ABOUT PEACHES: Prunus persica

ROSACEAE

Relatives: Almond, Cherry, Plum

There are probably thousands of Peach cultivars throughout the world, but they almost surely originated from China, where they have been in cultivation for many thousands of years. They probably traveled to other areas (notably Iraq) along with the traders on the old silk trading routes. In China, the Peach has long held a position in lore as it was believed to bestow longevity, sincerity, and was often viewed as a symbol of the female genitalia. Even the ancient Egyptians viewed the peach as worthy of offering to their Gods. The name persica is derived from Persia, which is where Europeans probably first found Peaches. Peaches can be either Freestone (with a very juicy (which have a firmer flesh and are better suited to canning).

DESCRIPTION

Not much to marvel over, Peach trees are not very large nor are they particularly long lived (although we have seen some Peach trees that we were told were 20 years old. Best to not plan on that much longevity, as a more reasonable life expectancy is about 5 to 6 years).
Leaves: Deciduous and quite long in length, they are slightly folded along the center rib and very lightly serrated along the leaf edges.
Flowers: In early spring, very pretty flowers emerge with colors from white to purple to a red to pink and combination of all the above. Some Peaches are grown only for their pretty spring flowers, although it seems a waste to me to ignore such wonderful fruits. An early spring frost is one potential problem that growers have to deal with. Pollination- many of the modern Peach cultivars are actually self fertile and do not require another Peach to pollinate; of course insects and bees also help in pollination.
Fruit: Mature, ripe fruit has a single seed surrounded by the most wonderful tasting and smelling fruit this side of Heaven. The skin is rather thin and often fuzzy and can be eaten with the flesh but often imparts a tart flavor.

CULTIVATION

Location: Simply put, they grow best in full sun; cooler and moist climates can contribute to Peach diseases.
Temperature: Mature trees grow and produce the best fruits in long, warm growing seasons- hot days and warm nights seem to work best. If possible, avoid planting Peach trees in low lying areas that can be more susceptible to frost.
Chilling: Chilling refers to the number of hours, 45 degrees F and under, during the dormancy period. All fruit and nut trees need a specific amount of chilling hours before they will produce fruit. The amount varies with each variety and the hours need not be continuous. For example as listed: (500 hours).
Soil/water/nutrients: Peaches prefer a well drained location as too much water will eventually kill them. Fairly drought tolerant, none the less adequate moisture will increase fruiting numbers and taste but not to the point of water logging the roots. Peaches are what I call a 'heavy feeder', meaning their nutriment needs will benefit from a supplemental feeding on a regular basis: use a good quality, balanced fertilizer two to three times a growing season. Traces of Zinc and magnesium are also helpful.
Pruning: Generally speaking, pruning of your Peach tree will need to be done on an annual basis. Peaches set fruit on last years growth, so keep that in mind. We prefer to prune our Peaches in late winter while they are still dormant but when the threat of colder weather is less likely. To start your pruning, pick about four to six lateral branches growing around the tree, and remove the other branches to encourage the ones you saved to grow stronger. After a year or two, prune back the ends of these saved laterals to encourage branch fruiting. While pruning, it is a good idea to try to avoid pruning out any upcoming flower buds which are fatter than the leaf buds. Peach trees also can be espaliered or grown against a south facing wall, although with the relative shortness of Peach tree life, putting too much energy into this effort is up to you.
Pests and diseases: Oh Boy! Peaches are prone to a bunch of problems including rolling of leaves, scabs, rots, mildew, spots, insects, galls, borers, scales, tent caterpillars, along with some bacterial problems. And if you survive all that, you then get to fight the squirrels and birds (and probably your neighbors, too) from eating your fruits. But even with such a laundry list of potential and promised problems and hassles, there can be little else in this world that can even begin to come close to picking a fresh peach off your own tree on a warm late summer day! And don't even get me started on watching what the Grand-kids do to a fresh peach..

CULTIVARS

There are many good Peach cultivars out there, but they all have different chilling requirements and do best in different climatic zones. Rabbit Ridge Nursery currently offers the following cultivars, which will do quite nicely in our area:

(Click on Peach Variety to link to that Peach)

QUICK FACTS

AVERAGE YEARS TO BEARING: 4 + years

AVERAGE YIELD PER TREE: 2 to 2 1/2 bushels

SPACE NEEDED PER TREE: 15 foot circle

POLLINATION REQUIREMENTS: Self fertile, but better fruit set when crossed with another Peach tree that blooms at the same time yours does

COMMON INSECT PESTS: Fruit moth, curculio

COMMON DISEASES: Leaf curl, valsa canker, brown rot, bacterial spot

USEFUL LIFE: 12 + years

NUMBER OF TREES FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: 2 - 3 trees

BEARS FRUIT ON: One year old wood

A FINAL WORD ON PEACH FRUITS AND PEACH TREE ROOTSTOCK

All RRN Peach Trees are grafted onto Premium Rootstock, are low chill cultivars, and will grow very well in our Climatic Zone.

++ means Peach Tree is grafted onto Nemaguard Rootstock
00 means Peach Tree is grafted onto Lovell Rootstock
$$ means Peach Tree is grafted onto Siberian C. Rootstock
CP means Peach Tree is grafted onto Citation Plum Rootstock
*H* means Peach Tree is an Heirloom Cultivar