the tree can support. Thus, you must thin the fruit to about a six-inch spacing. The earlier this is done, the more likely the remaining fruit will be large.

Deciduous fruit trees have "chilling requirements" to set fruit. Chilling hours are defined as those in which the temperature is below 45 degrees F. Most of the Phoenix area receives somewhere between 300 and 400 chilling hours per year. So, it's important to have a tree variety that requires less than 400 chilling hours. In warm years, there may be less fruit set. In addition, many fruit trees require cross pollination with another tree to bear fruit. Since you have evidence of the pits, you probably have a self-pollinating tree. It's best not to spray around your yard with chemicals, which can kill beneficial pollinating insects. Depending on the variety of peach, fruit is usually ready for harvest in May or June. Note that some years, peach trees will produce better than others in our low desert conditions.

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