Nothing says summer like a ripe, juicy peach plucked still warm from the tree. Peaches, like other stone fruits, have one large seed or pit in the middle of the fruit, unlike fruits such as apples and pears which have several seeds or pips. The tree has pink flowers in early spring. The fruit ripens in early summer. The leaves are 5 to 6 inches long and an inch wide. Peach trees make a valuable and lovely addition to the garden.
Peaches ripen over a 10-day to two-week period. One tree may produce up to 100 pounds of fruit, according to Herman Auer, a Texas Master Gardener. Thinning the fruit cuts down on the number of peaches produced but each peach is larger. Use peaches fresh, grilled or roasted. Freeze fresh peaches. Make jams, preserves and chutneys with your peaches. Peach trees require a chilling period of 200 to 400 hours for reliable fruit production. They are self-pollinating, which means only one tree is required.
Prune and train peach trees into a fence using the espalier method. The trees are coaxed into one main central stem with three to five lateral branches using wire and stakes. Space the trees 5 to 10 feet apart. Within a few years the branches will cross and the trees will form a fence. Your peach-tree fence will still produce fruit. The method of espalier training and pruning isn't difficult but it does take some practice, says Charlie Ryrie author of "The Country Gardener."
Peach trees grow 16 feet high and spread to 15 feet across. The trees aren't messy as long as the fruit isn't ripe. Ripe fruit does fall to the ground. Plant the trees where you want summer shade and winter sun. Peach trees are deciduous. Depending on the climate they lose their leaves for several months.
Smoke Flavoring to Grilling
Save the wood you've pruned from your peach tree to use when you barbecue. Cut the thick branches into chunks no more than 3 inches long. Use the green-wood chunks to add a smoke flavoring to grilled dishes. When the chunks dry out soak them for 30 minutes in water before adding to the grill.
Save the long, straight, narrow branches of the peach tree when you prune. Use them as support for sweet peas, English peas and pole beans. Make a teepee of 6-foot-long branches equally spaced around a tomato plant. Tie at the top and use them to support tomato plants.