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Danelle Cutting: There’s some good news about peaches

This week, I was able to attend the NC Peach Growers Society Annual Conference. As always, the conference provides a wealth of knowledge on growing peaches and how to properly care for your orchards.

Even though I do not have an orchard myself, the conference is always great for homeowners, as well. So for this week’s article, I am going to provide some of the highlights.

When we had the warm spell a few weeks ago, many growers were concerned about whether to start pruning. Usually, peach growers will start pruning late January into February. When we had the warm weather, there was concern over whether the peach trees went back into dormancy.

Luckily for the peach growers, all of the varieties recommended for our state had enough chilling hours (900-1,050 chilling hours. That means that the peach trees will stay dormant (not bloom) until they reach their amount of chilling hours.

Chilling hours are determined by how many hours reach 40-45 degrees. Due to the warm weather, we are now only up to around 800 hours. With that being said, it could mean that we are less likely to get hurt by a late frost since many of the trees will not bloom until after their chilling hours are met.

So, if you are a homeowner and your peach trees bloomed during the warm spell in December, you should rethink your varieties.

If you are a homeowner who just enjoys buying specific varieties of peaches, there is some interesting news for you. It looks like the North Carolina State University Horticulture Department will seek to release two new peach varieties.

This is a preliminary phase, but I will have to say that if you enjoy the juicy, sweet taste of peaches similar to Contender, you will be very happy that these new peaches are set to be released in the near future.

Right now, they are going through a testing phase to see if there are any viruses in the culture. If there is not a virus, they will release them to different universities for trial. Then, virus free budwood will be available for nurseries to build up the supply.

Lastly, one of the most important pieces of information that was discussed is how to control scale. I cannot count the number of times that I have seen homeowners’ peach trees covered in a white scaly coating. This is due to not controlling scale insects.

For homeowners, one of the best solutions is using a refined dormant oil (can be purchased at numerous gardening stores). We do this when temperatures are fairly steady at 40-45 degrees. Always make sure that after spraying the oil, you will not have a freeze/frost at least two days after application. We also apply the oil before the peaches bloom, so keep that in mind.

If you would like more information on growing peaches, peach diseases, or where to find local peaches, call your local agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970.

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