A bowl of fresh peaches and ice cream would sound pretty good about now. It’s January, and thinking about peaches takes us to June. School’s out. No more icy roads for a while. No more flu. Lots more fun. Yeah. That would be nice.
However, June peaches begin with January plantings (several years earlier). If you’re serious about having peach trees, this is the month when you will need to set those wheels in motion. We’ll have the guidelines in a few moments. Before that, however, you need to be forewarned that peaches are a medium-maintenance crop. They’re not trees that you can plant and forget, so if that’s likely to happen, you are better off buying fresh peaches at the store.
In the more likely chance that you will want to try growing a couple of trees, here are your prime steps to success.
That kind of horizontal branching will be stronger and better able to support the weight of the developing fruit. The peaches will get better exposure to sunlight, so they’ll ripen more uniformly, and handwork that you’ll have to do such as thinning and harvesting will be much easier, since most of it can be done while standing on the ground.
Each year’s spray schedule starts with horticultural oil in the winter for scale insects, and proceeds with spraying at seven- to 10-day intervals from late February almost until harvest to prevent loss to plum curculio (worms that invade the fruit), brown rot fungus (causes deterioration of fruit) and several other pests.
Texas A&M spray guidelines on the Aggie Horticulture website will give you the precise schedule for protecting peaches and plums. (They share the same pests.) Make special note of any available means of stopping entry of peach tree borers. They are serious threats to the trees themselves, and most insecticides that prevent them have disappeared from the consumer market.
For simplicity’s sake, “chilling hours” refers to the average number of hours to which the tree will be exposed to temperatures lower than 45 degrees. That exposure is what determines when the tree will be prompted by its own internal hormones to pop into bloom when a warm spell rolls in. You don’t want a “low-chilling” variety (intended for South Texas), because it will try to bloom too early, perhaps even in January. You don’t want a Midwest variety that requires much more cold than we get, because it may never bloom or even leaf out.
Our area receives, on average, 750 to 850 chilling hours each winter, so those are the numbers you need to match. George Ray McEachern, fruit and pecan specialist with Texas A&M University, told me recently that his variety suggestions here include (in rough general sequence of ripening): Springold, Surecrop, Sentinel, Harvester, Ranger, Redglobe, Dixieland and Redskin. That collection can give you fresh peaches from late May/early June through mid- to late July.