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Good Gardeners Kill Peaches

Peach blossoms in spring

Peach trees are very showy in spring. A single branch may produce dozens of blossoms. When most of them grow into fruit, you can end up with very tiny peaches.

I spent about 45 minutes today in my small kitchen garden killing peaches. This might sound crazy, but it’s an important spring task for peach-growers—and for people who grow other stone fruits as well. While I was killing peaches, it occurred to me that anyone can grow a peach tree and I have a rather extreme argument to convince you.

So, please stick around a few minutes and I’ll try to make this all make sense: You can grow peaches. And when you do, it’s a real good idea to kill a whole lot of them.

Why I was Killing Peaches

When it comes to reproduction, a typical peach tree goes crazy! In early-to-mid spring, a tree produces hundreds of blossoms. It’s an awesome display as grand as any flowering ornamental tree.

A peach-laden branch leads to small peaches

The 14-inch section of peach branch in this photo holds ten young peaches. I wish I’d cleaned this up two weeks ago, but today I removed all but two peaches from this branch. Between two peach trees, I discarded at least 200 peaches. Throwing them away is painful, but I’d rather grow large, meaty peaches instead of tiny ones with only a thin layer of flesh.

Problems arise when a majority of the blossoms succeed with pollination. By late summer, any one branch may have dozens of tiny, green peaches holding promise of a summer harvest. Left alone, most of those peaches will likely ripen into delicious, juicy fruits and that would be bad.

With so many fruits pulling water and nutrients through a single branch, none of them get a whole lot of food to store; they all end up tiny. To get big peaches, you need to cull just-formed fruits so a branch holds only two, three, or four, depending on the length of the branch.

I demonstrated the whole thing in a two minute and 20 second video:

You Can Grow That

Peach Trees for any Space

For a space-challenged gardener, growing a whole tree can seem prohibitive; in a small yard, won’t a tree shade out the entire garden? Happily, that needn’t be the case. Growers have developed peach trees in a variety of sizes—through both grafting and breeding. Shop around (Google “dwarf peach tree”) and you’ll find a lot of choices. Some dwarf peach trees are so small they’ll grow happily in containers on a deck or patio.

If a tree-shaped dwarf is no more practical than a full-sized tree, consider a foray into espalier. This is a method of training a tree to grow flat—usually against a wall. The technique is simple but it requires patience because you cut away whole branches during pruning and preserve only the ones that run parallel to the wall. It may take five years of annual cutting and, perhaps, binding branches with wires to develop a tree in your garden, but an espalier will produce peaches just as fine as any other peach tree.

Fruit tree espalier against a garage

Growing a peach tree is ridiculously easy to do. Mine get direct sunlight from about 11 AM until five or six PM and they never fail to produce a crop. Ideally, plant your trees where they’ll get sun all day. In other posts I’ve written about planting fruit trees and maintaining them. Follow links below for specific information.

One of the trees I spent time with today is unusual. At least six years ago, it fell over. The tree’s trunk had been rotting for years but I didn’t notice until I found most of the tree resting on the lawn. The trunk remained rooted, and there was a hinge of wood connecting the roots to the tree’s crown… and I never cleaned up the mess.

Broken trunk of a happily-living peach tree

Perhaps it’s an exaggeration to say my peach tree broke. Rather, it fell over, flexing a hinge of wood that remained intact. Seems as though more than two-thirds of the wood is missing along at least 32 inches of trunk, but the tree doesn’t really care.

Each year since, the tree has burst into blossom in spring, pushed out leaves as the petals dropped, and produced copious amounts of fruits. Expecting the tree to die quickly, I did little for it in the two years after it fell. However, because of its stellar performance in those years, I’ve pruned it once or twice, I cull young fruits in the spring, and I treat it against insect damage—but I haven’t fertilized it and I haven’t cut out invasive trees that have sprouted around its trunk.

Heck, the year our peach tree fell, we planted its replacement. That one produces quite well, but the broken one produces better. Apparently, my broken-down peach tree doesn’t know it has a problem. If I can harvest a decent crop each year from my severely challenged peach tree, you most certainly can be successful with one of your own. You can grow that.

Learn What Else You Can Grow

Life is better if you garden. You Can Grow That is an initiative of gardeners who spread that message through their jobs, their leisure time, their writing, and (most specifically) through their blogs. Visit the You Can Grow That website to see what others are saying to encourage gardening everywhere.

One Response to “Good Gardeners Kill Peaches”

  • Geoma:

    Love it! I want to plant a peach! Can I plant just one? I live in Maryland and want a peach like I remember from my childhood, yellow, juicy, sweet and firm, NOT like those mealy flavorless stones at the grocery stores. Any recommendations for a variety that might look nice in a front yard with lots of sun? Not too tall, maybe 10-12′?

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