Summers in Colorado can bring forth a wonderful variety of home-grown fruits and vegetables…if you are willing to take the risk. To local gardeners, this is their Los Vegas. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. With a simple throw of the dice, Mother Nature can wipe out the bounty of an entire season with just one hailstorm. Jack Frost can beat the house every time with a late spring snow. But, just like all the Vegas big rollers… sometimes you win!
And when you win, you can win big…this past summer many gardeners hit the jackpot…and there is no better jackpot to win then a tree full of fresh, delicious, right outside your front door peaches. If you are not lucky enough to have your own peach tree, and I do not, may I suggest making sure you have a friendly neighbor who does in fact have a peach tree…the friendly part if very important because you will want them to share the glorious bounty of said peach tree with you! In our cul-de-sac we were very fortunate to have just that kind of neighbor and he one day…he had a dream…
A man and his peach tree…Once upon a time there was a man…a man who really liked fresh delicious peaches. A man willing to risk seasonal heartbreak when the cards Mother Nature deals out are stacked against him. A man smart enough to research, mull over and discuss peach varieties and planting locations with his charming, knowledgeable wife…yes, she’s reading this…before taking the leap of faith by choosing a tree and planting it.
A man and his peach tree…a match made in heaven…but not without some thought. The year, 2016. The variety, Red Haven. The planting location, a south facing microclimate that includes being protected from the evil winter winds of the west by the house…this same house also provides ambient heat during the growing season. The microclimate is further improved with protection from evil eastern winter winds thanks to a giant Colorado Blue Spruce…which as all good Coloradoans know, is our state tree…this information has no relevance with the topic at hand, but I thought it might be a “teachable” moment for the newbies in our area!
Anyway, due to careful planning, execution, and proper annual pruning, the beloved peach tree has produced four out of five years…A man and his peach tree are both very happy! In fact, all dwellers of the cul-de sac had a very happy summer…thanks to a man and his peach tree…because said most cherished tree produced over 400 peaches this season…so there was plenty of sharing! Oh, the excitement and anticipation with each brown bag delivery! One time, I was even fortunate enough to get my neighbors bag of peaches because THEY WERE NOT HOME!!! Yea…more for me! For now, the peach tree rests…all supports have been removed from the branches…the man also rests… happy and secure knowing that in his freezer five bags full of delicious peaches are waiting to give him a warm taste of summer during the cold, bitter, chill of winter.
So, while you may not get 400 peaches every year, according to what I have seen happen with-in the cul-de-sac, it is well worth it to give it a gamble and grow your own peaches here in Longmont. A few varieties do quite well here and are just as juicy and tasty as any peach that comes to us over the continental divide from Palisade. How can I make this happen you may be asking yourself? Well, lucky you…I stole some information off the internet from Colorado Planttalk, and I present it to you below…I only ask that you remember me fondly during peach season…I’m always home and if you like…I can supply you with lots of little brown bags for your deliveries!
- Fall Planting
While peach trees can be planted successfully nearly any time of year, the highest success rate is found in fall-planted trees. The soil temperature stays elevated long after our daytime temps have dropped, encouraging root growth. The trees are going dormant, so they don’t need to spend energy supporting fruit and foliage and can instead divert all their energy to getting a healthy root system established. This allows them to overcome transplant shock while they’re dormant and sets them up to grow like mad the following spring!
- Trunk Wrap and Winter Watering
This advice is true for all trees, and peaches are no exception. Colorado winters are dry (even our snow has a very low moisture content), but the sun can still be intense. Use a trunk wrap to protect the bark from drying and splitting from November to March. Make sure to use products designed for this purpose, as improper wrapping may cause more damage than no wrap at all. Water your peach trees 1-2 times per month throughout the winter to prevent the roots from freeze-drying in the ground. This is especially critical for new trees that have been planted within the last 3 years.
- Watch for Pests
Peaches and other stone fruits are prone to a number of pests in this region. With prompt treatment, none of these pests are particularly problematic, but left unchecked, they can ruin your dreams of homegrown peaches. Some of the most common pests include aphids, cytospora canker, and peach-tree borer. For more information on managing these pests, click here: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/backyard-orchard-stone-fruits-2-804/
- Structural Pruning
Fully ripe peaches are full of juice, and consequently can be quite heavy. Periodic pruning of trees helps ensure a stable structure that won’t break under the load of all its fruit and can prevent a litany of problems that can result from ugly limb breakage. Maintenance pruning can also help more sunlight penetrate the canopy of the tree, which encourages better fruiting. For tips on pruning fruit trees, click here: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/training-and-pruning-fruit-trees-7-003/
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to produce a good crop of fruit, so feeding your trees is an important step in guaranteeing an abundant crop. We discourage the use of any fertilizer other than a root stimulator in the first two years after planting (we don’t want to encourage limb growth that the roots are unable to support). The third year a peach tree is in your yard, it’s time to start feeding it. We generally recommend low-nitrogen fertilizers for trees and shrubs, our favorite is Jirdon Tree & Shrub Fertilizer (4-10-10). It is always a good idea to get a soil test done prior to major fertilizer applications in order to pick the best fertilizer for your specific soil environment.
Peach Varieties that do well in our area and do not need cross-pollination:
Elberta. This is the common commercial peach produced on the Western Slope. It is a bit more tender in most areas of the East Slope, but many occasionally produce a satisfactory crop.
- Red Haven. Many named varieties. Freestone.
- Polly. A white freestone variety that matures in late summer. Among the hardiest available.
- Reliance. Considered hardiest of all. Freestone.