How to Grow Peach in your Home Garden

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How to Grow Peach in your Home Garden
How to Grow Peach in your Home Garden

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How to Grow Peach in your Home Garden

How to Grow Peach in your Home GardenHow to Grow Peach in your Home Garden

Peaches, one of summer’s juicy, sweet treats, never taste as good as when they are fully ripe and freshly picked and you can grow great juicy peaches in your own backyard. Even better, you don’t have to routinely spray toxic chemicals on them, as too many growers do. eaches do sometimes suffer problems, however. Start with these basics for preventing problems:

Peach Growing Guide

  • Planting: Grow varieties suited to your climate. Ask local growers and your cooperative extension agent to name the varieties that have been the most pest and disease resistant in your area. Plant the trees in a sunny spot where air circulates freely around them to minimize fungal diseases.
  • Spacing: Space standard peaches 15′-20′ apart and space drawfs 12′ apart.
  • Watering: Peach trees need even moisture around their roots to produce juicy, succulent fruit. If the weather is dry or soil is sandy, install trickle irrigation over the entire root system out to the drip line. Keep soil moist, not wet.
  • Fertilizing: To get a good harvest, you must spread pollen from flower to flower in place of insects. Use a soft brush to dab pollen from one flower onto its neighbor. Hand-pollinate newly opened flowers every day, and you’ll have a decent crop. Or attract wild orchard bees, who work even when it’s cool.
  • Special hint: Clean up all fruit that falls to the ground, because it can harbor pests and diseases.When problems do arise, protect your allies (beneficial insects) and the fruit your family will eat by using sensible cultural practices and safe organic treatments to solve the problems. Here are the most common challenges backyard peach growers face and solutions for solving them.

Pests

Peachtree Borer (Synanthedon exitosa)

Description: Larvae overwinter in bark or soil and in spring tunnel into the inner bark near the soil level. The larvae vary in size from an eighth inch to 1.5 inches long. The adult clearwing moth looks like a dark blue-black wasp with yellow markings. There is typically one generation per year. Peachtree borers are found wherever peaches are grown.

Damage: The first sign of injury is a mass of gum and evidence of brown, sawdust-like frass (manure) at the base of the trunk.

Control: Keep trees healthy because vigorous trees are less susceptible. Avoid injuring the trunk. White latex paint applied to the trunk of the tree to prevent sunscald can help seal cracks in the bark (where the female moths lay their eggs.) Use a knife or flexible wire to carefully probe and kill the borers. Parasitic nematodes are promising new control. Spray the nematode on damaged bark at the root crown while the borer larvae are active. Make sure the borer holes are not blocked by the mass of gum.

Plum Curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar)

Description: A quarter-inch grayish beetle with a long, curved snout that feeds on flowers, leaves, and fruit. It slits open fruit to deposit eggs. Plum curculio is a troublesome pest of tree fruit east of the “tree line,” which runs roughly from Fort Worth, Texas to Fargo, North Dakota. The adults overwinter in leaf litter or soil in woods and fencerows; they move into peach trees at bloom time. There are one to two generations per season depending on your location.

Damage: Fruit may have deep, half-moon-shaped, egg-laying scars and may be infested with yellow-gray larvae. The worst damage occurs immediately after bloom.

Control: Treat with Surround, a kaolin clay particle spray, when the flower buds show pink and again immediately after bloom. Repeat every 7 to 10 days for several weeks. (You may need to wash the clay residue off at harvest time.) Before this new product was introduced, many gardeners eliminated plum curculios by jarring the tree limbs at petal fall with a padded stick (the beetle plays dead when disturbed) and then collecting the beetles from old sheets placed on the ground. Continue this on a daily basis for 2 weeks or until the beetle numbers decrease. Badly infested fruit will often drop. Try to clean up and remove dropped fruit on a weekly basis early in the season.

Catfacing insects—Tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris) and stink bugs

Description: Tarnished plant bugs and stink bugs are known as catfacing insects because of the gnarly appearance of the feeding damage. They are present in most peach growing areas. Tarnished plant bugs are a quarter-inch long, brown or yellow, and quick moving. There are many different stink bug species, but all have a five-sided, shield-shaped body in green, tan, or brown. Adult tarnished plant bugs and stink bugs are both present early on with several generations through the growing season.

Damage: They feed by piercing the fruit and sucking out the juice early in the growing season, causing gnarled depressions on mature fruit. Late-season damage is not significant.

Control: Keep the growing area free of weeds and ground debris, where the insects overwinter.

Oriental fruit moth (Grapholitha molesta)

Description: A pinkish-white worm that bores into succulent terminal shoots early in the season. It is a pest in most peach growing areas with four to five generations per season.

Damage: Shoots wilt and die. Subsequent generations then attack fruit in midsummer. Larvae burrow to the center of the fruit and feed. Young fruit exude a gummy substance and often drop from the tree.

Control: Prune infested stem tips and remove affected fruit. Destroy both by burning or putting in the trash. Naturally occurring populations of two tiny parasitic wasps, Trichogramma minutum (an egg parasite) and Macrocentrus ancylivorus (a larval parasite), can effectively reduce Oriental fruit moths in some growing areas. You can also buy Trichogramma wasps to release in your garden—if you buy, be sure to find out the right time to release them.

Diseases

Brown rot (Monilinia fructicola)

Description: A fungal disease common in regions with wet weather and high humidity. The disease will first infect blossoms and twigs during bloom and may cause ripening fruit to rot later in the season.

Damage: Brown fuzz appears on blossoms, and small brown or white circular spots develop on young fruit. As a fruit ripens, the spots enlarge and the fruit decays. You may also see shoot blight on 1-year-old wood of susceptible varieties.

Control: Remove and destroy infected branches and fruit from the tree and the ground. Spray sulfur during bloom and again before harvest if weather is wet and humid. At the end of the season, remove all debris (fruit mummies and twigs) at the base of the tree to reduce the chance of the disease overwintering. Maintain good air circulation by pruning trees every year when they are dormant and by keeping fruit thinned so they don’t touch.

Resistant varieties: No varieties are completely resistant but ‘Newhaven’ and ‘Harrow Diamond’ have some resistance.

Peach leaf curl (Taphrina deformans)

Description: A fungal disease that causes leaves to become thick and puckered with reddish coloration. Leaf curl is common in areas with high rainfall, high humidity, and cool temperatures. You’ll see symptoms about a month after bloom. Leaves drop soon after. Fruit will look distorted and off-color.

Damage: Overwintering spores infect leaves while they are just buds. Leaf curl is usually not considered serious enough to warrant control, but prolonged infection can weaken the tree and reduce its life span.

Control: Remove infected leaves and destroy them. Increase air circulation by pruning trees every year when they are dormant. As a last resort, spray with Bordeaux mix (a blend of copper sulfate and hydrated lime) in fall after leaves drop or in early spring while the trees are still dormant.

Resistant varieties: : ‘Avalon Pride’, ‘Curl-free’,’Frost’, ‘Indian Free’, ‘Mary Jane’, ‘Muir’, and ‘Q-1-8’.

Valsa canker or Cytospora canker (Cytospora leucostoma)

Description: A fungal disease that causes large oval cankers on the trunk or scaffold limbs. You may notice a wet gum that covers cankers, beginning in spring. Valsa canker occurs in most peach growing areas.

Damage: Cankers enlarge every year, eventually girdling the affected area. The disease may cause gradual tree decline, or it may rapidly kill the tree.

Controls: The best control is a combination of good sanitation and cultural practices that promote winter hardiness, good tree health, and rapid wound healing. Cankers and dead wood should be removed and burned. Apply white latex paint to the south sides of trunks and lower scaffold branches to help prevent low-temperature injury when warm sunny days are followed by cold nights. Delay pruning until growth resumes in the spring to promote rapid healing of pruning cuts. Trees should be trained to avoid narrow crotch angles, which are prone to injury. Use a straw or composted bark to mulch around the tree, to reduce moisture stress, and water during dry periods.

Resistant varieties

No varietal resistance but ask your nursery for a winter-hardy rootstock if you live in an area with cold winter temperatures.

Bacterial spot (Xanthomonas compestris)

Description: A bacterial problem common in the eastern states that causes small, water-soaked lesions on the undersides of leaves. (This disease is not usually a problem west of the Rocky Mountains.) It overwinters on twigs and buds, and the infection begins during wet weather in the spring.

Damage: As lesions enlarge, they turn brown or black, and the center falls out. Leaves may turn yellow and drop. Fruit may become cracked and have sunken brown or black areas. Infections are most likely during rainy periods with high wind and moderate temperature.

Control: No varieties are completely immune, but these have good resistance: ‘Dixired’, ‘Harken’, ‘Harrow Diamond’, ‘Newhaven’, ‘Redhaven’ and ‘Reliance.’ Ask your extension agent which varieties will do best in your growing area.

Plum Pox Virus

If you live in Pennsylvania or Ontario, you may have read news accounts about plum pox virus (also known as sharka), a serious viral disease of stone fruit that was first discovered in Pennsylvania in the fall of 1999. In June 2000, it was also detected in Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canada. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the Penn State Cooperative Extension have been working vigorously to survey orchards and nurseries in these areas to determine the spread of this virus. All infected trees are destroyed because there is no cure or treatment for the disease once the tree is infected. More than 900 acres of orchards and nursery stock have been cut and burned to prevent the virus from spreading.

The disease is spread within an orchard by aphids feeding on a tree to tree and over long distances by the distribution of infected nursery stock. A tree may be infected for several years before showing symptoms, which include early leaf drop and yellowing spots and rings on leaves and fruit. Blossoms may have darker pink stripes on the petals. The virus will not kill trees, but trees will gradually decline and fruit yield will drop.


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