Peaches are hardy to zones 5-9. There are several varieties suitable for backyard landscapes, all of which need some period of cold weather before heading into the growing season. Large, vigorous, disease resistant cultivars, at least 1 year in age, are the best choices for planting. Standard-size trees will usually produce fruit at 3 years of age, and dwarf-size trees at 1 to 2 years of age. Most varieties are self-pollinating so you can plant just one tree and get a whole crop.
Select a site that has full exposure to the sun and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Avoid low areas prone to frost pockets or standing water and sites where peach trees have been grown previously. Chokecherries harbor viral diseases and should be located well away from the site.
Peach trees should be planted in the early spring or fall (avoid fall in zone 5). Space standard-size trees 15 to 20 feet apart and dwarf trees 10 to 12 feet apart. Water newly planted trees thoroughly, especially during the first season, to aid in establishing roots.
Peach trees should be pruned annually so they develop an open center or vase-like shape in order to develop strong, well-positioned braches that will support the weight of their fruit. Young trees should be fertilized in the spring and early summer at a rate suitable for their size. Thin fruits to 6 to 8 inches apart approximately 4 to 6 weeks after flowering. This is to ensure that the peaches that remain grow to a good size for harvesting. Peach trees are highly susceptible to disease so be on the lookout for signs of fruit pests and diseases like rot and leaf curl.
Peaches should be harvested when fully ripe as they will not continue to ripen while still on the tree. Fruit will have reached its mature color and will come off the tree easily with a slight lifting and twisting motion. Peaches are easily bruised and damaged and should be handled with care. They are highly perishable and will only last a few days in the refrigerator. Slightly under ripe fruit will last from two to four weeks at temperatures of 31º to 32ºF.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
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