Growing Backyard Peach Trees

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com
Few things can compare to a juicy, tree ripened Texas peach. For my family, they are one of the sweetest chapters of our garden heritage. My daddy was a backyard peach grower and a pretty good one. Although peaches are not the easiest fruit to grow, for over 50 years he proved it can be done in your own backyard.    
How to Grow and Care for Peaches

When to plant peach trees?

Why bring up peaches in December? Winter is the time to plant bare-root peach trees. They should be dormant – no foliage – and planted before spring budbreak. Local nurseries may have stock but bare-root trees can be ordered early in December to have in time for planting. Or, container grown peach trees may be available at local nurseries. Those are best planted in fall or winter.  

What size tree to plant?

Bareroot trees, are usually from 2 to 4 feet tall. A 3 foot tall bare-root tree is prime size for planting. For containerized trees, the younger the tree the better. They establish faster and have fewer root problems.

What peach variety to grow?

In order to set fruit, peach trees require winter chilling – exposure to a minimum number of hours at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold temperatures trigger responses in trees so that buds develop, form flowers and produce fruit. Peach trees do not need another tree for pollination but without adequate chill hours, they will produce little to no fruit.

Each variety of peach has a specific chill hour requirement. Varieties are categorized as high-chilling for 700 to 1000 hour zones, medium chilling varieties for 450 to 650 hour zones and low chilling varieties for 150 to 400 hour zones. In my Brazos County area of Central Texas, the chill hours range from 450 to 750 hours so need medium chilling peach varieties. Ideal varieties are ones around 600 chill hours. 

How to find your chill hours?

One of the simplest ways to learn the chill hour range of a region in Texas is to contact your county’s AgriLife Extension office. Also, on their state website are publications with peach growing information that includes a chill hour map of Texas and a list of peach varieties with their individual chill hour requirements. Find that list and map HERE.

Where to plant peach trees?

Select a site that is sunny at least eight hours a day. It is very important to know that peach trees require almost perfect drainage. If drainage is a problem, plant trees on a slightly raised mound. For optimal results the soil should be slightly acidic, less than a pH of 7.0.

How to plant peach trees?

Dig the hole to accommodate the root system, up to double the width of the root ball. Plant at the same depth the tree was growing if it is bareroot or at the same depth as the container. Place the tree in and water, then fill in and firm the soil around the tree and then, water well enough to settle the soil. Trees will need 1 to 2 inches of water weekly.

How to grow and care for peach trees

In a peach orchard, newly planted trees are highly managed for optimal production. In a backyard setting, management can be less intense. If trees are pruned, it is important to know that fruit is borne on 1 year old wood. The first two years, fertilize trees once a month with nitrogen from May to July. Within 4 to 6 weeks after bloom, thin fruit to 6 to 8 inches apart. This prevents limb breakage, increases individual fruit size and ensures adequate foliage growth. Peaches do not ripen off the tree, so backyard peach trees provide the advantage of harvesting each fruit at its prime. Manage insects and diseases as they occur. Your county Extension professional can help diagnose problems and provide guidance in management.

The information I’ve included here is fairly simple and straightforward compared to commercial production. This approach is based on growing peaches for enjoyment, not profit. My daddy used mostly organic methods to grow peach trees, mulching with compost and some occasional pest management. Unfavorable weather some years affected fruit production. Most years there was a decent crop. My family’s homegrown peach trees were rarely pruned, which is contrary to peach growing recommendations. Pruning and thinning peaches does increase yield.

 
 

Peach cobblers and homemade ice cream were one of the sweetest parts of my family’s summer. Daddy loved to pick a ripe peach, slice it with his pocket knife, and eat it with the juice dripping down his chin. Picking peaches and enjoying the fruits of our labor created special family memories.

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