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MEEKS: Some juicy information about peach trees

Georgia is known for its peaches, but growing peaches in Georgia can be quite challenging. Peaches are not native to North America. However, many cultivars have been developed for our area.

Peach trees need to be planted in an area with well-drained soil and full sun. One of the main factors that determine if peach trees are adapted to your area is chill hours. Chill hours are the amount of time that the temperature is between 32 degrees and 45 degrees. Each variety requires a different number of chill hours. Peach trees should be planted December through February, while the trees are still dormant. Trees should be planted 18-20 feet apart. Any suckers that arise from below the graft should be removed. Do not fertilize newly planted, first-year peach trees until March. During the winter, pruning is vital for the next year’s crop. It is recommended that you keep four scaffold limbs with an open, vase-like center. In order to assure good fruit size, peaches almost always will need to be thinned. Thinning is normally done when the fruit is about an inch in size. When thinning, you want to leave a healthy, well-shaped fruitlet every 6-8 inches. It will feel like you are removing most of the crop, but thinning will assure good fruit size and quality fruit.

One of the most common pests I see in my office when it comes to peaches is the plum curculio. Peaches will often produce gum at the site of the curculio wounds. Preventative sprays are the only means of effectively preventing plum curculio damage. Peachtree borer and the lesser peachtree borer are caterpillar pests that feed on the inner bark, causing major damage to the tree’s vascular system.

Late summer application of insecticides can help. Avoid making large pruning cuts that leave excessive wounding. Scale insects are very small insects that attach to the limbs and trunks and can cause tree death. Oil sprays should be applied annually on dormant trees to control scale insects.

Brown rot is caused by a fungus that can infect the flowers, shoots and fruit. It is the most damaging stone fruit disease in terms of fruit loss. Fungicides are needed to manage the disease. Removal of old fruit and proper pruning can also help with disease management. Bacterial spot and leaf curl are diseases that may cause problem in certain years, location or cultivars. Scab is a fruit and twig disease that can cause superficial blemishes on the fruit. Fungicides are available to help manage this disease.

Because the list of varieties available for Georgia is extensive, please check out the source of this article or contact your local extension office.

Different cultivars ripen from early May to late August or early September. Harvest time depends on the final use of the fruit. Ripe fruit has a yellow or cream background and wonderful aroma. Hard fruit can be used for pickling, while over-ripened fruit has to be used quickly.

Source: www.caes.uga.edu/publications, Home Garden Peaches, Dario Chavez, Malgorzata Flokowska, Jeff Cook, Elizabeth Little

DATES TO REMEMBER

Saturday: Hafley Park Open House, Perry

May 25: Office closed for Memorial Day

For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by the office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit the website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office. Charlotte Meeks’ blog is at www.blog.extension.uga.edu/houston.

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