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How to Grow a Peach Tree From Seed
If you don't mind waiting a few years for your peach tree to bear fruit, growing your own peach tree from seed is a rewarding experience. All you need to do is eat a peach, save the pit, and follow these steps.
- Carefully crack open a peach pit and remove the kernel. A hammer and a nutcracker are both sufficient cracking tools. You can plant the entire pit without cracking it open first, but the seed germinates faster when the pit's outer shell is removed.
- Place the peach pit kernel into a plastic bag. Fill the bag with slightly moist potting soil. Seal the bag.
- Place the plastic bag in your refrigerator. The refrigerator induces the seed’s germination process through cold stratification, a method of cold treatment that simulates winter conditions.
- Check for germination after two to three months. Once the pit has grown roots at least half an inch long, remove the pit from the refrigerator.
- Plant the peach seedling in a container. Keep the seedling in a sunny location and provide enough water to keep the soil moist. Move it outdoors in early spring after the last frost.
How to Plant a Peach Tree
Growing a peach tree from seed takes three to four years to produce fruit, so a quicker solution is to purchase a young tree from your local nursery to plant in your home garden.
- Choose a type of peach tree that grows in your climate. Peach trees grow best in climates with hot summers and winter temperatures colder than 45°F. Most peach varieties require time in cold temperatures in order to grow effectively. This cold dormancy period is known as a peach tree's “chill hour requirement.” Before choosing a peach variety, look up the number of chilling hours typical of your climate to make sure it meets the requirements for your desired peach variety.
- Plant in late winter or early spring. Plant a container-grown peach tree in early spring so it has the entire growing season to adjust to the environment before winter. Plant bare-root peach trees (dormant trees that are stored without soil on their roots) in late winter.
- Choose a planting site in a full sun location. An extremely sunny and wind-shielded location is ideal. Aim for an area with well-drained sandy soil that has a soil pH between six and seven. If your soil has poor drainage, plant your peach tree in a raised garden bed or a container filled with a sandy, fertile soil or potting mix.
- Dig a planting hole and drive a tree stake into the ground. Make the hole a few inches deeper and twice as wide as the tree's root ball. Hammer the tree stake into the ground next to the hole, at least two feet deep. Create a small soil mound at the bottom of the planting hole.
- Place the tree into the hole. Spread the tree’s roots out over the soil mound. The top of the root crown should be at ground level, while the graft union (the bump in the lower trunk between the scion and rootstock) should rest two to three inches above ground level. Fill the hole halfway with soil and gently mix it around the root system.
- Water the soil and fill in the planting hole. Soak the soil with water and wait until it drains. Next, check whether the depth of the tree’s trunk has changed and adjust if necessary. Fill the rest of the hole with soil.
- Construct a soil basin. Pile a three- to six-inch high ring of soil around the root zone. This soil basin holds in water and allows it to gradually soak into the soil.
- Spread an organic mulch around the root zone. Mulch helps seal in moisture and enrich the soil.
- Prune side branches and trim the top of the tree. Cut the tree down so it's only 30 inches tall. This ensures that your young tree forms lots of fruiting wood, leading to an increase in fruit production once the tree matures. Attach the tree trunk to the stake using tree ties.
How to Care for a Peach Tree
Follow these peach tree care tips to give your tree the greatest chance of having a bountiful harvest year after year.
- Give new trees two gallons of water per week. This equals one inch of rainfall. Once peach trees mature, they can go a week and a half with this same amount of water. Keep the soil evenly moist, but make sure it’s never sopping wet.
- Fertilize in early spring with a slow-release fertilizer. Choose a fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen for best results.
- Prune trees annually to increase fruit production. Peaches bear fruit on second-year wood, meaning proper pruning this year affects your crop yield next year. Prune trees in the early summer during the tree's first, second, and third years of life. After the third year, prune in late April, and maintain the tree’s shape by cutting shoots growing from the center of the tree.
- Thin out the smaller peaches. About a month after your peach tree blooms, remove the smaller peaches, leaving the larger ones spaced six to eight inches apart. This lets the remaining fruit receive additional nutrients.
- Control pests and prevent diseases. Maladies like peach leaf curl and brown rot are devastating to your crop yield, but you can control both with the proper fungicides. Peachtree borers are a harmful peach tree pest that you can deter with insecticide. Rather than wait for these pests and diseases to strike your peach trees, apply fungicides and pesticides proactively.
How to Harvest Peaches
To ensure your peaches have a sweet, full flavor, it's imperative you harvest them at the right time. Harvest time varies by peach type, but late June through August is typically when peaches reach peak ripeness. Color is one of the best indicators by which to tell if your peaches are ripe; when their outer skin is completely void of any green coloring, that means they're ready to pick. For the most definitive test, pick one and taste it before harvesting the rest of your crop.
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