Growing peaches brings beautiful blossoms as a precursor to the succulent fruit. Originally grown in China, peach trees were especially admired as their blossom arrives before their leaves.
Although growing peaches requires your commitment in helping your peach tree establish itself well, techniques needed are easy enough for even the most inexperienced gardeners.
Before you continue reading below, check out the following overview pages if you haven't done so already. They contain important general instructions that apply to most types of fruit trees...
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Choose a one year old peach tree for planting. This will be about 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120cm) tall. It is often harder to train an effective structure if you buy an older tree.
Peach trees should be planted when they are fully dormant in mid winter to early spring. Avoid times when the ground is waterlogged or frozen. They are self-fertile and don’t need any other plants for pollination.
Peaches will be affected by late frosts. Avoid planting in an area that catches early morning sun as this will create problems after frosts for any peach blossom.
If the ground conditions are not correct for planting after you’ve bought your peach tree, you can make a temporary home for it. The best place is a north facing wall that won’t attract too much light. Dig a trench in the ground just big enough to contain the tree’s roots. Heel the plant in and cover it loosely with soil. This provides your tree better conditions than staying in its pot as its roots won’t get pot bound. You can then plant it permanently at the next opportunity winter weather permits.
When planting your peach tree in its final destination, dig a hole big enough to easily plant the full tree and roots. Before planting, check whether your tree has any damaged roots. If you find any, remove them with a pair of sharp shears. Do this sparingly.
After the damaged roots are removed, place the tree in the hole and fill half the depth with soil. Firm in the soil with your feet, then pack the rest of the hole with soil. Don’t leave soil low around that trunk so that water can collect there. Add more top soil to create a small mound if necessary.
Water well after planting.
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Ensure that your peach tree does not suffer droughts by keeping it well-watered, particularly in the first three years of growth as its roots establish.
Organic bloodmeal fertilizer should be applied in spring and late summer each year. Make the summer application when the fruit harvest has finished as it is to replenish the tree for the following year. The amount of fertilizer needed will increase as the tree grows.
Peaches are best pruned into an open fan shape. Once you’ve planted your peach, prune it so there is a 15 inch (38cm) gap between the lowest lateral branch and the ground. Prune higher branches so they are no taller than 30 inches (76cm) from the ground.
During the first year’s growth you should prune out weaker branches, leaving strong scaffold branches. Prune any other branches back to the trunk. If you don’t do this in the summer, complete pruning in the spring to structure your tree.
Peaches grow on branches that grew the previous year. Work at creating a good structure that allows air flow over the first two years. Fruit will then start to develop on branches during the third or fourth year.
Once fruit has set on mature trees, it’s important to thin peaches out. Otherwise branches may snap as fruit grows. Leave at least a 6 inch (15cm) gap between each peach. Pull other fruit off by hand, pulling the stems quickly and firmly without tearing.
Pick your peach when at least 75% of the fruit’s green skin has begun to turn yellow. Peach trees usual have fruit that ripens together… a whole tree may ripen in a week.
The outer branches that have been more exposed to light will ripen first. Work from the outside of the tree inwards over time.
When picking, don’t be tempted to squeeze fruit as this will cause bruising. Take hold of the peach with your fingertips and lift and turn it until the stem breaks. Avoid pulling and tearing fruit from the branches. Be careful not to lay peaches more than three deep as you’re collecting them or the lower fruit will be damaged.
If your peaches need ripening, place them in a paper bag at room temperature. Once they're ripe they will keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
For longer-term storage, peaches can be frozen - ideally in syrup…
Peaches are divided into clingstone and freestone varieties. Freestones have flesh that separates easily from the stone. These are much better for freezing.
The best method for longer-term storage is to add peaches to a syrup. Peel, halve and remove the stone from the fruit. Make up a syrup using 2 and 3/4 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water.
Add some cold syrup to the bottom of your container and add peaches. Press them downwards adding more syrup and peaches to almost fill the container. Leave at least 1.5 inches (3 cm) of headspace for expansion during freezing.
Being careful to prune peach trees effectively is essential for avoiding diseases such as prune scab. Increasing air flow particularly in wet weather will reduce the chances of spores spreading.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Peaches. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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