How to Grow Peaches
**Peaches have the reputation of being hard to grow. While it is true that both the trees and fruits are fragile and the ideal growing range is limited, if you find the right variety for your region, you will find it is worth the trouble because fresh picked peaches taste so much better than store bought ones.
**Most peaches are self-fertile, so you only need to grow one if you want and you will still get fruit. However, if you plant different varieties, you can even have fruit from July to September.
**Peaches grow on attractive trees about 20 feet tall that have pink flowers in the spring and bear fruit when they are as young as 3 years old. However, they are also short-lived trees (compared to other fruit trees), so it is a good idea to plant replacement trees when yours are aging.
**The tricky part of growing peaches is temperature. Most of the best peaches will not handle winter temperatures colder than minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, peaches tolerate warm climates better than most other fruit trees such as apples, pears, and plums.
**There are dwarf varieties, but the best ones (currently) are still the standard-sized ones, which are more reliable and can be kept low and easy to pick with good pruning techniques.
**The ideal site for peaches is on a slope above a body of water, which tends to draw off the cold air and keep the temperature even. Never plant them in a frost pocket where cold air collects at night. A south facing slope is best.
**Full sun is critical for the ripening of the fruits.
**The site must also be perfectly well drained to prevent rotting problems.
**Peaches like a light, fertile soil that is sandy or even gravelly, so it will warm up well. The soil should be well supplied with organic matter and have a pH as close to 6.5 as possible. Here is a good pH soil tester.
**Plant peaches in the spring while they are still dormant. Buy vigorous 1 year old trees and plant them 20-25 feet apart (10-12 feet apart for dwarfs). The graft should be just 2 inches above the soil surface, and the trunk should be protected against rodent damage. Paint the trunk white to protect it from sunscald.
**When planting the new tree, cut it back to 2-3 feet tall, removing any lateral branches that have formed. Water the tree well and mulch it, but not close to the trunk.
**About six weeks after planting, you can scatter some compost around the young peach tree, then each year feed it in the spring and again in the early summer. It is important to fertilize peaches lightly. Too much growth can produce weak-limbed trees. Do not fertilize after early summer because it will stimulate its’ growth but it will not harden (and thus will be harmed) by wintertime.
**Do not prune after early summer or even water too heavily unless the soil is very dry. If your soil is very rich, you might want to grow grass around the trees to slow their growth. Otherwise, keep a mulch on the ground.
**Peach trees need careful pruning. In warm climates, do it when trees are dormant. In cooler climates, wait until you can tell which wood has been winterkilled, if any.
**With peaches, it is important not to prune when temperatures are still very cold. Unless the tree is a strongly upright-growing variety, it is best pruned with an open center (without a central leader). Allow three strong lateral branches to develop. As other laterals and side branches grow in, eliminate downward-growing ones and those that are turned back in toward the center, always trying to keep sunlight into the middle of the tree.
**Fruit is produced on lateral twigs formed the previous season, so leave shoots that are healthy, strong, and over 10 inches long so that they can provide you with the best fruit the next year.
**Thinning the fruit is very important for peach trees, because if there is too much fruit on a branch, the branch will break off. When the fruit is small, therefore, simply pluck off some of the small fruits and leave the best ones to grow to full size, leaving about 5 inches between each remaining fruit.
**An old, neglected tree can be gradually renewed by cutting back, each year, one or more of the older upper branches, opening up the center, and making room for productive new growth to develop lower on the tree.
**A peach tree will give you about 10 years of good harvests.
**The two most important things to know about harvesting peaches is: (1) They MUST be ripened on the tree (2) They MUST be picked carefully.
**Only pick peaches that have completely lost its’ green color. It should be slightly firm but should come off the twig with just a slight twist.
**Store them in a cool spot so that they do not overripe and you can eat and enjoy them all.
What is your favorite way to eat Peaches? I’d love some new recipes!