Widely popular for their sweet, juicy fruits and beautiful blossoms, peach trees appeal to fruit lovers around the world. But buyer beware, peach trees are one of the most susceptible fruit trees to insects, diseases, and environmental hazards and should only be attempted with high levels of engagement. If the time and commitment is there, peach trees can be wonderful additions to a garden.
Peach trees are eligible for a $50 Tree Rebate as long as they’re not dwarf varieties or a saplings.
Peach tree leaves are deciduous, simple, long (3 to 6 inches) dark green leaves that fold distinctly inward and downward. The edges of the leaf are finely serrated.
In early spring, peach trees flower with ruffled blossoms in shades of pink and red. The flower is 2 to 3 cm in diameter and has five petals. Most peach trees are self-fertile but can benefit from cross-pollination.
Depending on the variety, the flesh of a peach can be white, yellow, or red. The skin of most ripe peaches is fuzzy; peaches with smooth skin are called nectarines.
Peach trees have weak branches that can’t handle the heavy load of the fruit and, if left alone, will break under the weight. It’s important to thin the peaches when they are the size of a dime, with a 6 inch spacing, to prevent branch breakage.
The young peach tree bark has horizontally elongated lenticels, typical of cherry trees, with a dark gray color. As the tree matures, the bark lightens up and develops large cracks.
Peach trees are a low, broad tree, with a round crown.
Depending on the variety, peach trees grow between 10 to 25 feet high with an equal width.
Peach trees are native to China, and depending on the variety, will grow in hardiness zones of 4 through 9.
Peach tree leaves have bright yellow colors during fall.
Peach trees require well-drained, somewhat sandy soils with neutral pH levels and very rich nutrients. It’s recommended when planting peach trees to do a soil test and amend the soil with compost or fertilizer for any deficient nutrient. Peach tree roots descend to almost 3 feet deep, so plant trees in deep soils.
Peach trees require full sunlight.
Great peach tree cultivars are Belle of Georgia, Patio Peach and Red Haven.
Most peaches mature between July and August. Peaches can be picked when they are slightly soft and should be eaten soon because they don’t keep long.
Peach trees are susceptible to late frosts, especially while newly planted. If a late frost is predicted, wrap the peach tree in a permeable cloth such as burlap to keep warm. Peach trees produce so many fruits that they require fruit-thinning to avoid branch breakage. Thin the fruit when they are the size of dimes with 6-inch spacing. Peaches are produced on the shoots of the previous season’s growth. When pruning keep at least a third of last year’s growth.
Peaches are susceptible to a wide range of pests. It’s recommended to spray peaches with Surround right after the flower petals fall in spring. Reapply as needed to keep the fruit covered until harvest. If there is a problem with brown rot or bacterial spot, mix lime-sulfur with the Surround spray to cure. Wrapping the fruit in plastic bags when they first emerge is another way to protect the fruit from its many insect pests. An organic spray of one-part Tabasco to five-parts water can be sprayed, and reapplied as needed, to keep animals away from the peaches. Hanging CDs and other shiny objects in the tree will keep birds away from the peaches. Young peaches are susceptible to larvae of the peach tree borer moth at their soil line. Applying moth balls covered in sand or fresh wood ashes around mid-June at the base of the tree should deter adults from laying their eggs.
The peach tree is also susceptible to many bark diseases that show up as cankers, or dead areas of bark. Familiarize yourself with Fuscicoccum, Cytopsora, and Leucostoma cankers and avoid these by pruning only in late spring or early summer (when pruning cuts heal fastest), prune scaffold branches to open up the canopy and increase circulation, and protect the tree from any injury by using arbor guards and possible fencing.
As long as the peach tree is not a dwarf or a sapling it is eligible for a $50 rebate.