In this beginner’s guide to growing peach trees, you’ll find in-depth instruction on planting and growing the healthiest peach trees possible. Growing peach trees is an investment in the health and well-being of your family. So it’s important to start out right.
Beginner’s Guide to Growing Peach Trees
Because of the many benefits healthy peaches provide for our immune systems, the importance of growing peach trees is evident in this day of the pandemic.
Peaches that are grown organically in healthy soil offer micronutrients and antioxidants. There is also some research that shows that bioactive compounds in peaches may help with obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Peaches are on the dreaded dirty dozen list published yearly by the Environmental working group because of the heavy use of pesticides. This makes growing peach trees a healthy decision that will last for generations.
Deciding Which Peach Tree Variety to Grow
Deciding which is the best peach tree variety to grow depends on your primary needs and how you’re going to use them.
There are over 2,000 varieties of peach trees in the world! With 300 of those being in the U.S. This handy guide from Mississippi State University will help you choose the best variety for your growing zone.
How to Plant Peach Trees
Growing peach trees is second only to growing apple trees here in America. Because peach trees live for years, planting them properly will give them the best start to produce fruit for years to come.
- First, it’s important to select a peach tree that is suited to your climate. The best time to plant fruit trees is in the winter. This gives their root systems time to establish before the rush of spring growth.
- You will want to make sure you select a sunny but sheltered site.
- A slightly elevated site is better than one that is depressed where frost might settle.
- If you’re planting a bare root tree, dig the hole twice the diameter of the longest root. This will plenty of room for all the root system to spread out evenly.
- If your peach tree is in a pot, dig the hole twice the size of the pot it is in. Remove the tree from the pot and gently loosen the soil to free the root system.
- For either type, bare root or potted peach tree, place the tree in the hole so that the crown of the plant (where the stem comes out of the ground) is even with the top of the hole.
- Refill the hole with healthy soil and pack the dirt to remove air holes.
- Water thoroughly. It’s important to water deeply and mulch around the root zone to help retain moisture.
- If planting more than one tree, plant them 18 feet apart to give plenty of room for the branches to grow without the peach trees shading one another.
- For dwarf peach tree varieties, you need to leave 5 feet between trees.
When growing peach trees, you only have to plant one because they are self-pollinating. I believe it’s beneficial to plant at least two so that if you have some problem with one tree, you may still reap a harvest from the other.
Even though peach trees don’t require one another for pollination, some old-timers have said they had greater yields when they had several varieties planted in the same grove.
How to Grow Peach Trees
Peach trees will begin to produce fruit between 2-4 years of age. A dwarf peach tree variety may produce fruit at 1-2 years of age.
Sun Requirements for Growing Peach Trees:
Peach trees need full sun to remain healthy. They should be planted where they receive full sun. They do best when planted in full sun but with some shelter from the wind.
Soil Requirements for Growing Peach Trees:
Peach trees need well-draining soil. Soil on the sandy side will do best.
Mulch and compost around the base of the tree as far away from the trunk as the longest branches reach. This will help suppress the weeds, maintain moisture, and keep the soil slightly acidic.
Water Requirements for Peach Trees
If you do proper mulching, at least 3 inches thick, watering your peach trees will be kept to a minimum. The soil needs to be evenly moist, especially for the first two years of growth.
Temperature and Humidity When Growing Peach Trees
Most varieties of peach trees prefer moderate temperatures and generally grow best in growing zones 5-8. There are some varieties that grow well in zones 4-9.
As with any plant, you can expand the growing requirements with a greenhouse where you can control the temperature and humidity.
Peach trees can tolerate humid conditions but, too much can encourage fungal diseases. When temperatures drop below 0 degrees F, peach trees will need additional care to remain healthy.
Many people aren’t aware of the fact that some peach tree varieties need 600 hours of chilling under 45 degrees to trigger fruiting. Growing peach trees suited for your growing zone is important to avoid wasting money and time.
Peach trees need to become dormant and exposed to a certain period of chilling temperatures. This is called the chill hour requirement. The chill requirement varies between different varieties of peach trees.
If the chill requirement is not met, the tree will likely produce little to no fruit at all.
Once the chill requirement of the peach tree has been met, any warm up to 45 degrees F will likely cause the trees to bloom prematurely. These blooms will likely be killed by the next frost.
Growing a peach tree with the correct chill requirement for your growing zone will ensure it will not consistently bloom prematurely and lose the chance of a harvest.
To get the average chilling period for your location, you can use this chill hours calculator.
Thinning the Fruit
Less is more, thinning the blooms or fruit will give you a larger peach harvest.
Many times the branches can’t support all of the fruit the tree tries to produce in the spring. We had a couple of years that our peach trees cast all their fruit.
We learned from Mr. Ted, a favorite old-timer, that the problem was we didn’t thin the fruit. Overbearing creates stress on the tree as it tries to mature more fruit than it can support.
I’ve seen some people handle this step with the grace of a bull in a china shop, beating the blooms off with anything hard and heavy.
Other people wait until the fruit begins to form and pluck off individual fruit trying to achieve the perfect peach to branch ratio.
Whichever way you decide to go about this, it is something you must do most of the time with peach trees.
Peach trees have a natural fruit drop that happens in the early stages of fruit development, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure that you have around 6 inches between the fruits that you leave on the branches. This usually ensures a full harvest.
Fertilizing Peach Trees
If you want to fertilize your peach trees, make sure to apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer each spring. It’s recommended to use one pound for new trees and add one additional pound for each year of age of the tree. The maximum amount is 10 pounds for mature trees.
Maintaining good soil health by using compost and mulching can keep your tree healthy without the use of any additional fertilizer.
Growing Peach Trees in Containers
Dwarf peach trees make great container plants. A standard variety of peach tree would require constant pruning and shaping to live in a container and the fruit yield will be significantly less.
Choose a planting container at 3 feet wide and 24 inches deep. The soil, light, and moisture requirements are the same for container peach trees as for those planted in the ground. You will have to fertilize or amend the soil every year.
How to Properly Prune a Peach Tree
Pruning your peach trees is an annual chore performed to maintain a manageable size of the tree as well as to allow light contact on the fruit-bearing branches.
When pruning a peach tree, I try to have the tree limbs looking like an upside-down umbrella. Remove any branches growing toward the trunk of the tree or in a way that would shade the fruit-bearing branches next spring.
You want to perform this pruning once all the fruit has been ripened and removed from the tree. It’s getting ready to rest before next spring.
How to Propagate a Peach Tree
The easiest way to propagate a non-grafted tree is through soft-wood cuttings. Softwood refers to the new growth on a tree. This is how many trees are propagated by gardeners.
- Softwood cuttings are best taken in spring by cutting a piece of softwood from the tree that is at least 6 inches long but not more than 12 inches long.
- Make sure that there are at least two healthy leaves on the cutting.
- Remove any flowers or fruit on the cutting.
- Dip the cut end of the softwood in rooting hormone then place that end into a small pot of damp soilless mix potting soil. I like to use coco coir for all my transplants and cuttings.
- Place the cutting in indirect sunlight and keep it moist in a humid environment. You can do this by making a plastic bottle cloche.
- If you don’t have a bottle cloche, you can wrap it in plastic tying off the top for a similar effect. Be careful to not let the plastic touch the cutting.
- Check the plant every two weeks to see if roots have developed. Once roots have developed It is ready to plant when the weather is conducive to its growth.
How to Grow Peach Trees from Seed
When you plant a peach seed you can count on it being at least three years before your first small harvest. If you spend a little for a small tree you will be able to bite into your first peach a year sooner.
To plant peach pits, make sure the soil is healthy and sandy. Plant it the correct distance from other trees that it will need when it is grown. Plant the seed three inches deep in the fall.
You can also plant it in a pot for transplanting. Plant it 3” deep in your pot.
During the winter months, the colder temperatures will help the seed prepare for germination in the spring.
Common Pests and Diseases of Peach Trees
The peach tree borer is the most common pest for peach trees. It is a clearwing moth that looks like a wasp.
It deposits its eggs on the tree bark in the fall of the year. When the eggs hatch, they burrow into the trunk of the tree where they eat the tree and the roots.
Spotting them is easy. Look for a jelly-like sap hole in the trunk. You can run a wire into the hole and drag them out one at a time or use a peach tree borer & clearwing moth trap.
Some of the most common diseases to be aware of when growing peach trees are:
- Brown Rot
- Crown Gall
- Peach Leaf Curl
- Peach Leaf Rust
- Peach Scab
To treat most fungus, most people recommend a copper based fungicide. However, we have had success with Biowash as a healthier alternative.
We have also had success with what we call Neem Oil Soap Spray.
For ½ Gallon of the spray:
- Spray bottle (1/2 Gallon or smaller)
- 1 Tbs pure, cold-pressed, raw neem oil
- 1 tsp pure baking soda
- 1 tsp castile soap or mild dishwashing soap
- Water to fill the bottle
- Add all these to your spray bottle then add enough water to finish filling the bottle.
- Shake well and spray.
- Shake well before each use.
Now you have the information you need to start growing peach trees for fresh, healthy fruit. Enjoy the harvest!