Peach trees belong to the same genus as cherry, almond, and plum trees, Rosaceae prunus. According to Roger Phillips, all members of the genus are insect-pollinated, stone fruit trees. Though often culturally associated in the United States, with the American South, the Georgia peach, the peach tree is actually native to China. Peaches were a fertility symbol to the ancient Chinese, and even today a Chinese woman may carry peach blossoms in her wedding bouquet.
Peaches are a difficult crop and require a great deal of attention from their growers. According to the growers at Appleby Farms, peach trees are highly susceptible to blights, brown rot, powdery mildew, and a slew of fungal infections and insect problems that can cause fruit to drop from the tree prematurely. They also claim that peaches are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations and have specific water requirements, states Peach Tree/ Nectarine Tree.
Sun and Shelter
Plant your peach tree in full sun. The growers at Appleby Farms recommend that you make sure you plant your peach tree in an area that has good airflow but is protected from huge gusts of wind. Gusty wind can damage your flowers and cause immature fruit to fall from the tree.
Peach trees can tolerate temperatures as cold as -30 degrees C, according to Roger Phillips. Unfortunately, exposure to cold temperatures while the peach trees are flowering can diminish your peach crop. Temperatures below -15 degrees C can kill peach flowers and lead to a bad harvest and to immature fruit falling from trees, according to the growers at Appleby Farms. If your trees are flowering and the temperatures are dropping, try covering them with seed cloth to diminish the effect of cold temperature on the blossoms.
Peach trees are particular about water. Though they thrive on a constant supply of water, the growers at Appleby Farms and the horticulturist Peter Jerie insist that peach trees don't like their roots to be soggy. Drip irrigation systems, which can maintain a regular watering schedule and supply, are a good way to take care of your peach tree's needs. Insufficient water is a common cause of immature fruit falling from trees.
Many fungus and insect infestations can cause fruit to fall prematurely from your tree. Unfortunately, peaches are very susceptible to these plights and require a constant care regime. Johnson Nursery suggests that in the late fall you apply a lime and sulfur fungicide; as the blooms are swelling but not yet open, that you apply a fruit tree spray; while your tree is flowering, that you apply another fungicide; when the flower petals falls, that you apply fruit tree spray again; and then that you apply the fruit tree spray every two weeks until harvest, according to Spray Schedule. The reward of a succulent peach makes all the work worthwhile.
Another major explanation for peaches falling off the tree early is related to pruning. According to the growers at Appleby Farms, only one-year-old branches bear fruit, and peach trees need to be regularly pruned. Older branches produce unhealthy fruit or no fruit at all. Pruning removes dead branches and opens the canopy to insure adequate light distribution to all the limbs. Young, fruit-bearing branches that are not provided with enough light often produce fruit that drops before maturity. Pruning also, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, balances the crop load and reduces the need for hand thinning later in the season.
- Prunus: Phillips, Roger. The Botanical Garden, Vol. 1, Firefly Books: Ontario, 2002
- Peach Tree/ Nectarine Tree: Canary Zoo
- Spray Schedule: Johnson Nursery
- Trickle Irrigation: the water needs of young peach trees: Department of Primary Industries
- Pruning Peach Trees: Virginia Cooperative Extension
- Photo Credit peach tree flower image by Lovrencg from Fotolia.com
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