Overcome the Challenges of Growing Peaches

Few fruit say summer quite like a tree-ripe peach, dripping juice down your chin and hands all the way to your elbows. Although you are unlikely to find this perfect peach at the grocery store – peaches do not continue to ripen more once picked — you can enjoy this treat if you grow your own. Growing top quality peaches is not without its challenges. If you are prepared, however, you can conquer them with a little bit of knowledge and regular attention.

How to Grow Peach Trees by Stella Otto

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Reliance Peach Tree Production Two Years After Planting

In March of 2013 we planted five fruit trees at the house. Of those trees two were semi-dwarf peach trees, one was a majestic peach and the other a reliance peach. The first year we planted them they both had tons of little baby peaches, but we had to force ourselves to thin them down to just a few. That year we got one cute little peach that the bugs decided to share with us. Then last year we had lots of blossoms and we still thinned them, but the bugs and fungus were horrible and we got nothing.

This year we had a late frost. We tried covering our fruit trees with sheets, but they are about to get too big to effectively do that. Our majestic peach tree blooms early and did not fair too well because of the frost. However, the reliance peach tree blooms later and is a beautiful sight this year. Just look at all of those peaches!

First Production of Young Semi-Dwarf Reliance Peach Tree
First Real Production of Our Young Semi-Dwarf Reliance Peach Tree

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Tips for Planting Apple Trees

After our visit to Century Farm Orchards, we went up to the land to plant and cage as many of our apple trees as we could before dark. Right now, we are planting a single row of apple trees along the long road that is the entrance to our land. As soon as we can get a patch of land cleared off (this has not gone as expected), we intend to plant our full orchard (20 trees at a time). The orchard will mostly consist of apple trees, but we also plan on peach, plum, and a couple of nut trees. We have already planted 5 trees at the house and 5 trees at the land. But still we are learning so much.

Preparing the Soil

Apple trees like a neutral pH (meaning 7). Around here our soil is naturally acidic and a hard clay. Be sure to test and know your soil to determine if you will need to amend. For us, this means we will need to add lime to raise our pH. Most lime available in garden centers is dolomitic lime. Dolomitic lime also contains magnesium. Over time an overabundance of magnesium can block the absorption of calcium. However, our NC clay is so nutrient deficient it may take a decade or more for that to occur. So for planting we will use a granular dolomitic lime. When digging the hole, put all of the dirt into a wheel barrow rather than on the ground next to the hole. Once the hole is dug, mix in the soil amendments (for us 2 to 3 Lbs of  dolomitic lime) into the soil (clay) in the wheel barrow with a trowel or shovel. When we planted our first trees at the house I was concerned that we had done them an injustice by using the clay from the hole we dug. I thought it would be better for the trees to use a bought better quality soil, but we were too cheap to do that. However, what we learned from Anne Stomp on our visit to Century Farm Orchards is that it is best to use the native soil from the dug hole. A tree’s roots will become trained to the soil that it is planted in. If store bought soil is used to fill the hole, once the roots grow and reach the outer edge of the hole they will stop extending and begin to grow around as though it was potted because it does not recognize the soil.  This circular growth of the roots will be a problem as the tree matures because the roots will not provide a proper strong foundation for the tree. A shallow root system may cause the tree to be damaged or completely uprooted in a storm. Also, if the roots are not extending out to reach available nutrients and water beyond the base of the tree, it may become under nourished over time. It is therefore best for the tree to become accustomed to the native soil from the time of planting so that it will continue to extend its roots further developing a strong root system. I was relieved to know that we inadvertently did the right thing when planting our first trees.
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How and Why to Paint Fruit Tree Trunks

With all of the leaves now fallen away from our fruit trees we needed to paint the tree trunks white. We did this for those that were already planted and those that were still in pots waiting to be planted.

Painted Tree Trunks
Painted Tree Trunks

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Visit to Century Farm Orchards and More Apple Trees!

Yesterday morning Jon, Sarah, and I went to the Century Farm Orchards Open House in Reidsville, NC. Their open house is every Saturday in November and February each year. This is a priceless and lovely family ran orchard that specializes in heritage varieties of apple trees. We signed the guest register when we first arrived. There were visitors from Georgia and South Carolina. We had no idea this was such a big deal. There were quite a few people there.

There were over 100 varieties of apples on display. We had heard of very few of them. We were able to taste test many varieties and sampled their apple cider. Over the course of the time we were there, I believe Sarah may have drank her weight in apple cider. We were taking notes on the varieties we liked. Bill even mentioned making “good” cider requires crab apples. We were immediately intrigued. We have an ornamental crab apple tree that we made jelly from. It was tasty, but those tiny crab apples were a test for the ole patience. He showed us a few varieties of crab apples that were golf ball size. We honestly did not know crab apples could be so big! I guess what we were used to seeing is the various ornamental crab apples. When we asked Bill for some suggested crab apple varieties for cider he deferred us to Anne who was nearby giving instruction on all things apple. We learned a lot of information on the history of certain apple varieties.

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Caging the Apple Trees for Deer Protection

Saturday we went out to the land to try get some work down. We have so many plans for it, but honestly time, money, and circumstances have made things move slower than we had hoped. I won’t go into the specifics, but the big hold up is that we are currently waiting to clear off a section of the land so that we can prepare it to plant fruit trees. We hope to have a full orchard and some grape vines by the time we move out there. Thus, they are one of our first priorities because of the time it takes them to mature.

While we are unable to plant our orchard at this time, we did plant 5 apple trees this past spring along the driveway entrance. To our dismay they were quite the tasty treat for the deer and the trees were very damaged. We were heart broken, but they were still alive.

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Peach Trees First Fruit – Remove or Not Remove?

There seems to be a debate about whether to remove the first fruits of a peach tree (or any fruit tree). Some say removing the first fruits of a young peach tree will allow the tree to focus its energy on growing strong roots and developing its size so that it will produce larger amounts quicker and be able to provide adequate nutrients to its fruit in future seasons. While others say this is true, but not necessary. The argument is that it does no real harm to the tree to allow the first fruits to grow and you do not have to wait another full year to see some literal “fruits of labor”. The first fruits will not be as plentiful and maybe not as large, but it would be something.

About a month ago we bought 2 peach trees from Tractor Supply. These trees had already been pre-pruned to give them the U-shape that is desired for peach trees. They were good size trees with a descent thickness to their trunk (approximately 1 inch diameter). They were already blooming when we purchased them.  Initially, I would have guessed the trees were about 2 years old.
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Plant Trees Not Sticks

Last spring Jon and I started discussing and had decided that we wanted to plant some fruit trees. While our grapevines and blueberry bushes have done quite well, nothing else in the long list of bare root vines and trees had any success. We watered and mulched and watched them all year, but absolutely none of the bare root trees survived!

We left all the “sticks” planted until this season just on the chance they were some how still dormant, but it is evident they are dead.

Dead Not Dormant Peach Stick
Dead Not Dormant Peach Stick

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Apple and Peach Sticks Finally Arrive

Finally, our other order of trees and raspberry vines came!  We ordered this list of trees and raspberry vines below on April 25th.

  • Belle of Georgia Peach Trees – Dwarf avail. (Tree Height: Dwarf 2-3ft (grows 40% normal size))
  • Elberta Peach Trees – Dwarf avail. (Tree Height: Dwarf 2-3ft (grows 40% normal size))
  • McIntosh Apple Trees – Dwarf avail. (Tree Height: Dwarf 2-3ft (grows 40% normal size))
  • Granny Smith Apple Trees – Dwarf avail. (Tree Height: Dwarf 2-3ft (grows 40% normal size))
  • Yellow Delicious Apple Trees – Dwarf avail. (Tree Height: Dwarf 2-3ft (grows 40% normal size))
  • Gala Apple Trees – Dwarf avail. (Tree Height: Dwarf 2-3ft (grows 40% normal size))
  • Heritage Everbearing Raspberry
  • Latham Red Raspberry

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Trees and Bushes

We had been talking for awhile now about how bad the economy has gotten and how expensive everything has become. Just the fundamentals in life like food and water just keep creeping in price.  And if you want fresh fruit or vegetables, well it’s just plain ridiculous!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to supply some of our own fresh fruit? Oh, and even better if we had enough for preserves and jams! Growing up we always had apple trees, pear trees, black walnut trees, black berries, and dew berries readily available. I took it for granted as a child.

As kids when out playing we would just go pick an apple when we wanted one.  I used to like to pick them green before they had ripened.  I did suffer the random tummy ache because of eating too many!