Growing Peaches

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In Texas, peaches are the number one deciduous fruit crop. Texans grow more peaches than any other tree fruit crop but still don’t have enough to export out of state.

Locally, I don’t know of a peach orchard (that still exists) within Angelina County. For me and worlds of other folks, a fresh juicy peach is one of the best fruits out there!

According to an article in Horticultural Review, peaches were originally found in modern day China thousands of years ago. Much later they were a prized fruit in the Roman era and were eventually brought to the America’s by the Spanish in the 16th century.

And the state historical association states there was a town named Peach in Wood County in north east Texas. The settlement was given the name in the late 1800’s due to the large number of peach orchards in the area. In 1902, it finally got a post office officially designating it as Peach, TX. Nothing is left of Peach, TX today.

Today, Weatherford lays claim as the “Peach Capitol of Texas”.

Growing peaches takes a good site. Deep sandy soils that can be found around here are the best. Peaches will not tolerate poorly drained soil and must have a full day of sun to reach maximum production. If the recent rains have left your yard a soggy mess for a couple of days, then peaches may not take well to your location.

Peaches can be grown as a solitary tree since they are self-pollinating. Weed control is crucial in the first couple of years after planting. Weeds (even the turfgrass that you let grow near the stem) will aggressively compete for water and nutrients. Newly planted trees would benefit tremendously from mulch applied from at least 3 feet on each side away from the trunk.

You’ll want to give thought to how you’ll control the insects and fungal diseases that frequent peaches.

We need to choose a variety that will work with our winter weather. On average we experience 600 chilling hours, but that can easily range from 450 to 750 chilling hours.

Make no mistake, a killing late winter frost is enemy number one to a peach tree’s ability to bear fruit each year.

Chilling hours is a measurement of the number of hours that our climate spends between 45 degrees and 32 degrees. There are other science-based measurements of chilling hours, but this range (45-32 F) is the most common and I stick with it.

Chilling hours is amount of cool weather a tree gets before it decides to “wake-up” and bloom. If you planted a tree that requires only 400 chilling hours then it would very likely start blooming much too early and get hit by a frost, killing the blooms and not bearing any fruit. The good folks in Houston would do well to plant peach trees that require only 400 chilling hours.

On the other hand, an 800 chilling hour peach tree would be perfect for the cooler climate in north central Texas. If we planted too high a chilling requirement peach, it would never know to “wake-up”, bloom and then bear fruit. Trees with too high a chilling requirement are almost always poor bearers.

One varieties to consider is Junegold. It needs 650 chilling hours and is a cling stone fruit. Others to consider include Juneprince (650, semi-free), Southern Pearl (650, free stone), TexRoyal (600, free stone), Suwanee (650, free stone), TexPrince (550, free stone), and La Feliciana (600, free stone).

Let it be said that while the above list is recommended, it seems like every year a newer variety is available on the market and, if the chilling hours works for our climate, you ought to feel free to give them a try!

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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