Belle of georgia peach

The Peach Industry

First grown in China almost 4,000 years ago, peaches spread from their homeland to the western world via India and Persia where they were first cultivated.

Peaches were later introduced into Europe and Columbus brought peach seeds to the new world on his second and third trips. These seeds eventually found their way to the red clay soil of middle Georgia where they were planted on acres of land which would later become Peach County.

Though peaches were originally planted in St. Augustine, Fla., Franciscan monks introduced them to St. Simons and Cumberland islands along Georgia’s coast in 1571. By the mid-1700s peaches and plums were cultivated by the Cherokee Indians. Before the Civil War, increasing numbers of home orchards were planted in Georgia.

Fresh Georgia peaches are available only 16 weeks each year, from mid-May to August. Although Georgia is still called the Peach State, it actually ranks third in United States peach production behind California and South Carolina, though Georgia peaches are arguably the sweetest and tastiest grown anywhere.

At one point more than 50 packing sheds ran during peach season in Fort Valley and Peach County providing thousands of jobs for young and old alike. Now, two ultra modern facilities handle the peaches that once took so many sheds to pack. Peaches are generally available mid-May through mid-August. Both sheds offer tours during regular business hours.
A typical Georgia peach crop can bring in up to 140 million pounds of peaches and brought and approx 30-40 million in revenue. About one half of the peaches harvested in Georgia come from Peach County.

Raphael Moses, a planter and Confederate officer from Columbus, was among the first to market peaches within Georgia in 1851 and is credited with being the first to ship and sell peaches successfully outside of the South. His method of shipping peaches in champagne baskets, rather than in pulverized charcoal, helped to preserve the flavor of the fruit and contributed to his success.

Considerable expansion of peach acreage occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, resulting in an all-time high production of almost eight million bushels by 1928. Since then production has decreased to about 2.6 million bushels annually.

Georgia enjoys important production and marketing advantages, primarily its proximity to eastern markets and favorable prices because of early harvests and high-quality fruit production.

Nearly all peaches grown in Georgia are sold in the wholesale fresh market, with a small percentage sold at roadside markets. There is no significant processing of peaches in Georgia.

The first Georgia peaches were shipped to the New York market between 1858 and 1860. They were transported by wagon to Augusta, then by shallow-draft boat to Savannah, and finally by steamship to New York. Georgia earned its “Peach State” designation during the three decades following the Civil War.

Peach expansion in acreage and production was fueled by several factors. The abolition of slavery forced farmers to search for alternatives to the traditional labor-intensive cotton crop. Peaches, in particular, benefited from this transition.

The Georgia State Horticultural Society, founded near Augusta in 1876, promoted the introduction and testing of many fruit varieties and their distribution throughout the state while under the leadership of Prosper J.A. Berckmans, a nurseryman and pomologist. The old Fruitlands Nursery is now the site of the Augusta National Golf Club, home to the annual Masters Tournament.

Berckmans became famous for introducing new fruit varieties that were more suitable for growing in southern climates. He developed or improved many types of peaches and eventually became known as the “Father of Peach Culture” across the South. Among his varieties were the South Chinese (or Honey) peach and the Chinese Cling. From the Chinese Cling, Prosper eventually bred the Elberta, Belle and Thurber peaches, which became Georgia’s primary commercial varieties. His Thurber peach was the leading variety until it was replaced by the Elberta, which was later improved by Samuel Rumph.

Rumph, a Marshallville peach grower, perfected the new peach variety in 1870, which he named for his wife, Elberta. This yellow-fleshed peach was of superior quality and shipped better than previous varieties. Elberta remained the leading peach in Georgia until 1960, but newer varieties have since replaced the Elberta in commercial use. Although the Elberta remains the most famous peach name, Georgia now produces more than 40 commercial varieties … and the Elberta is not one of them.

Rumph also pioneered improvements in rail transportation and the development of the refrigerated rail car which allowed rapid shipments to northern markets on a large scale.

Georgia’s peach industry is concentrated in Peach, Crawford, Taylor and Macon counties along the fall line, the transition zone between Georgia’s Piedmont and Coastal Plain. This area is far enough north to receive sufficient winter chilling, but far enough south to avoid late frosts and guarantee early harvest dates. The early harvest allows premium prices for the crop. Additionally, the sandy loam soils of the fall line are more favorable to peach production than the Piedmont’s heavy clays or the Coastal Plain’s sands.

Big 6 Farm – The Pearsons

The Pearson family has been growing peaches and pecans for more than 100 years on the same land worked by grandparents of current managing partner Al Pearson.

Big 6 Farm is comprised of 1,500 acres of peaches and 2,000 acres of pecans. This family farm produces a bounty of fruit and nuts with the finest being used in Mary Pearson’s mail order business, Pearson Farms.

Four generations of Pearsons have farmed the red clay of Peach and Crawford Counties, growing peaches, pecans, asparagus, timber, cotton, corn and other crops. Moses Winlock Pearson and his wife Cornelia moved to this area a little more than 100 years ago and planted the first peach trees for the Pearson family. There were six sons and six daughters. One son, Al Pearson’s grandfather John, started farming on his own, adding more land to the family holdings and planting more peaches.

Eventually, Lawton, the youngest son of John and Rosa Lee Pearson, and his wife Laurie began to work with the family farm in Zenith. Under Lawton’s leadership, the company continued to grow and prosper. The fourth generation started working in the packing shed and on the roadside selling peaches in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Big 6 Farm has met the food safety standards and Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) guidelines set by the USDA and the FDA. Big 6 has also met the audit standards established under the Georgia GP Food Safety Programs. It is one of only three farms in Georgia to earn this designation and the only peach and pecan farm.

Visit the Pearson Farm/Big 6 website for more information.

Lane Southern Orchards formerly Lane Packing Co.

Founded in 1908 by John David Duke as Diamond Fruit Farm, Lane Southern Orchards farms more than 2,500 acres of peach trees and 2,000 acres of pecans. Located just outside of Fort Valley, the fourth generation family operation now grows more than 30 varieties of peaches.

John David Duke built his first peach packing house in 1942. J.D, Duke Packing Co. was taken over by his son-in-law David O. Lane, and grandson, Duke Lane, Sr. in 1950 and the packing shed became known as Lane Packing Co.

Following the retirement of his father, Duke Lane Sr. became sole owner and, until 1975, continued to pack peaches at the same location his grandfather built in 1942.

In 1976, Duke Lane Sr. formed a partnership with the Russell Pearson family. Together they built a more modern packing house and named the company Pearson & Lane. This partnership remained in place until 1989. After the 1989 season, the Lane family began construction of a new packing house on the family farm. This facility is one of the most modern of its kind and was ready just in time for the 1990 crop.

For current continually updated information on Lane Southen Orchards please visit the website

Visit the Lane Southern Orchards website for more information.

Prunus persica
Peach trees are challenging to grow in the Southeast, even though Georgia is known as the Peach State and the Carolina’s produce huge numbers of the fruits each year. They are susceptible to several damaging disease and insect pests.

• More detailed information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing

• See also Home Garden Peaches

The flowers buds are killed outright by winter temperatures of minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also easily killed by late-season frost. In addition, Peaches must have a minimum number of “chill hours” each winter so mild winters can cause crop failure. Yet gardeners continue to defy the odds and grow peaches because the results are so gratifying. Some even grow them in tubs that can be moved into a protected area for the winter. Many Southerners agree that there is nothing like a juicy, ripe Peach on a warm summer day.

WHEN TO PLANT
Always plant Peach trees in the spring after any danger of severe cold weather has passed.

WHERE TO PLANT
To choose a site, be sure to take into account the full-grown size of the trees. Peaches on dwarfing rootstock will spread 12 to 15 feet; standard trees will be twice that size. Peach trees prefer well-drained soil in full sun (8 to 10 hours is enough) in an area that has protection from winter winds. The trees themselves are hardy but the flower buds are not. If the garden is on a slope, plant the Peach trees on the side of the hill (so they are protected from wind) but not at the bottom where cold air will settle.

HOW TO PLANT
Standard Peach trees or Peaches grafted onto the Lovell or Nemaguard rootstock are recommended for backyard orchards. Peaches are generally available as bare-root, 2-year-old whips. As soon as you receive the trees, plunge the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours to re-hydrate them and keep them from drying out. If planting is to be delayed, heel-in the trees (See Fruit Introduction) until you can plant them. Peaches are self-fruitful (not needing another variety for pollination). The number you choose to plant depends on your available space, your love of Peaches and the amount of management you can accomplish.

To plant a Peach tree, dig a hole twice as wide as the spread of the roots and deep enough that the plant will be at the same depth it grew in the nursery. Trim off excessively long and damaged roots, then spread the roots out in the bottom of the hole. Supporting the tree, backfill the hole with soil and firm the soil with your shoe. When the hole is half filled with soil, fill it with water. After the water has drained out, replace the remaining soil and fill with water again.

In severe climates, Peaches can be grown in containers such as half wine barrels. Make sure there are holes in the bottom for drainage. Use a high-quality, well-drained commercial potting soil mix and fill the container so the plant is set at the same depth it was growing in the nursery. Fill and firm with soil to 2 or 3 inches from the rim. Soak it thoroughly to remove air pockets.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Pruning is essential to Peach trees and the open center system is recommended. Prune Peach trees in the spring, keeping the trees low and thinning them out well. As the trees age, they will need heavier and heavier pruning. Thinning the fruit is also necessary to produce a good crop each year.

Fertilize young trees in April with one cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer scattered over an area three feet in diameter. Repeat with an additional half cup in early June and again in early August.

Beginning the second year, fertilize the trees twice a year; in early March and around the first of August. Use these rules: March application – apply one cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per year of tree age to a maximum of 10 cups for mature trees. August application – apply one cup of 10-10-10 per year of tree age to a maximum of four cups for mature trees.

Move containerized Peaches to a protected location where temperatures can be kept below 40 degrees but above 10 degrees Fahrenheit for the winter. Move them back outdoors in spring when danger of severe cold has passed.

PESTS
Peaches can be attacked by insects such as Japanese beetles, stink bugs and aphids. Diseases such as leaf curl, scab and brown rot can disfigure or ruin fruit. Your local Extension office can provide you with a spray schedule for specific pests and diseases.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Harvest the fruit when it is ripe or a few days earlier. Peaches continue to ripen after harvest. The taste test is the best means of determining ripeness. After a few seasons, experience will tell you when fruit is just about ripe. Peach varieties recommended for zones 7b and warmer may ripen as early as late April. Those that thrive in colder zones may not be ripe until mid-July.

VARIETIES – PEACH

Variety
Hardiness Zone

Junegold
8a – 8b
Yellow flesh, Cling stone

Flordaking
8a – 8b
Yellow flesh, Cling stone

Surecrop
7a – 7b
Yellow flesh, Semi-free stone

Juneprince
8a – 8b
Yellow flesh, Semi-free stone

Gala
7b – 8a
Yellow flesh, Semi-free stone

Redhaven
6a – 7b
Yellow flesh, Semi-free stone

Reliance
6a – 7a
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Suwanee
8a – 8b
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Nectar
7a – 7b
White flesh, Free stone

Harvester
7b – 8a
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Redglobe
7a – 8a
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Georgia Belle
7a – 7b
White flesh, Free stone

Cresthaven
7a – 7b
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Madison
6a – 7a
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Redskin
7a – 8b
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Jefferson
7a – 7b
Yellow flesh, Free stone

Belle of Georgia
6a – 7b
White flesh, Free stone

Tags For This Article: fruits, peaches

This is a tough year for the Georgia peach. In February, growers fretted about warm winter temperatures, which prevented some fruit from developing properly. They were more discouraged in March after a late freeze damaged many of the remaining fruit. By May they were predicting an 80 percent crop loss. By July they were lamenting one of the worst years in living memory.

With relatively few Georgia peaches this season, we might wonder where we would be without any Georgia peaches at all. One response to that question, surprisingly, is a shrug.

Georgia peaches account for only 0.38 percent of the state’s agricultural economy, and the state produces only between 3 and 5 percent of the national peach crop. Another region would make up the loss in production if demand were sufficient. A peach is a peach. Who cares about Georgia peaches?

But the Georgia peach’s imperiled future is not a simple matter of costs and profits. As a crop and a cultural icon, Georgia peaches are a product of history. And as I have documented, its story tells us much about agriculture, the environment, politics and labor in the American South.

Peach orchard at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory, Byron, Georgia (William Thomas Okie)

Peaches (Prunus persica) were introduced to North America by Spanish monks around St. Augustine, Florida in the mid-1500s. By 1607 they were widespread around Jamestown, Virginia. The trees grow readily from seed, and peach pits are easy to preserve and transport.

Observing that peaches in the Carolinas germinated easily and fruited heavily, English explorer and naturalist John Lawson wrote in 1700 that “they make our Land a Wilderness of Peach-Trees.” Even today feral Prunus persica is surprisingly common, appearing along roadsides and fence rows, in suburban backyards and old fields throughout the Southeast and beyond.

Yet for such a hardy fruit, the commercial crop can seem remarkably fragile. This year’s 80 percent loss is unusual, but public concern about the crop is an annual ritual. It begins in February and March, when the trees start blooming and are at significant risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Larger orchards heat trees with smudge pots or use helicopters and wind machines to stir up the air on particularly frigid nights.

The southern environment can seem unfriendly to the fruit in other ways, too. In the 1890s many smaller growers struggled to afford expensive and elaborate controls to combat pests such as San Jose scale and plum curculio. In the early 1900s large quantities of fruit were condemned and discarded when market inspectors found entire car lots infected with brown rot, a fungal disease that can devastate stone fruit crops. In the 1960s the commercial peach industry in Georgia and South Carolina nearly ground to a halt due to a syndrome known as peach tree short life, which caused trees to suddenly wither and die in their first year or two of bearing fruit.

In short, growing Prunus persica is easy. But producing large, unblemished fruit that can be shipped thousands of miles away, and doing so reliably, year after year, demands an intimate environmental knowledge that has developed slowly over the last century and a half of commercial peach production.

Up through the mid-19th century, peaches were primarily a kind of feral resource for southern farmers. A few distilled the fruit into brandy; many ran their half-wild hogs in the orchards to forage on fallen fruit. Some slave owners used the peach harvest as a kind of festival for their chattel, and runaways provisioned their secret journeys in untended orchards.

Deborah Griscom Passmore, Elberta peach (1896), from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland. (USDA)

In the 1850s, in a determined effort to create a fruit industry for the Southeast, horticulturists began a selective breeding campaign for peaches and other fruits, including wine grapes, pears, apples and gooseberries. Its most famous yield was the Elberta peach. Introduced by Samuel Henry Rumph in the 1870s, the Elberta became one of the most successful fruit varieties of all time. Other fruits flourished for brief periods, but southern peaches boomed: the number of trees increased more than fivefold between 1889 and 1924.

Increasingly, growers and boosters near the heart of the industry in Fort Valley, Georgia sought to tell “the story” of the Georgia peach. They did so in peach blossom festivals from 1922 to 1926 – annual events that dramatized the prosperity of the peach belt. Each festival featured a parade of floats, speeches by governors and members of Congress, a massive barbecue and an elaborate pageant directed by a professional dramatist and sometimes involving up to one-fourth of the town’s population.

Festival-goers came from all across the United States, with attendance reportedly reaching 20,000 or more—a remarkable feat for a town of roughly 4,000 people. In 1924 the queen of the festival wore a US$32,000, pearl-encrusted gown belonging to silent film star Mary Pickford. In 1925, as documented by National Geographic, the pageant included a live camel.

The pageants varied from year to year, but in general told a story of the peach, personified as a young maiden and searching the world for a husband and a home: from China, to Persia, to Spain, to Mexico, and finally to Georgia, her true and eternal home. The peach, these productions insisted, belonged to Georgia. More specifically, it belonged to Fort Valley, which was in the midst of a campaign to be designated as the seat of a new, progressive “Peach County.”

That campaign was surprisingly bitter, but Fort Valley got its county—the 161st and last county in Georgia—and, through the festivals, helped to consolidate the iconography of the Georgia peach. The story they told of Georgia as the “natural” home of the peach was as enduring as it was inaccurate. It obscured the importance of horticulturists’ environmental knowledge in creating the industry, and the political connections and manual labor that kept it afloat.

As the 20th century wore on, it became increasingly hard for peach growers to ignore politics and labor. This was particularly clear in the 1950s and ‘60’s, when growers successfully lobbied for a new peach laboratory in Byron, Georgia to help combat peach tree short life. Their chief ally was U.S. Senator Richard B. Russell Jr., one of the most powerful members of Congress in the 20th century and, at the time, chair of the Subcommittee on Agricultural Appropriations. The growers claimed that an expansion of federal research would shore up the peach industry; provide new crops for the South (jujube, pomegranate and persimmons, to name a few); and provide jobs for black southerners who would, the growers maintained, otherwise join the “already crowded offices of our welfare agencies.”

Russell pushed the proposal through the Senate, and—after what he later described as one of the most difficult negotiations of his 30-year career—through the House as well. In time, the laboratory would play a crucial role in supplying new varieties necessary to maintain the peach industry in the South.

At the same time, Russell was also engaged in a passionate and futile defense of segregation against the African-American civil rights movement. African-Americans’ growing demand for equal rights, along with the massive postwar migration of rural southerners to urban areas, laid bare the southern peach industry’s dependence on a labor system that relied on systemic discrimination.

Peach pickers being driven to the orchards, Muscella, Georgia, 1936, photographed by Dorothea Lange (Library of Congress)

Peach labor has always been—and for the foreseeable future will remain—hand labor. Unlike cotton, which was almost entirely mechanized in the Southeast by the 1970s, peaches were too delicate and ripeness too difficult to judge for mechanization to be a viable option. As the rural working class left southern fields in waves, first in the 1910s and ‘20’s and again in the 1940s and ’50’s, growers found it increasingly difficult to find cheap and readily available labor.

For a few decades they used dwindling local crews, supplemented by migrants and schoolchildren. In the 1990s they leveraged their political connections once more to move their undocumented Mexican workers onto the federal H-2A guest worker program.

“Evr’ything is peaches down in Georgia,” a New York songwriting trio wrote in 1918, “paradise is waiting down there for you.” But of course everything was and is not peaches down in Georgia, either figuratively or literally.

Georgia itself doesn’t depend on the fruit. There may be plenty of peaches on Georgia license plates, but according to the University of Georgia’s 2014 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report, the state makes more money from pine straw, blueberries, deer hunting leases and cabbages. It has 1.38 million acres planted with cotton, compared to 11,816 acres of peach orchards. Georgia’s annual production of broiler chickens is worth more than 84 times the value of the typical peach crop.

Variable weather and environmental conditions make the Georgia peach possible. They also threaten its existence. But the Georgia peach also teaches us how important it is that we learn to tell fuller stories of the food we eat—stories that take into account not just rain patterns and nutritional content, but history, culture and political power.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

William Thomas Okie, Assistant Professor of History and History Education, Kennesaw State University

Belle Of Georgia Peaches – Tips For Growing A Belle Of Georgia Peach Tree

If you want a peach that is the belle of the ball, try Belle of Georgia peaches. Gardeners in United States Department of Agriculture zones 5 to 8 should try growing a Belle of Georgia peach tree. The brilliant red flowers, multi-purpose fruits and disease resistant attributes of this plant make it an outstanding edible landscape tree.

About Peach ‘Belle of Georgia’

Peaches are one of those fruits that are delicious fresh but also translate to canned, grilled and dessert recipes. The peach ‘Belle of Georgia’ is a blushed freestone with white succulent flesh. As an added bonus, the tree is self-fertile and doesn’t require a pollination partner to crop. It does, however, need at least 800 chilling hours for a reliable harvest.

Not all peach trees are created equal. The Belle of Georgia peach tree is resistant to bacterial leaf spot and brown rot. Standard trees attain a height of 25 feet (7.6 m.), but

there is a dwarf variety that will only get 10 feet (3 m.) maximum. It is a fast-growing tree that may produce a fruit crop as early as age three.

Belle of Georgia peaches are large and have a rosy blush on their fuzzy skins. The firm fleshed fruits are ready to harvest in late summer and store well.

Growing a Belle of Georgia Peach

Plant the tree in well-draining, loamy to sandy soil with plenty of organic amendment incorporated. Provide the tree with full sun, at least 6 hours minimum of bright light. Plant standard trees a minimum of 20 feet (6 m.) apart and provide dwarf forms 10 feet (3 m.) of spacing.

Soak bare root trees in a bucket of water for two hours prior to planting. Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the roots and build a little hill of loose soil at the bottom. Spread the roots out over the hill and to the edges of the hole. Fill in and pack soil around the roots, watering deeply after. If necessary, stake the little tree to help it grow straight.

Belle of Georgia Care

Water newly installed trees weekly. Once established, water trees deeply but wait until the surface of the soil has dried before further irrigation.

In the first dormant season, prune to establish a central leader and 4 to 5 scaffold branches. In the second season, remove any new shoots, leaving the older twig growth. By the third season, pruning is done to remove waterspouts, and crossing or damaged stems. After a first crop, prune the peach annually to remove a third of fruited wood.

Once trees start bearing fruit, fertilize in early spring with a high nitrogen organic feed.

Peach Tree, ‘Belle of Georgia’

Grow Your Own Fresh Fruit Trees! Imagine fresh peach pie from your own peach tree!
The ‘Belle of Georgia’ peach is spicy, sweet and juicy. It has creamy, white flesh with tinges of red and the outside has a nice scarlet blush. The flesh is very firm and the peach is highly flavored. This is a heavy-bearing, high quality peach. It is an excellent freestone peach and the freestone characteristic makes it easy to eat. ‘Belle of Georgia’ is considered a heirloom cultivar. It will ripen in August, and requires 800 chill hours. This midseason peach is vigorous and frost tolerant, a heavy bearer.
This antique variety is has long been held in the memories of southern childhoods as one of the best peaches ever eaten. The large freestone peach ripens with a slight blush. White and melting, the very sweet flesh is excellent for fresh eating and ice cream. This variety tends to bloom in mid spring with bright pink flowers. Almost all peaches are self-fertile and require no pollinators. They will set heavy crops on single trees, which need heavy and aggressive thinning early in the season for best fruit size.
The peach is the most adaptable of all fruit trees for home gardens. When planting, they should be spaced to allow a spread of 20 feet. At 3 or 4 years of age they begin to bear large crops and reach peak productivity at 8 to 12 years. Peaches need clear, hot weather during their growing season and require well-drained soil as well as a regular fertilizing program. They also require heavier pruning than any other fruit trees to maintain size and encourage new growth. Most peach varieties are self-pollinating, not requiring a second tree. Cannot tolerate extreme winter cold or late frost.

Peach ‘Belle of Georgia’

Category:

Edible Fruits and Nuts

Trees

Height:

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

Spacing:

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Bloom Color:

Pink

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Foliage:

Deciduous

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

By grafting

By budding

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Gaylesville, Alabama

Story, Arkansas

Panama City, Florida

Augusta, Georgia

Carrollton, Georgia(2 reports)

Plainfield, Illinois

Waukegan, Illinois

Charlotte Hall, Maryland

Valley Lee, Maryland

Florence, Mississippi

Waynesboro, Mississippi

Huntersville, North Carolina

Millerton, Pennsylvania

Radford, Virginia

Troy, Virginia

show all

Home Garden Peaches

Introduction

Growing peaches and other fruit trees in Georgia and the southeastern United States is challenging. Peaches are not native to North America; however, many cultivars have been developed for our area, and Georgia has a long history of successful peach production. One must choose the site and the proper cultivar and provide care throughout the year to be successful.

Knowing your Fruit Tree

Grafted peach plant. Photo by Dario Chavez.

Peach trees should be purchased from reputable nurseries to assure healthy trees of the desired cultivar/rootstock combination. The tree is composed of a scion (shoot) of a particular cultivar (i.e. variety) grafted onto a rootstock. This rootstock can be grown from seed or through clonal propagation. Normally, the rootstock has been bred and selected for adaptation and resistance/tolerance against soil pests and diseases for the location. It is important to make sure that you have the best rootstock for your area. The rootstocks currently available are Guardian, MP-29, Halford, and Nemaguard. If you are located in south Georgia, you may find other rootstocks in addition to the ones described above, such as Flordaguard and Sharpe.

The peach tree will change throughout the growing seasons. In the spring, the tree will bear pink flowers. After blooming, the green foliage will emerge. In the summer, ovaries from pollinated flowers will swell forming small fruit. Fruit will continue to mature until ripening. In the fall, the foliage will turn reddish-orange until finally dropping at the end of the fall.

A peach orchard changes depending on the season. Top left: spring. Top right: summer. Bottom left: fall. Bottom right: winter. Photos courtesy of the Georgia Peach Council.

Choosing a Site

Choosing the right place for a fruit tree to grow is very important for overall success. Peach trees require a site with well-drained soil and ample sunlight. Poorly drained soils can lead to poor tree growth and often times tree death. Peach trees need to have sun from 8 to 10 hours per day. This amount of sunlight will assure sufficient photosynthesis and promote tree health and vigor.

Another aspect to think about when choosing the site is the tree size. Peach trees on Sharpe and on MP-29 rootstocks (semi-dwarf) will spread 12-15 feet, while standard trees will be twice the size (such as in Guardian, Halford, and Nemaguard rootstocks).

It is important to protect the trees from winter winds. If the garden is on a slope, the peach trees should be planted on the side of the hill to diminish the effects of the wind and cold.

Preparing the Soil

Test the soil prior to planting, as an adequate adjustment of pH and fertility may be required. This is particularly important because modifying soil pH in deeper profiles is very difficult after planting. Soil testing kits can be obtained from your local UGA Extension office. You can locate the closest county office with the online directory.

Using a soil probe, collect the soil from several different locations at a depth of 6-8″ to obtain a proper soil sample. Mix the soil together in a clean, non-metal container and place 3-4 handfuls of this mix into the bag for the soil test. The soil test results will provide you with a recommendation based on the crop and your soil conditions. Soil pH for peach trees should be between 6 and 6.5.

Planting, Culture, and Fertilization

Ideally, you should preorder your peach trees to obtain the rootstock/scion combination you want from a nursery. Many nurseries will have a catalog with a detailed description for each variety, including the rootstocks that are available. You can ask the nursery to help you identify good varieties that will grow with fewer problems at your location.

One of the main factors to determine if a peach tree is adapted to a location is the chill hours. Each variety has a different chill hour requirement that has to be satisfied to enable normal plant growth and fruiting. A chill hour is the amount of time that the temperature is between 32 degrees F and 45 degrees F. You can find this information using the Georgia Weather System. Within this system, click on the location that is closest to you and look for the link to the chilling hours calculator. To calculate the chilling hours, choose dates from October 1 to February 15. You will then be able to see the historical chill hours within your area, which can be used as thresholds to select the best varieties suited for your location.

The peach trees are usually delivered in late December or at the beginning of January. Peach trees can be planted in December through February, while still dormant. They will either come as potted or bare root plants. Bare root plants will require immediate action. Keep the roots moist and in the shade until planting.

To plant a peach tree, dig a hole twice as wide as the width of the rootball and deep enough so that the tree is at the same depth that it was in the nursery. Gently spread the roots in the hole and cover them with soil. Do not add any compost or soil amendment. Firm the soil around the stem and remember to water the soil thoroughly after finishing.

For optimum future growth, plant your trees about 18 to 20 feet apart. Once the tree starts growing, remove any suckers that arise from below the graft. This can be done with your hands or hand clippers in order to slow or stop them from regrowing.

Weeds should be controlled with hand weeding, using mulch (hay), or very careful application of herbicides. Weeds, especially grasses, will outcompete peach trees for water and nutrients. If you use herbicides, make sure to keep the spray from drifting to the trunks of your young peach trees. One effective way to protect young trees from accidental herbicide injury is to place a paper milk carton over the trunk at planting. The paper milk-carton will degrade over time, but it will provide a good herbicide shield until it begins to disintegrate.

Do not fertilize newly planted, first year, peach trees until March. At that time, apply 1 lb of 10-10-10 fertilizer per tree, broadcasting evenly 4 to 5 inches away from the tree trunk. In May, broadcast 1 lb of calcium nitrate, 6 inches away from the tree trunk. In July, broadcast 1 lb of calcium nitrate over a 6-inch diameter circle.

Second year fertilization starts in March by applying 2 lb of 10-10-10 fertilizer per tree broadcast evenly over a 6 inches diameter circle. In May, broadcast 1.25 lb of calcium nitrate, 6 inches away from the tree trunk. In July, broadcast 1.25 lb of calcium nitrate over a 6-inch diameter circle.

Starting from third year and on, apply similar rates as the second year with a supplemental 0.15-0.25 lb per tree per application adjusted as follows: a postharvest application based on the tree’s terminal growth and a spring application based on the crop load. If the trees do not show any symptoms of deficiency, and tree growth and yield are adequate, just maintain fertilization rates as on year 2. Evaluate and define each year’s fertilization based on these recommendations.

These applications should be modified if a preplant soil testing was done and recommendations were followed, as phosphorus and potassium should not be needed for the first and second years of tree life. For more detailed information view the 2014 Southeastern Peach, Nectarine, and Plum Pest Management and Culture Guide.

Fruit thinning. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Peach Council.

During the winter season, pruning is vital for next year’s crop. It is recommended to keep four scaffold limbs with an open, vase-like center. See suggested pruning techniques for peaches in the UGA Extension publication, “Peach Orchard Establishment and Young Tree Care” (Circular 877).

In order to assure good fruit size, peaches will almost always have to be thinned. Fruit thinning is normally done when the fruit is about 0.7- to 1.0-inch across. Peach trees naturally produce hundreds of fruitlets. To achieve desirable and consistent fruit size, leave a healthy, well shaped fruitlet every 6 to 8 inches. Although it may seem that you are removing most of the crop, thinning will assure a good fruit size and quality crop when ripe.

Insects and Diseases

Peaches are one of the more difficult fruit crops for homeowners to grow in Georgia because they have many diseases and insect pests. It is important to follow a spray regime to protect your fruit and trees. Brown rot disease and the plum curculio insect have the potential to destroy the entire fruit crop without a good management program.

The home orchard section of the annually updated University of Georgia Pest Management Handbook — Homeowner Edition provides recommendations for controlling and preventing diseases and insects of commonly grown home orchard crops such as peaches. The most common problems are:

Insect Pests

Plum curculio. Photo courtesy of Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org.Peachtree borer. Photo courtesy of Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org.Oriental fruit moth. Photo courtesy of Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org.White peach scale. Photo courtesy of Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org.

  • Plum curculio is the key fruit insect pest that attacks peaches in Georgia and adjacent Southeastern states. These small, native weevils (snout-beetles) are found on numerous wild hosts. Plum curculio can cause injury all season long and it is difficult to scout well enough to spray only as needed. In most of Georgia, plum curculio damage is typically most pronounced from petal drop at the end of fall through the end of April. Damage typically picks up again as peaches ripen.
    The peaches often produce gum at the sites of curculio wounds. The larvae mature in the dropped fruit, so prompt removal of any infested fruit from the ground or tree is important. Preventative sprays are the only means of effectively preventing plum curculio damage.
  • Peachtree borer and lesser peachtree borer are caterpillar pests that feed on the inner bark, causing major damage to the tree’s vascular system. Peachtree borers attack the lower trunk and the major roots, while lesser peachtree borers attack the structural wood throughout the tree. Adults lay eggs in the wound areas. Larvae bore into the vascular tissue, impairing the flow of water and nutrients, and ultimately killing the limb or even the entire tree. Late summer application of insecticides can help. Avoid making large pruning cuts that leave excessive wounding.
  • Oriental fruit moth, in the caterpillar stage, attack and tunnel within the stems of succulent new vegetative growth and damage the fruit. Though typically regarded as the most impactful fruit-feeding pest of peaches worldwide, in most of Georgia the Oriental fruit moth is only a minor fruit pest. The caterpillar does modest injury to the terminals of new growth in the spring and again during the annual vegetative growth flush.
  • Scale insects are very small insects that attach to limbs and trunks and can cause tree death. Oil sprays should be applied annually on dormant trees to control scale insects.
  • Mites usually occur in late summer and in dry seasons. Leaves become stippled and in severe cases webbing can be seen on the foliage.

Diseases

Brown rot. Photo courtesy of Phil Brannen, University of Georgia, Plant Pathology. Bacterial spot. Photo by U. Mazzucchi, Università di Bologna, Bugwood.org.Peach leaf curl. Photo by Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org. Peach scab. Photo courtesy of Phil Brannen, University of Georgia, Plant Pathology.

  • Brown rot is caused by a fungus that can infect flowers, shoots, and fruit. It is the most damaging stone fruit disease in terms of fruit loss. It is very difficult to manage in Georgia without fungicides. In most years, 100% of the ripening fruit can be lost to this disease in unsprayed trees. The severity of the disease can vary from year to year depending on the amount of moisture. Removal of all the old fruit at the end of the season and proper pruning during the dormant season will cut back on brown rot infections the following year. Check with your county agent for information on spray programs.
  • Bacterial spot and leaf curl are leaf diseases that may cause problems in certain years or locations or on certain cultivars. Bacterial spot is a sporadic leaf spot disease, which when severe, can cause some defoliation in certain cultivars. Select cultivars that are adapted to the East. Leaf curl is also sporadic in occurrence. Infected leaves become reddish, thickened, twisted, and drop prematurely.
  • Scab is a fruit and twig disease that causes superficial blemishes on the fruit. Sprays for brown rot will also protect against scab.

For more in-depth explanation on the management of peach diseases, insect, and weed problems contact your local Extension office.

Harvesting, Storing, and Consumption

Different cultivars ripen at various times from early May to late August or early September. Harvesting time depends on the final use of the fruit. Normally, peach fruit is harvested when ripe. This is typically when fruit is firm and has a yellow (for yellow flesh peaches) or cream (for white flesh peaches) background color and wonderful aroma. Hard fruit that are not quite ripe can be used for pickling, while over ripened fruit has to be used quickly. There are several ways to preserve peaches once pickled. A good resource on preserving fruit is the UGA Extension family and consumer sciences website where you can find a link to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, fact sheets on food preservation, contact information for a family and consumer sciences agent near you, and an order form for the “So Easy Preserve” book.

Recommended Cultivars

Early JuneModerate chill, 600-750 hoursJunegoldYellowMeltingClingstoneResistant

Table 1. Recommended peach varieties grown in Georgia and South Carolina in the order of their harvest period.
Harvest Period Chill Variety Flesh Color Flesh Texture Pit Attachment Bacterial Spot Susceptibility
Late April Low chill, <600 hours Flordadawn* Yellow Melting Clingstone Resistant
Early May Low chill, <600 hours Gulfcrest* Yellow Non-melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Flordacrest* Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Mid May Low chill, <600 hours Flordaking* Yellow Melting Clingstone Resistant
Gulfking* Yellow Non-melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Mid May Moderate chill, 600-750 hours Regal Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Highly Susceptible
Late May Low chill, <600 hours Gulfprince* Yellow Non-melting Clingstone Highly Resistant
Late May Moderate chill, 600-750 hours Springprince Yellow Non-melting Clingstone Moderately Susceptible
Empress Yellow Melting Clingstone Moderately Susceptible
Goldprince Yellow Melting Clingstone Resistant
Late May High chill, 750-900 hours Camden Yellow Melting Clingstone Susceptible
Sunbrite Yellow Melting Clingstone Susceptible
Rubyprince Yellow Melting Clingstone Moderately Susceptible
Harvest Period Chill Variety Flesh Color Flesh Texture Pit Attachment Bacterial Spot Susceptibility
Juneprince Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Southern Pearl Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Early June High chill, 750-900 hours Summerprince Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Garnet Beauty Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Early June Very high chill, > 900 hours Harrow Diamond Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Mid June Moderate chill, 600-750 hours Coronet Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Mid June High chill, 750-900 hours Gala Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
Mid June Very high chill, > 900 hours Surecrop Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Late June Moderate chill, 600-750 hours Topaz Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Late June High chill, 750-900 hours Redtop Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
Cary Mac Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Harvester Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Fireprince Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Winblo Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Late June Very high chill, > 900 hours Sureprince Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Harvest Period Chill Variety Flesh Color Flesh Texture Pit Attachment Bacterial Spot Susceptibility
Early July Moderate chill, 600-750 hours La Feliciana Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Early July High chill, 750-900 hours Blazeprince Yellow Melting Freestone Moderately Susceptible
Redglobe Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Julyprince Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Loring Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Majestic Yellow Melting Freestone Highly Resistant
Bounty Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Scarletprince Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
Flamecrest Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
Early July Very high chill, > 900 hours Redhaven Yellow Melting Semi-clingstone Resistant
Mid July High chill, 750-900 hours Dixiland Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
White Lady White Melting Freestone Moderately Susceptible
Georgia Belle White Melting Freestone Resistant
Redskin Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Sunprince Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Elberta Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Ruston Red Yellow Melting Freestone Highly Resistant
Jefferson Yellow Melting Freestone Highly Resistant
Mid July Very high chill, > 900 hours Cresthaven Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Contender Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Late July High chill, 750-900 hours Early Augustprince Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Fay Elberta Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
Late July Very high chill, > 900 hours China Pearl White Melting Freestone Resistant/Susceptible
Harvest Period Chill Variety Flesh Color Flesh Texture Pit Attachment Bacterial Spot Susceptibility
Early August High chill, 750-900 hours Augustprince Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Flameprince Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Mid to Late August High chill, 750-900 hours Big Red Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
Parade Yellow Melting Freestone Susceptible
Autumnprince Yellow Melting Freestone Resistant
Fairtime Yellow Melting Freestone Highly Susceptible
*Varieties mostly grown in south Georgia. These varieties will bloom very early if grown in middle and north Georgia with a large percentage of crop loss due to freeze damage.

Status and Revision History
Published on Feb 11, 2015
Published with Full Review on May 10, 2018

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