Growing Peach Trees

Growing Peach Trees
by Ben Steeler

Trees of at least two varieties should be planted, for pollination of one by the pollen from the other is usually necessary if the trees are to bear fruit. Trees may live 10 to 20 years; they may survive much longer, but they decline in vigor as they become older. When only four or five years old, one tree may produce 2 to 3 bushels of fruit annually; by the time it reaches 8 to 10 years of age, it produces 4 to 6 bushels annually.

Peach and nectarine trees grow best in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. For fruit within two or three years, buy two-year-old 3- to 5-foot trees. Plant them in early spring on an elevated or sloping site to prevent flower buds from being killed by spring frosts. Cut the trees back to 21/2 to 3 feet above the ground at the time of planting.

Nearly all pears grown for eating raw are descended from P. communis, a European species. Hybrids between P. commtznis and the sand pear P. serotina, also called P. pyrifolia, an Oriental species, are not as flavorful as are common pears, and they have the defect of producing gritty stone cells in the flesh of the fruit.

Plant Stuff

This disease may be carried from tree to tree by bees at the time of blossoming; within a few weeks shoots develop black leaves and begin to die back. If fire blight is detected, cut off the diseased portions, making each cut at least 12 inches beyond the apparent injury. Wipe saws and clippers with alcohol after each cut.

Pears, unlike most other fruits, cannot be allowed to ripen on the tree; tree-ripened pears develop brown centers, and the flesh becomes soft and off-flavored. Pears are ready to harvest when their stems begin to swell at the point of attachment to the twig and when the dark green color shows signs of yellowing. Pick pears by giving them an upward twist; if the twigs break rather than separate cleanly from the fruit stems, the pears are not ripe enough to pick.

Recommended late-ripening varieties are Anjou, also called Beurre d’Anjou and d’Anjou, blight resistant, greenish brown; Comice, also called Doyenne du Comice and Royal Riviera, yellow, especially suited to the West Coast; Kieffer, a large yellow blight-resistant hybrid widely used for canning; LeConte, a blight-resistant greenish yellow hybrid especially suited to the South; Moonglow, a yellow blight-resistant hybrid; and Winter Nelis, a small yellow pear with a superb flavor.

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