Peach trees, whether grown in vast orchards or as single trees in the home landscape, have the same growth considerations. Site selection as well as variety selection are the first and most important decisions you will make that affect how well your peach tree will grow. Whether you are hoping for a bountiful crop of peaches in August or just want to enjoy the spring blooms and summer shade, there are several things you can do to influence the growth and development of your peach tree.
In order to get the best growth out of your peach tree, it is important to select the correct varieties and the correct site. It is a good idea to check with your local extension office on recommended varieties for your area and hardiness zone. Some areas have conditions or pests that can affect peach trees’ growth and health. Selecting varieties that are resistant to diseases and pests normally found in your area will give your peach tree the best chance.
Peach trees grow well in many types of soil. Factors about the soil that play a part in how well peach trees grow are pH, water drainage and nutritional content. A soil test by your local extension office can reveal the pH and nutrient makeup of the soil from your selected site. Both of these as well as water drainage issues can be amended with organic matter and fertilizer according to the recommendations that accompany your soil test.
Healthy peach trees should grow anywhere from 12 to 18 inches from the terminal ends each year. If growth is more excessive, the soil may be too rich, which can lead to low quality and quantities of fruit. If growth is less than the average, there may be other factors such as poor irrigation or sunlight, overcrowding from nearby plants, or nutrient deficiencies.
Shaping the Growth
When first planting peach trees in the spring, they should be trimmed to 24 to 28 inches tall. This stimulates the growth of new branches on the top section of the tree. During the first winter, remove all but three or four branches that have wide angles from the trunk and are 18 to 26 inches above ground level. This develops the basic scaffold shape the tree needs to make it easier to harvest peaches later. During the first summer, remove all water sprouts, the branches that grow straight up in the center and block sunlight to lower limbs. Continue monitoring the scaffold shape throughout the life of the peach tree to coax the best growth and production from the tree.
Some peach trees will begin to produce a few peaches in the third year and most will be in full production by the sixth year. Peach trees produce more flowers than they need as a mature tree can usually support about 800 peaches. If all the blooms are allowed to develop, the fruit grown will be small and there is risk of damage to the tree from the weight. Most growers prefer to thin the fruit about 45 days after petal fall. This allows the remaining fruit to grow larger and protects the tree.