How to Plant and Grow Peach Trees
Taking a bite of a sweet, juicy peach is one of the great pleasures of summer. They are wonderful for making preserves, baking in pies and, of course, eating fresh from the tree. Nectarines are very similar to peaches, except they do not have fuzzy skin, so this advice applies for nectarines too. Peach trees grow best in zones 5-8 and don't grow in areas where winter temperatures dip below minus 10.
Types of Peach Trees
The number of peaches you'll get depends on the size of the tree. Standard-sized peach trees produce more peaches then dwarf trees, but they take longer to begin producing peaches. Dwarf peach trees are generally easier to maintain and produce fruit earlier (within approximately three years).
Peach trees come in different varieties. Unlike many other fruit trees, they don't need another peach tree for pollination (which is essential in order to have fruit) because they fertilize themselves. When selecting your tree, buy bare-root or container-grown trees that are one year old. Peach trees require a certain number of "chilling hours," which is when temperatures dip below 45; chilling hours differ by variety. Contact your county extension service for a list of varieties that do best in your area; just check online or in the phone book in the government pages.
When and How to Plant Peach Trees
Plant your tree in winter or early spring where it will receive at least six hours of full sun daily. Peach trees don't like wet soil and need well-drained soil, which drains easily and doesn't become waterlogged. To improve heavy (clay) soils, mix compost in the planting hole to improve drainage.
Dig planting holes twice as wide as the rootball and 2 ft. deep. When planting a bare-root tree, create a small mound of soil in the bottom of the hole and drape the bare roots on top. Fill with the remaining soil and carefully tamp down the soil in order to remove any air pockets. Water weekly on spring through fall, applying 2 in. of water each time.
Care and Harvest of Peach Trees
Prune peach trees each year while the tree is dormant in winter. Prune them in an "open center" shape, in which the branches grow up and away from the center of the tree. Fertilize peach trees (two years and older) once in early spring and again in late spring using an all-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer, which contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Apply a layer of mulch yearly to keep down weeds and enrich the soil. Watch for damaging insects and fungal problems, and treat as needed with a fungicide or insecticide formulated for fruit trees.
In spring, remove excess young peaches so that there is approximately 4 to 6 in. between each fruit per stem. This is called "thinning," and results in larger, higher-quality peaches later. Peaches are ripe when they are no longer green and they can be twisted easily off the tree.
Eat them soon after picking and enjoy their sweet, juicy taste.
- All-purpose 10-10-10 Fertilizer