Peach trees produce lovely flowers and delicious fruit, making them appealing to the home landscape and the backyard orchard. They do require a bit of care that includes pruning, fertilizing and spraying to control weeds, disease and insects. Following some simple care guidelines and a routine of spraying to manage your peach tree or orchard will enable you to enjoy your trees and their fruit for many years.
To get the most fruit production from your peach trees, you must prune them. Young trees should be pruned during the dormant period to a scaffold shape, leaving 6 to 12 inches between branches to create good air flow and light penetration. As trees age, old or dead wood should be removed, as should any low limbs that do not receive good light penetration. Water sprouts or root suckers should always be removed, as well as any diseased or damaged limbs.
A soil test is the best way to determine the peach tree’s nutritive needs. Your local extension office can assist with this. If the tree is putting on 12 to 18 inches of growth each year, it is in good shape. A good general fertilizer for healthy peach trees is a 12-12-12 combination of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. It should be applied in a circle around the tree trunk about 6 to 8 inches away from the tree. Use caution to keep fertilizer from making contact with the tree, because it can cause fertilizer burn.
Young trees are especially susceptible to poor health if they must compete with weeds. Spraying of herbicide is recommended to control weeds in addition to close mowing and removal of clippings. Herbicides should be selected on the basis of their safe use with fruit-bearing trees and applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Disease and Insect Sprays
Peach trees experience any number of problems from insects, viruses and bacterial infections. A vigorous spraying program is recommended beginning with dormant sprays during the winter to smother eggs and larvae of insects that might overwinter in cracks and crevices. Spraying fungicide will help prevent fungal infections. Insecticide sprays are effective at controlling insect infestations such as peach tree borers, aphids, scales, mites and other pests that damage trees and fruit. Exercise great care when spraying insecticide. Avoid using insecticide sprays that are harmful to pollinators like bees. Apply prior to bud break and after petal fall.
Peach trees tend to produce an abundance of fruit. Left untended, the excess weight can be damaging to young limbs. Also, if too much fruit develops, the entire crop might be small and less desirable. Thinning the crop enhances the remaining fruit because it does not have to share water and nutrients with as many other fruits, increasing the size of those left growing. Remove any damaged or diseased fruit first. Thin the remaining fruit to a spacing of about 8 inches between fruits.