No peaches on my tree... - Knowledgebase Question

Graham, WA
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Question by Baseball_Jun
August 31, 2006
I have a peach tree at my new home and in the spring it looked kind of scrawny and unproductive. We bought the house after the blossoms would have been on it so I didn't see any. It didn't show ANY fruit and I was considered yanking it and getting another...Low and behold 2 weeks ago, I was mowing under it and was BRAINED by two tennis ball sized peaches which were ripe and to my wife and my surprise turned out to be perhaps the tastiest peaches I have ever sampled!! What can I do to ensure a full load next year instead of just a measly TWO???

a mildy retarded but avid gardener

Answer from NGA
August 31, 2006
First of all, congratulations on your discovery! Peach trees will bear heavier and heavier crops as they mature so 2 fruit from a young tree isn't unusual at all. Just for future reference, peach trees need at least 40 leaves to support each peach to maturity. So, the more leaves your tree has, the more potential it has to produce lots of fruit.

Here are some basic peach growing instructions from an article in National Gardening magazine: Keep trees well watered and fed. Water trees infrequently but deeply. The frequency will vary by climate and weather, but the soil should be moist down to at least two feet for dwarf trees and three to four feet for full-size trees. In arid summer regions, this means watering once every two to four weeks. Too much or too little water can cause fruit drop. Use a mulch, such as compost or straw, to help maintain even soil moisture. Apply an organic fertilizer, such as compost or aged manure, or a complete commercial fertilizer such as a 10-4-4 if growth is poor. Too much fertilizer can cause bland, soft fruit that is more susceptible to brown rot. The best time to apply fertilizer is in early spring.

For best growth, regularly prune and thin. The primary objectives of pruning fruit trees are to create a strong tree form and to maximize the harvest. Because the tree produces fruit only on certain "fruiting woods", you maximize harvest by pruning to renew fruiting wood. Some trees, such as peaches and apricots, must be pruned heavily to remain productive.

Here are some basics on pruning peach trees: Peach trees produce best when trained to an open center, meaning that you want to end up with 3-4 main side branches ("scaffold branches"), avoiding a central leader trunk. If yours tree is fairly young and has had no previous pruning, head it back to 30-36" tall. Scaffold branches should be at least 20" off the ground and form a 45 degree angle with the trunk. If the tree has good candidates for scaffold branches, cut them back to 4-5". They should have at least a couple of buds each, which will branch out into fruiting limbs. You should have all the scaffold branches chosen and pruned appropriately by the beginning of the spring after planting. If during the second summer you notice the scaffolds bending to a wider than 45 degree angle, you'll need to remove some wood, lessening the weight on the branch. It's the only summer pruning you should have to do. By the fourth year, the tree should be bearing, and your pruning should be reduced to removing dead/weak/crossing/damaged branches, with the goal of keeping the center open, and the lateral branches within easy picking height. Older, slower growing trees need even less pruning - head back lateral branches that have grown less than 8" in a year to the next outward-branched lateral limb. Thin the number of fruits a tree sets to get larger, higher-quality fruit and to encourage steady, year-to-year productivity. The best time to thin is once fruits are one-half to one inch in diameter. In most cases, thin to allow six to eight inches between fruits.

Hope this information helps you help your peach tree develop into a spectacular and heavy-bearing addition to your landscape!

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