Make sure everything is peachy before planting your trees

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 25, 2013

SALISBURY — Peaches are always a hot commodity during the summer, and although we have passed the season for our local growers, it is a great time to think about growing your own. Growing peaches takes time and dedication but if done properly, it can be very rewarding.
When selecting a site to plant peaches, you need a sunny, well-drained location, and the planting area should not be in low lying areas to reduce frost pockets. After this has been selected you must have a soil test before you plant. This reduces your future headaches, and now would be a great time, since the soil testing fee has not started yet (begins at the end of November).
After you receive your soil analysis, you need to follow the recommendations. Peaches prefer a 6.0-6.5 pH, so it is extremely important to follow soil liming recommendations before you plant. It is also important to select appropriate varieties for our area. Your local Cooperative Extension office has information on varieties that are adapted to our area.
Peach tree varieties are dependent on what’s called chilling hours. This means the trees need a certain amount of cooler weather, around 45 degrees, to bloom at the appropriate time when the chance of frost will be minimal.
Once you have received your list, try the varieties to see which ones match your tastes. You can easily do a taste trial by visiting your local peach growers, and there are other peach growing areas in North Carolina if you would like to try more varieties.
One thing homeowners may not realize is that peaches are extremely susceptible to multiple diseases and insects, so it is important to have a plan prepared if you want to use integrated pest management. One can have organic peaches, but it is important to remember the possibility of receiving extra protein (worm in the peach) will increase if one does not use orchard sprays. If you need help with integrated pest management, local Cooperative Extension agents have the tools and spray guides to use for a peach crop.
If you are interested in getting into the peach industry, most producers have already started preparing their soils to receive their trees. Trees typically come in before January and that is when they start planting. Growers have made their peach selections the year before to make sure they have selected the varieties they want on specific root stocks. Root stocks are very important for peach trees, typical root stocks for North Carolina are Lovell, Halford and Guardian. Lovell and Halford are good for clay soils but Guardian is used in sandy soils to help reduce problems with parasitic nematodes and Peach Tree Short Life of (PTSL).
Peaches are a delicious fruit and can be a great tree to grow if you do your research before you plant. If you are interested in growing peach trees, Cooperative Extension has some great resources and North Carolina also has research stations testing new varieties and maintaining some of the standard cultivars. One of the stations close by is the Sandhills Research Station located in Montgomery County. The station hosts peach orchard activities and trainings every other year, typically during July. For more information on any of this, contact your local Cooperative Extension office.
Danelle Cutting is a horticulture agent and local foods coordinator for the Rowan Cooperative Extension Service. Call 704-216-8970.