I looked with envy at Mrs. Thorn’s peach tree last week. It was a wonderful peach tree, full of fruit.
At one time, peaches were the leading fruit crop grown in Texas. Years ago, experts estimated there were 1 million trees planted statewide, with just less than half of them found in home landscapes across the state.
Peaches will take some care. There’s pruning; weed, insect, and disease control; fruit thinning; as well as water and fertilization.
Yet you only have to plant one, unlike many other fruits, because they are self-pollinating. And a lone tree is less likely to have problems with pests than an entire orchard.
In our area, the most limiting factor in peach production is late spring frost, and gardeners should plan on losing an occasional crop even in the best of locations.
Peaches are very susceptible to waterlogged soils. Excellent internal soil drainage is essential to long-term tree productivity and survival. The roots cannot grow without air in the soil profile.
This factor alone has resulted in more than a few calls to our office this year regarding dead peach trees.
Internal drainage is the key. We often look at the slope of the land and think of how well water can run off the top. That’s “surface” drainage.
“Internal” drainage is the ability for water to percolate thru the soil profile once it gets waterlogged.
The ideal is a sandy-loam topsoil that is at least 18 to 24 inches deep and is underlain with a well-drained red clay subsoil. Sub-soils that are blue, gray, mottled, or dull colored because it usually drains poorly.
The trees will perform better and live longer if you plant them on terraces for maximum soil drainage. While this practice is essential on shallow, poorly drained soils, the use of terraces improves tree performance even on the best of soils. If you can, construct the terrace, or bed, to make the top 12 to 18 inches higher than the surrounding soil.
The ideal soil pH for peach production is between 6 and 7. If the pH is below 6.0, you may need to apply lime before establishing the trees.
If you are thinking of planting peach or other fruit trees, do not replant at the site of an old tree for at least 3 years after it has been cleared. Peach trees perform best on sites where no stone fruits or forests have grown for several years. Also, do not plant a site that was recently cleared of standing timber—especially post oaks— because the risk is higher for diseases such as oak root rot.
Varieties recommended for a given location typically have chilling requirements within 100 hours of the average accumulation for that site. Chilling hours is a horticulture term for the number of hours with a temperature below 45 degrees.
In Angelina County, we have an average of 600 chilling hours, so you will want to select a variety that does well in the 450 to 750 chilling hour range. There are several varieties to consider. Be sure to determine if you want a free stone variety or one where the flesh clings to the seed. There are many varieties that are classified as “semi-cling.” I could try and list them all here, but I would run out of space and I with new varieties coming on the market, one would invariably be left off.
You have plenty of time to study and prepare your future peach tree site as December thru February is the ideal time to plant them.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.