Learning 4 Secrets to Growing Peaches in Cold Climates will help ensure that your investment and time in peach trees is protected. Starting them out the right way will give you a leg up on natural fruit tree growing. Check out more Organic Fruit Growing tips on our blog.
To Be Successful growing peaches, There Are A Few Important Things...
There are a few secrets one must know in order to grow growing peaches and other tender fruits in the colder zones of the US. While we pick the hardier varieties of peaches, such as Veteran and Reliance, we do grow more tender versions of peaches as well, and we need to modify the standard plant, fertilize and prune practices of most orchards.
We have apricots, sweet cherries and European plums that all fall into the “tender” categories. But we also have lots of peaches. These need to be handled differently from your standard, cold hardy apple tree.
It's Not Just The Cold...
Hardiness is more involved than just how cold it gets. This is only one determining factor that determines the hardiness of a peach tree.
My own shock at Maine winters and the pure cold that is encountered, is the same cold that causes the death of peach trees.
There is more to killing tender trees than pure cold. Snow cover, warmth of days vs. nights, where they are planted, fertilizing during summer are just a few issues that affect tender trees.
How Autumn Influences Tree Dormancy...
The hardier a tree is, the faster it goes into dormancy. Cold is often blamed for killing trees where they actually died when the weather changed quickly in the fall.
Trees that go dormant later, like peaches, may be adversely affected when this happens. Temps that drop below freezing for an extended time early in the fall and then back to warm hurt the tree as well.
The last thing to harden off is the trunk. We hear reports of branches not surviving. The real issue is the trunk. We have an apricot that died back to just above the soil line in 2017 which was one of those warm/cold/warm winters.
Winters that hover above and below freezing have killed or injured more trees in our orchard than really cold winters.
SouthWest Injury and How it KILLS Peaches
Another big issue that causes peach tree death is southwest injury.
What is southwest injury? On a mid winter’s day, the southwest side of the tree warms up from the sun shining on it. Even though it’s quite cold out, the low angle of the sun hits the side of the tree perfectly to warm it. Then, a cloud comes by or night hits and, boom, you’re back to below freezing.
Do this over and over until you’ve killed the cambium layer on the southwest side of the tree. The further north you are, the more dangerous to your trees this is.
To protect against southwest injury, you have a few choices. You can paint the southwest side with watered down latex paint or tree paint. You can put a tree guard on (but take off in spring to avoid pest injury). Or you can increase the planting of shrubs on this side to protect the trunk from even getting the sun.
We’ve done a combination of these thing. To be more resilient, we are increasing the shrub plantings in our orchard.
When planting tender trees like peaches, try to put them in a shade source for the winter to keep the sun off of them.
Do NOT put in a “safe” place, i.e, Southern exposure and protected, like against a wall, this actually increases winter kill and early blossoming.
Plant them on the north side of anything that will provide shade in winter and sun in summer. This keeps them deep in dormancy. As long as they are dormant, they should survive winter.
Do NOT Fertilize Tender Trees!
First off, never fertilize fruit trees, especially young ones.
Most fruit trees, if planted in good soil, do not require fertilizer. If you have poor soil, build your soil with fungal compost, add chopped leaves and mulch. Good soil will feed your tree.
Fertilizer keeps the tree growing, preventing it from recognizing natural cues to go dormant. This can cause shock, injury and death to the tree when winter hits with full force, sometimes with little warning, in northern climates.
We will cover this fully in another tutorial; however, it is also good to note that fertilizing DOES slow down the maturation and fruit bearing properties.
do not water your trees except for...
when you first plant and in a drought.
Regularly watering trees, except during a drought, causes the trees to become dependent on you for this.
During times of drought, give your newly planted trees one half-filled, 5 gallon bucket of water, around its mulched area, once per week.
Do not drip irrigate or water daily.
Again, water deep JUST once a week.
When you water with drip irrigation or daily, the roots tend to grow towards the surface of the ground instead of reaching deep. Do this allows the tree to work and find it’s own water.
Avoid watering so much that you see standing water. Trees can drown from too much water.
One More Thing...
One thing to remember when growing peaches, apricots and nectarines is that these are not long lived trees, even in areas where they thrive. They are not a tree that will produce for long periods of time. We look at planting some every year at our orchard and mix them in with other trees for protection.
We’ve chosen the most hardy peaches for our nursery at Winter Cove Farm.
Remember these 4 tips and you’ll grow peach trees AND actually eat them every year.
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