- Peach Tree Thinning – How And When To Thin A Peach Tree
- Reasons for Peach Tree Thinning
- When to Thin a Peach Tree
- How to Thin Peaches
- Small Peaches for two years–want to figure it out this year!
- Why Is the Fruit Development Period Important in an IPM Program?
- Your Guide to Growing Delicious Peaches
- Grow Peaches in the Right Spot
- Peach Varieties
- Growing Peaches from Pit
- How to Prune
- Preventing Disease
- Grow Little Fruit Trees for Big Rewards
- Homegrown Fruit on a Manageable Scale
- Fruit Trees 101: Buying
- Fruit Trees 101: Siting
- Fruit Trees 101: Spacing
- What to Grow: Pears
- What to Grow: Peaches
- What to Grow: Apples
- Fruit Tree Pruning Schedule
- Pruning Schedule: Step 1: First Spring
- Pruning Schedule: Step 2: First Summer
- Pruning Schedule: Step 3: First Winter
- Pruning Schedule: Step 4: Second Summer
- Pruning Schedule: Step 5: Ever After
- First Pruning
- How to: Heading Cut
- How to: Thinning Cut
- 7 Ways to Use Peaches Before They Go Bad
- Baked Oatmeal
- 15 Peachy Keen Ways to Use the Overripe Fruit in Your Fridge
- Jams, Fixins, Etc.
Peach Tree Thinning – How And When To Thin A Peach Tree
“They’re beautiful when they bloom, but the fruit is worthless. There’s plenty of it, but it’s always so small and rock hard.”
The gardener above is talking about two peach trees in her backyard. She’s not alone in her complaint. Many backyard gardeners consider their peach trees to be strictly ornamental because of the poor crop they produce. What these gardeners may not know is how to thin peaches on a peach tree to improve quality and size.
Reasons for Peach Tree Thinning
Each piece of fruit that remains on a tree must get its share of nutrients from the parent tree. When branches are overloaded, each fruit receives a smaller share. There’s simply not enough water and nutrition to go around. The result is small fruit with hard, moistureless flesh. Overloaded branches will sap the tree’s resources and weaken it, making it more susceptible to disease and decreasing its lifespan, so knowing how to thin peaches isn’t just for our eating enjoyment.
When to Thin a Peach Tree
A properly thinned peach tree is healthier and provides a greater yield of edible fruit. When to thin a peach tree depends on what method you choose. There are several ways for thinning a peach tree at different times during the growing season, so you should find one that best fits your gardening schedule or perhaps try more than one. All are based on the tree’s natural growth and production.
How to Thin Peaches
Method 1 for Thinning Peach Trees
The first method of peach tree thinning begins with the dormant tree. Pruning crossed branches and opening up the center of the tree to the shape of a wide bowl will decrease the number of branches where blossoms form and allow more airflow and sunshine to reach the remaining fruit.
Mid to late February is when to thin a peach tree through pruning. It’s the time after the worst of the winter freeze is over, but before the tree leafs out. Pruning too early can cause its own set of health problems, so tempting as it may be, don’t prune during the January thaw.
Method 2 for Thinning Peach Trees
The second opportunity for thinning a peach tree occurs in early spring. Cold weather is needed for the dormant buds to activate. It’s the change in temperature — from cold to warm — that triggers the emergence of buds on your peach tree. Thinning can begin when color shows on the buds and the first flowers open.
Large scale growers sometimes use mechanical means to reduce the number of buds on their trees, but many still rely on hand thinning. A peach tree produces thousands of blossoms and usually sets far more fruit than could possibly reach maturity. Reducing the number of blossoms and, therefore, the number of possible fruit allows the survivors to grow fuller and healthier.
A power washer is a great tool for eliminating buds and blossoms if you know how. To thin peaches or, more correctly, future peaches, requires a strong stream of water and a steady hand. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless. Nature will eliminate many of these blossoms anyway. You’ll have to eliminate many more before the tree is properly thinned. Peach blossoms are beautiful and therefore difficult to sacrifice, but the results will be worth it.
If you don’t own a power washer, don’t despair. You can get the same results by bashing the branches with a leaf rake. It may sound odd, but it’s an effective method of peach tree thinning. Remember to remove the whole bud and not just the flower petals.
Method 3 for Thinning Peach Trees
June (or May if you’re in the south) is when to thin a peach tree next. Once again, Mother Nature knows how to thin peaches and helps us out with the June drop, but Mother Nature rarely does enough peach tree thinning to satisfy a gardener’s needs. Her job is to see that there are enough viable fruit to ensure the continuation of the species. She’s not interested in fresh fruit for eating or delicious pies. Therefore, it falls to the gardener to see that the final result is a properly thinned peach tree.
At this point, it’s important to know how to thin peaches enough. Ideally, there should be one fruit every 6-8 inches. Again, you can use that power washer, rake or any implement you devise or repurpose that will do the job.
Then all you have to do is sit back and watch your peaches grow.
Small Peaches for two years–want to figure it out this year!
How many people do you need to seat? Measure everything carefully before you buy anything because space is tight, but it could be really cute. Options: 1) Like New Again suggested, move the stove. That cabinet is way too low for over the stove anyway, so if you ripped it out and put some inexpensive cabinets, (maybe you can get some used on Freecycle, Craig’s List, or ReStore–people rip out a lot of those oak style cabinets all the time) and move the whole works over. That would make it really cramped though, and I hate a stove without any counterspace nearby. 2) Keep fridge where it is. Looks like you tore out a counter in the corner or something. Reinstalling it, maybe with a corner cabinet and/or a place for stools underneath would add some function if you keep the fridge where it is. Then add a small cart on wheels in the gap. The arch is so wide, you could put a pennisula of some sort there for seating–maybe with storage or shelves on one side and stools on the other or a half and half arrangement. 3) Move the fridge next to the sink and move those cabinets to next to the stove. Looks like one is missing a drawer though. And I would move over that too long one over the stove over to the wall for more storage space and function. I would run the counter just straight to the wall (short straight stretches of laminate counter are pretty cheap) and put an inexpensive short bookcase next to the stove by the door. I did that with my last kitchen and it really came in handy. Then put a small table in the gap. Thrift store often have small kitchen type tables that might fit. Or maybe a narrow pennisula with stools that store underneath. 4) Follow OldBob’s advice and put the fridge in the garage, maybe with an apartment sized fridge in the kitchen without freezer (unless you use a lot of ice–we never do), for eggs, lunchmeat, cheese, condiments and beverages mostly, that will fit under the counter.Might be able to get a small one to fit next to the stove. Less convenient, but you can seat more people, and that would be nice when friends and such come over Decor: I would get rid of that rock facing and just paint the whole wall, and scrub down, sand, prime and paint those cabinets when you can. The floor is kind of dark, but is OK, especially with some kitchen throw rugs. I rather like the rag type because they are so easy to wash. IKEA and Target may have something. Nice valances on the windows could be pretty–something to match your living room. Maybe even a curtain under the sink rather than the doors. It looks like you have a corner there without any storage at all. It is better to have cabinets with shelves to the corner than nothing at all, if you know someone handy to help you cut down the wall of the cabinet and access that area.. I have a 50-year old kitchen and that’s what I have. I use cheap plastic storage bins without the lids I can slide in and out if I need something there. Straight sides is best–I found some folding bins that fit very well. The arch is so wide, I would even consider some harrow open bookcases for more storage if you don’t put a pennisula there. Helps screen the kitchen a bit too.. I rather like the narrow Expedit ones IKEA has in white–not too expensive, easy to put together, and can hold a lot more weight than a typical Wallmart bookcase. Can add some storage bins to cover up some of your stuff and add a little color too, and leave the top ones open or for kids bookbags and homework and such without looking too cluttered. Maybe cover the back with a nice piece of fabric if you wish, or a stenciled bulletin board or a cheap full-lenth mirror. I would put a shelf with hooks underneath over the window by the sink and hang pots there. A friend did this and it was really cute and useful. I’ve had a lifetime of moving from one small old kitchen to another, so I know what it is like, and what it is like to have a very limited budget. Most of my kitchen tables actually have come from the curb! I’m not too proud to salvage anything good and it is better for the environment anyway!! i don’t have a place to sit in my current kitchen and I really miss it. A table is a great work surface for baking and all kinds of things. I’m thinking about tearing out some cabinets or moving the fridge so I can add one in. I read that 80 square feet is a typical pre-1970 kitchen and that’s what I have! Women cooked more then too and I wonder how did they manage.
Herman Auer is a Class of 1983 Master Gardener from Santa Fe, Texas. His gardening expertise is on the production of peach and plum trees in Galveston County. Herman serves as a resource educator for the Galveston County Master Gardeners for information on fruit tree production. He also teaches classes on fruit tree production at a local college.
Herman wants everyone to remember three facts about peaches:
The leaves of a peach tree are toxic.
The root system of a peach tree requires excellent soil drainage and is very sensitive to excessive soil moisture conditions.
Peaches are self-pollinating.
1. Question: What is the most important factor in growing fruit trees?
Answer: The one simple and most critical factor when investing in home fruit production is variety selection. While there are several other important factors involved, without the proper variety, you may be up the proverbial creek without a paddle – or, in the case at point, without a fruit to eat. Homeowners waste thousands of dollars each year on fruit varieties which are not adapted to their growing area. The undesirable varieties may lack disease resistance, proper chilling requirements, etc. In many cases, the newer varieties are simply superior in production and quality.
2. Question: What does the term “chill hour requirement” mean?
Answer: In order to set fruit, most trees require exposure to a minimum number of hours of temperatures within the range of 32° to 45° F. This temperature range is called “chill hour requirement” and the amount can vary widely for varieties within a given fruit class. The local growing area has a range of 600 chill hours to less than 200 chill hours over a winter season. If an advertisement claims a fruit tree is hardy to zero for a zillion hours, then don’t expect a lot of fruit if you grow it locally! Look for a variety that says it needs “low chill hours” or 400 chill hours or less.
3. Question: What is the difference between bare-rooted and container-grown fruit trees?
Answer: Container-grown fruit trees are grown in a pot and are well rooted. Bare-rooted trees have been grown in the ground at a nursery and then dug, wrapped and shipped without soil on the roots. Bare-rooted trees are less expensive than container-grown trees but they are easy to plant and grow vigorously. Once you have selected the best possible tree, you must transfer that bare-root tree into the soil. This one step in fruit production may result in rapid success, lingering existence or sudden death. Since most fruit trees are sold either bare-rooted or “packaged bare-root,” planting techniques will be the same for all varieties. Plant the tree as soon as possible. If there is any delay, store the tree in a cool, shady location. And most important, keep the roots moist (but not soaked) during this time. Five minutes without moisture may spell disaster.
4. Question: I want to plant a peach tree. What are some of the recommended varieties for our area with the correct number of chill hours?
Answer: Early Amber requires 250 hours of chill and produces fruit about May 10. Tex-Star is a 450-chill-hour peach and produces fruit about May 5. Florida King is a 450-chill-hour peach and produces fruit about May 10. Early Grande is about a 200-chill-hour peach and produces its fruit about the first of May on Galveston Island. MidPride is about a 250-chill-hour peach, and normally its fruit is ripe on or about July 4. Tropic Snow, a white-flesh peach, requires 200 hours of chill, and its fruit is ripe in early June. There are other varieties, such a MayPride and Eva’s Pride, that require a low number of chill hours. I normally suggest that in northern Galveston County, peaches that require 300 hours of chill, plus or minus 100, will do quite well. In Texas City, Bolivar peninsula and Galveston Island, stay with peaches requiring the lower number of chill hours.
5. Question: When I buy a new peach tree, what rootstock do I want?
Answer: The type of rootstock that a variety is grafted onto is important for several reasons. Unfortunately, some soils in this area are infested with the dreaded root-knot nematode. This microscopic parasite invades the root tissue of plants causing lumps and bumps to form. The root looses its ability to absorb and transmit moisture and nutrients to the plant, eventually resulting in low performance or even death of the plant. Look for trees grafted onto a Nemagard rootstock. Nemagard rootstock is resistant to the root-knot nematode and has been in use since 1960. The Okinawa hybrid rootstock also does well here. Rootstocks are also used to help dwarf certain types of fruit trees such as plums, pears, apples and citrus as well as peaches.
6. Question: After a very wet fall/winter season my peach trees died. What did I do wrong?
Answer: The roots of a peach tree do not tolerate excessive soil moisture; in fact, of all fruit trees grown in Galveston County, peaches and nectarines are the most sensitive to excessive soil moisture. A good place to plant peach trees is on a levy or in a raised bed that is 8′ x 8′ square and a minimum of 12″ high. Planting peaches above ground level will normally provide adequate drainage for the roots, and you will be successful growing the tree.
7. Question: How long will it take for my peach tree to bear?
Answer: After about three years, a peach tree in Galveston County should be an established tree producing about 100 pounds of peaches per year, as long as it is one of the correct varieties for our area.
8. Question: I did everything right for my peaches last year but I had lots and lots of very small peaches. What can I do to produce larger peaches?
Answer: To insure full size fruit that is more than just pit and skin, thinning at the early stages of production is recommended during years of heavy production. I know, it hurts to throw away that baby peach, but it can save the tree from splitting limbs that are weighed down with too much fruit and producing a bumper crop of runt size fruit. Your tree can produce 100 pounds of small peaches or 100 pounds of large peaches – the decision is yours. Thinning the fruit in a year of heavy fruit set is necessary to insure large sized fruit. Thin the fruit when it is about the size of a dime or smaller. The peaches need to be spaced about 8″ apart on each limb. You will actually produce as much fruit in terms of total number of pounds whether growing runts or full size fruit.
9. Question: My peaches had worms in them last year. How can I get rid of them?
Answer: These worms are a stage in the life-cycle of a beetle called the plum curculio. When the fruit is young, the plum curculio lays its eggs on the surface of the skin, cutting the skin and folding it over the egg. When the egg hatches, the worm then crawls to the center of the peach. You may notice a small crescent-shaped scar on the surface of the fruit shortly after the egg has been laid. After the eggs have hatched, it is too late to spray; spray with Sevin or Malathion before the eggs are laid, when the flower petals begin to fall (about 5 days after bloom).
10. Question: My peaches have small black specks or freckles on the skin of the fruit. What causes them?
Answer: Probably your trees have peach scab. Peach scab is caused by a fungus. A good spraying program that includes a fungicide will prevent peach scab.
11. Question: My peaches are rotting on the tree. They either have brown rotten spots while still on the tree or they begin to rot immediately after picking.
Answer: This condition is known as brown rot. Including a fungicide in your spraying program can control brown rot. Pick up a spraying program information sheet from the Galveston County Agricultural Extension Office. Read it and follow it. It is a very good guideline for controlling insects and fungus on peaches and plums in Galveston County.
12. Question: I have grass and weeds under my peach or plum trees. Can I spray the weeds with Roundup?
Answer: Roundup can be used under peach or plum trees; however, do not permit the liquid to touch any of the green bark. Roundup can be applied to weeds and grass under the trees from bloom time until 90 days post-bloom. Monsanto cautions not to use Roundup under peach trees beyond the 90 day window after the tree has bloomed because fruit trees are very sensitive to Roundup.
13. Question: Can I plant a peach tree from a seed? Will it produce good fruit?
Answer: Researchers at Louisiana State University planted 15,000 peach seeds. When they evaluated the trees that were produced, only 10 trees out of 15,000 planted seeds produced quality fruit. If you do plant a seed from a tree grown locally, it is recommended that you graft the seedling onto a known variety so that you can expect a good yield and high-quality fruit.
14. Question: What is the difference between “clingstone” and “freestone” peaches?
Answer: In a clingstone peach, the flesh clings to the stone and will not release very easy. The freestone peach will separate very easily from the stone when the peach is cut and twisted. One note of importance – a clingstone peach contains more pectin in the fruit than a freestone; therefore, clingstone peaches are the best type to use when making jelly.
15. Question: A friend gave me a peach tree that I planted. When am I going to get peaches from the tree?
Answer: If the variety does not have the correct number of chill hours for our area it will probably never produce fruit. But it will be perhaps three to five years before you realize the tree is not the proper variety for our area.
16. Question 14: I want to plant two peach trees. How far apart do I plant them?
Answer: About 14′ apart is adequate.
17. Question: Last year most of my peaches had one hole in them made by a bird. How can I prevent birds from attacking my fruit?
Answer: One effective method, and my favorite, is to purchase netting from a nursery or hardware store and construct a net that will completely cover the peach tree from top to bottom. This will also be effective in keeping out squirrels and raccoons.
18. Question: I have just picked the peaches off my tree. When should I prune my peach tree?
Answer: Prune the tree immediately after harvesting all of the peaches. Remove all of the old, dark wood from the scaffold limbs. Leave all of the bright green wood (this year’s growth). The green wood is new wood on which next years flowers will be produced. By opening the tree up and allowing sunlight to strike the bark of the tree, the new wood will produce fruit next spring.
19. Question: What can I do to eliminate the ragged, rough and deformed shape of some of my peaches?
Answer: Your peaches probably have cat facing. Cat facing is caused very early in the life of the peach, perhaps immediately after it bloomed. It could have been bitten or stung by several different types of insects, and as the peach grows and develops, it becomes disfigured and ugly. Normally, not much of the peach is worth keeping. Insect control with a proper spraying program will help prevent this problem.
20. Question: I planted a peach tree early this spring, and I have a lot of shoots coming out of the ground. What should I do with these shoots?
Answer: About 6″ from the soil line, there will be a mark that will indicate where your tree was grafted onto its rootstock. You do not want any growth below the graft line. If the limbs below the graft grow and that growth dominates the tree, it is possible that the grafted portion of the tree will die and your tree would then begin to produce inedible fruit. Remove the suckers at the bottom of the tree.
21. Question: My plum trees bloomed very well. I had a lot of bees, but I had almost no fruit on the true. What happened?
Answer: Some plum trees require a pollinator. There are three types of plums: European, Asian, and American. An Asian plum that requires a pollinator, for example, will need another Asian plum as a pollinator and may require a pollinator of a specific variety. If you already know the name of your tree, it is easy to find which pollinator it requires. If you do not know the name, see if you can find a tree similar to yours in your neighborhood while it is in bloom. Cut several blooming limbs from the found tree, put them in a jar of water, and hang the jar from your tree. Those blooms will continue to open, and the bees will use them as a pollinator. If a lot of fruit sets that year, you know you have found the right pollinator for your tree. Later you can graft a limb from the neighboring tree onto your tree. A graft will insure that you always have a pollinator for your tree so that fruit will set in the future (provided you have bees).
22. Question: What other types of fruit trees can be grown in Galveston County?
Answer: There are many varieties of apples, peaches, plums, pears, figs, persimmons, oranges, lemons, nectarines, apricots, and tangerines which can be successfully grown in this area. Even odd-sounding fruit trees such as paw paws will grow here along with guava, mayhaw, kumquat, pomegranate and jujube. Now, that is an impressive list! If flavor, juiciness and freshness are important, then grow your own. It’s not an impossible dream.
Why Is the Fruit Development Period Important in an IPM Program?
The fruit development period is important for ensuring that controls applied during the dormant and bloom seasons were effective. Pests that are especially important during the fruit development period are oriental fruit moth, peach twig borer, mites, omnivorous leafroller, adult katydids, rust, and powdery mildew.
Rust, powdery mildew, and mites aren’t present every year, so it is important to monitor for them to detect a problem as soon as it appears. Catching a pest problem early increases the possibility that it can be controlled with “soft” insecticides (such as oil for mites or sulfur for rust), thus avoiding the conventional insecticides and miticides (organophosphates or pyrethroids) that destroy beneficial insects and mites and can impair water quality.
Peach fruit go through three developmental stages:
- The first begins after pollination and fertilization and is a period of rapid growth that lasts about 30 days. By the end of this stage, nearly all the cells of the fruit have been formed and the pit begins to harden.
- Pit hardening marks the beginning of the second stage, during which fruit size increases more slowly.
- The final stage, which usually begins 4 to 6 weeks before harvest, is a period of rapid growth of the skin (exocarp) and flesh (mesocarp) of the fruit.
Fruit and flower drop may occur at any time during the season in response to environmental or physiological conditions. Many flowers and fruitlets may drop shortly after bloom if their ovules were not fertilized. Sometimes a drop of young fruit, often called “June drop,” occurs in April or May. This is a normal process that is probably the result of competition among fruit for nutrients.
Your Guide to Growing Delicious Peaches
Peaches fresh from the garden: It’s the perfect picture of summer. Can’t you just feel the juice running down your chin? It’s perfectly reasonable to think you can learn how to grow peaches in USDA Zones 5-9. Pick the right peach and the right place, and give the tree the right care, and you’ll be picking ripe fruit in just a year or two.
Grow Peaches in the Right Spot
Peach trees do best in a spot with full sun—at least 6 hours per day, and good air flow.
Because grass is greedy, it will suck up moisture and nutrients from the soil around the tree. Keep the ground around the trunk free of grass for at least the first few years. Putting a 2-inch-deep ring of mulch around your tree will help the soil stay moist during periods of drought and keep your peach tree’s trunk safe from lawn mower or string trimmer damage. Yearly applications of a dry organic fertilizer for fruit trees will help keep your peach tree healthy; follow directions on the package.
Peaches like it hot, so if you live in a cool-summer region, choose the warmest place in your garden. That’s most likely up against a south-facing wall, where the tree will receive radiated heat and reflected light. Often these spots are in narrow planting beds—between a walk and the garage wall, for example—so you may want to grow peaches in an espaliered style, where the branches are trained in a two-dimensional fashion. Get creative and train the tree in a fan or candelabra form.
Most peach varieties are grown on another kind of peach’s roots. This gives them extra hardiness and disease resistance, or makes them a smaller, more compact plant. The graft, where the two different plants meet, looks like an old scar. Be sure to plant your peach tree so the bud union—the place where the trunk was grafted onto rootstock—is about an inch above the soil line. Covering that graft can cause problems, so be sure the tree trunk doesn’t sink over time. One way to prevent this is to plant the tree 2 to 3 inches higher than soil level.
The best peaches for cool-weather regions include ‘Frost’ and ‘Avalon Pride’. Wondering how to grow peaches on your deck or patio? Take a look at dwarf selections including ‘Pix-Zee’ and ‘Honey Babe’; those trees reach only about 6 feet tall and will grow in large pots.
Growing Peaches from Pit
Have you ever stuck toothpicks into an avocado seed and put it in water? It’s a great science experiment—and an easy houseplant for a college dorm room. You might be tempted to grow your own peach tree, too, with the goal of getting a really cheap orchard tree.
Go ahead and plant that peach pit—the almond-shape seed inside the big pit—and in five to seven years, you can actually get fruit. But it probably won’t taste like the kind you planted. Peach varieties are special selections propagated by taking cuttings of branches; that way the fruit is always the same. Seeds contain genetic material from two different parents (mom and dad), and you know how it is with children—you never know what you’ll get.
How to Prune
Proper pruning is an important part of how to grow peaches—and that includes timing as well as technique. Prune peaches in late winter but before spring bloom. Aim to establish an open canopy so sunlight can reach all of the fruit; too much shade can reduce the number of flowers produced, and that means fewer fruits—which leads to fewer servings of peach cobbler. All pruning starts by taking out dead, broken, or dying branches first, and then removing branches that cross. Just doing that will reduce congestion and open up the tree.
Peaches produce flowers and fruit on wood that grew last year. The best branches to keep will be about as thick as a pencil and no more than 18 inches long—longer stems can be cut back to an upward-facing bud. Yearly pruning helps your tree, so don’t be afraid to get in there with a sharp bypass pruner.
Peaches are not without their problems, but when you dream of sinking your teeth into a fresh peach or enjoying peach jam through the winter, you won’t mind dealing with potential pests and diseases.
Peach leaf curl is the nemesis of many a home gardener, although other fungal problems may exist, such as brown rot. Although many cultivars are resistant to peach leaf curl, your tree may still get this foliar disease, especially when it’s young. Often, as trees mature, they grow out of the disease. But the best offense is a good defense, so take steps now to minimize the problem.
Here’s how to grow peaches that are disease-free: use a lime-sulfur spray, which is approved for organic growers. The timing of the spray is important—it needs to be applied at specific intervals in the tree’s budding out, so read the label on the product carefully.
- By Marty Wingate
Grow Little Fruit Trees for Big Rewards
Homegrown Fruit on a Manageable Scale
Luscious, sun-ripened peaches…crisp, juicy apples…sweet, velvety-fleshed pears. The allure of homegrown fruit leads many of us to plant a tree or two. Problem is, just a few years later, we find we’ve bitten off more than we can chew with large, challenging-to-prune trees that produce substantial quantities of fruit. One ‘Santa Rosa’ plum tree, for example, stands 15 feet tall and wide and produces about 700 pieces of fruit, much of it too high to reach without a ladder, over just a few weeks; same with peach, pear, and apple trees. That’s fine if you’re a commercial grower, but not if you just want a few fresh-picked plums.
Luckily there’s a simple, innovative way to keep fruit trees at people-height, with all the harvest within arm’s reach. By relying on a very specific pruning schedule, this method also allows you to grow more kinds of fruit over a longer harvest season in a small area. That same plum tree, pruned in this way, would stand 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide when mature, could be pruned from ground level in about 15 minutes, and might yield 100 full-size fruits by the third year—enough for a small family, with some to share. For all the how-to details, keep reading.
Shown: Kept small with timed pruning, this ‘Fuji’ apple tree stands about 4 feet high and wide and produces an ample crop of full-size fruits.
Fruit Trees 101: Buying
Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
Begin with a bare-root sapling, available at nurseries and by mail order from late winter into spring (about $30 each, depending on the variety). Fruit trees are sold according to their mature size: standard (or full size), semidwarf, or dwarf, depending on variety. Most fruit trees are grafted; a branch of one tree is grown on the rootstock of another, creating a new plant with the best attributes of both. So why not just buy a semidwarf or dwarf tree rather than craft one? Semidwarf rootstocks can grow as tall as 25 feet; dwarf rootstocks stay small (8 to 10 feet tall) but often have weak roots. Instead of selecting trees based on their mature height, choose ones that excel in your climate, and keep them small with pruning. Consult a local nursery or cooperative extension office for proven varieties.
Fruit Trees 101: Siting
Photo by Richard Clark/Getty Images
If selected carefully, planted to get at least a half day of full sun, and mulched well, fruit trees will thrive in most soils. If your soil is rocky, lacks nutrients, or has a lot of clay, you can plant in a raised bed or a 20-inch-wide container instead.
Fruit Trees 101: Spacing
Illustration by Rodica Prato
A typical summer-pruned fruit tree can grow to be about 5 feet wide. In an 8-by-8-foot area, you can plant two trees on the diagonal, 3 feet apart on center (A). Another option (B) is a hedgerow made of any types of trees spaced 3 feet apart on center. Get even more variety with “high-density planting” (C). Here, several of the same type of fruit tree with a similar rootstock—such as a grouping of early, midseason, and late peaches—are planted in a single hole, spaced 18 inches apart on center. In all cases, pruning and competition for water and food limits size.
What to Grow: Pears
Photo by Hintau Aliaksei/
Most need the pollen of a second variety on the same fruiting schedule for fertilization. Here, three seasonal combinations:
Early: (late July through mid-August)
Warren (Zones 5-7): medium size; pale green; juicy and buttery flesh.
Conference (Zones 4-9): medium size; pale-green skin; very juicy and sweet; notably Early fruiting.
Red Clapp’s Favorite (Zones 4-9): medium size; bright-red skin; very juicy.
Comice (Zones 4-9): large size; light-green skin; sweet with a firm texture.
Midseason: (late August through Early September)
Seckel (Zones 5-8): small size; reddish-brown skin; very firm, creamy white flesh.
Potomac (Zones 5-8): medium size; pale-green glossy skin; creamy white flesh.
Max Red Bartlett (Zones 4-8): medium size; sweet, crisp fruit; notably cold-hardy.
Harrow Delight (Zones 4-8): medium size; yellow skin; very sweet and juicy; notably cold tolerant.
Late: (mid-September through Early October)
Anjou (Zones 5-8): large size; bright-green skin; sweet, fine-textured flesh.
Bosc (Zones 5-9): medium size; brownish skin; tender and spicy-sweet.
Luscious (Zones 4-8): small size; bright yellow; fine-textured flesh; notably cold tolerant.
Parker (Zones 3-7): medium size; yellow-bronze skin; tender and sweet; notably cold tolerant.
What to Grow: Peaches
Photo by Steve Gossen/AGStock/Corbis
These will grow in Zones 4-9 but do especially well in Zones 6 and 7. Most are able to set fruit with their own pollen.
Early: (June through mid-July)
Fourth of July (Zones 5-8): medium size; reddish skin; firm, juicy, and sweet; very early fruiting.
Eva’s Pride (Zones 9-10): medium size; reddish skin; fine flavor and aroma; notably heat tolerant.
Midseason: (late July through mid-August)
Fay Elberta (Zones 5-9): medium size; yellow skin; classic rich, peach flavor.
Reliance (Zones 4-8): large size; yellow skin; sweet, juicy, peachy flavor; notably cold tolerant.
Late: (late August through late September)
Hale Haven (Zones 5-8): medium size; yellow blushed-red skin; firm, sweet, and juicy.
Contender (Zones 4-8): medium size; yellow blushed-red skin; sweet, creamy flesh; notably cold tolerant.
What to Grow: Apples
Photo by BG Walker/iStockPhoto
Most produce a better yield when pollinated by a second variety. Here are three seasonal combinations:
Early: (late July through late August)
Gala (Zones 4-10): large size; red-striped skin; crisp, sweet-tart.
Akane (Zones 5-9): medium size; pale-red skin; sweet, spicy flesh.
Anna (Zones 6-9): medium size; golden-red skin; very juicy.
Ein Shemer (Zones 6-9): large size; golden-yellow skin; crisp and tart.
Midseason (late August through late September)
Granny Smith (Zones 6-9): large size; yellow-green skin; firm, tart flesh.
Jonagold (Zones 5-8): large size; red-striped fruit; firm, juicy.
Empire (Zones 4-9): medium size; reddish skin; sweet and tangy; notably cold tolerant.
Honeycrisp (Zones 3-8): large size; red skin; mild, sweet, and aromatic; notably cold tolerant.
Late (late September through late October)
Stayman Winesap (Zones 5-8): large size; deep-red skin; firm and spicy.
Fuji (Zones 5-8): medium size; reddish-orange skin; very crisp and sweet.
Northern Spy (Zones 4-8): large size; blush skin; firm and crisp; notably cold tolerant.
Golden Delicious (Zones 4-7): large size; yellow skin; tangy; notably cold tolerant.
Fruit Tree Pruning Schedule
Photo by Photos Lamontagne/Getty Images
Late winter is an ideal time to prune for structure and aesthetics, but not for controlling height: Branches grow vigorously in spring. To keep your tree small and sturdy, prune in June, around the summer solstice. By removing leafy growth then, your tree is put on a diet of sorts; fewer leaves means less photosynthesis, which decreases the amount of food made by the plant. Reducing available nutrients and energy, along with summer pruning, helps your tree stay short.
Pruning Schedule: Step 1: First Spring
Illustration by Rodica Prato
If your tree doesn’t already have branches below the initial heading cut (see First Pruning), use your fingers to remove all but three evenly spaced buds. These will become the tree’s scaffold branches.
Pruning Schedule: Step 2: First Summer
Illustration by Rodica Prato
Remove suckers—growth that emerges from the rootstock—and prune away all but the three branches evenly spaced around the trunk. Head back these branches by one-half to two-thirds, to an outward-facing bud.
Pruning Schedule: Step 3: First Winter
Illustration by Rodica Prato
Prune to open up the center of the tree and remove crossing or crowded limbs. These cuts encourage a vase-like shape. To spur growth of thinner limbs, head back by two-thirds; to slow growth of thicker limbs, head back by one-half.
Pruning Schedule: Step 4: Second Summer
Illustration by Rodica Prato
You’ll have a small, shapely tree that still has growing to do. Head back vertical branches by one-half to two-thirds. These cuts reduce height and encourage branches to grow at a 45° angle, horizontal enough to create fruit.
Pruning Schedule: Step 5: Ever After
Illustration by Rodica Prato
In winter, prune to refine the tree’s shape and maintain its form. The final size now depends solely on summer pruning: Thin crowded branches and head back growth that exceeds your reach. Fruit on the tree? Prune anyway!
Photo by Marion Brenner
After planting, make a heading cut at an angle just above a leaf node so that the whip now stands knee-high or no taller than 18 inches from the ground. While lopping off the top two-thirds of your new sapling seems lunatic, do it anyway—the structure of your tree depends on it. This initial cut creates a sturdy, low-branching scaffold, the major supporting limbs of the tree. Where you cut becomes the crotch of the tree, and the trunk will grow no taller. This heading cut and the pruning that follows creates branches strong enough to support the weight of ripening produce.
How to: Heading Cut
Illustration by Rodica Prato
Used to shorten branches and limbs. Make a clean cut just above a leaf node or where a leaf is attached to a stem. This type of cut forces the buds below to grow into new branches, increasing bushiness. If you’ve sheared a hedge, you’ve seen the resulting bushy growth of heading cuts.
How to: Thinning Cut
Illustration by Rodica Prato
Removes an entire branch or shoot in two steps. The first cut (A) shortens the branch to a stub and avoids ripping the bark. The second cut (B) removes the rest of the limb; cut back to just above the branch collar, the thickened area of bark from which a limb emerges. Thinning cuts decrease the number of branches and open the interior of the tree to light and air. Light is crucial for the formation of fruiting spurs, the twiglets that blossom and ultimately bear fruit.
For more information, check out a copy of Grow a Little Fruit Tree, by Ann Ralph (Storey Publishing, 2015).
7 Ways to Use Peaches Before They Go Bad
We all know that feeling of overbuying at the farmers’ market too well. Upon arrival, you are immediately greeted by friendly vendors standing behind their meticulously placed produce, offering samples of juicy tomatoes, artisan cheese, and homemade jams. It’s overwhelming and exciting, and before you know it, your kitchen is stocked with a ton of fresh produce that you need to find a use for—and quick.
If you’re the proud owner of a basket of peaches that you need to eat before they turn to overripe mush, check out these clever ways to sneak the fuzzy fruit into your food so that no peach goes to waste.
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Image zoom Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
Rather than a sad bowl of porridge, jazz up breakfast with a baked oatmeal that will last you for days. Take our basic baked oatmeal recipe and make it summery and fresh by adding 1 cup of chopped peaches. Make it Sunday night, divide it up, and eat it for breakfast all week long.
Image zoom Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
Berries aren’t the only fruit that you should be adding to your summer salads. The peaches’ sweetness pairs perfectly with a smooth cheese and your favorite leafy greens. You can even mix in some peaches into your dressing for an extra fruity flavor with every bite.
Image zoom Photo: Iain Bagwell
Savory foods love the tropical notes of a peach, so this calls for pizza. Toss on whatever toppings you like, and maybe some chicken if you want to add extra protein. You can’t go wrong with a juicy, baked peach on top of dough and melted cheese.
Image zoom Photo: Romulo Yanes
A lemonade that’s jam-packed with fresh peaches is the perfect solution to staying hydrated this summer, and it’s way more exciting than a glass of water or iced tea. Pour in some rum or bourbon for a boozy, beach-inspired twist.
Image zoom Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
And if you just can’t manage to scarf them up before you see them starting to become overripe mush, then chop them up, toss them in the freezer, and use them in smoothies whenever you get around to them. Isn’t that just peachy?
15 Peachy Keen Ways to Use the Overripe Fruit in Your Fridge
When you bite into a good peach, you can taste the sunshine.
It’s so sweet and ripe inside its soft, fuzzy, reddish-golden skin. So juicy and dripping with nectar.
So good. Call me biased, but I will argue that a really good peach offers an unbeatable fruit-eating experience. Nothing against apples, oranges and the like, but a good peach stands on its own.
Seriously, the ’90s rock band the Presidents of the United States of America is channeling my inner soul when it sings, “I’m movin’ to the country, I’m gonna eat me a lot of peaches.” Truly, they are my spirit animal.
Unfortunately, like certain rock bands, peaches can go south pretty quickly. Before you know it, your perfectly firm, luscious peach has turned soft, bruised and mushy. Past its prime, it’s too far gone to enjoy it the way you normally would.
Stop right there. Don’t do it. Don’t you throw those peaches away.
Of course, it’s better to store your food so it stays fresh as long as possible. But those mushy peaches don’t need to go to waste. You can still save all of that yummy, nutritious deliciousness. Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, peaches are packed with vitamins and minerals.
Step away from the garbage can. Instead, check out these 15 ways to use overripe peaches.
Let’s kick things off with my favorite recipe of all. I mean, why wait?
1. Peach Pie Biscuit Bombs
Hello, you had me at “Peach Pie Biscuit Bombs.” Heather Tullos at Sugar Dish Me describes these as “unbelievably simple, totally delicious little treats perfect for breakfast, brunch, or with a little ice cream for dessert.”
You split flaky, refrigerated biscuits — the kind you buy in a tube at the grocery store — and fill them with peach slices, cinnamon and Brie. It won’t matter if your peaches have gone a bit soft, because you’ll be baking them anyway. All of this bakes into crusty, gooey goodness.
Just for starters, overripe fruit is ideal for freezing and using in smoothies. Cut off any bits that have gone bad, chop up the rest, seal it in a zip-close bag, and toss it in the freezer. That said, we’re venturing well beyond smoothies here.
2. Peach Smoothies
No shortage of peach smoothie recipes out there. Most are simple and delicious, so it’s hard to get this wrong. You can choose one based solely on what other ingredients you have handy. Taste of Home’s recipe requires only milk, sugar, OJ concentrate and ice cubes. Betty Crocker calls for yogurt, orange juice and honey. For the beginner, WikiHow has a step-by-step tutorial using OJ, yogurt and ice. For the ambitious, the Food Network demands cinnamon, honey, milk, yogurt, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla extract.
3. Peach Sangria
Crisp, clean and sweet. Tori Avey has the right idea. Cut up your overripe peaches, and drop them into a pitcher. The rest of the story involves ginger ale, sugar, peach schnapps and a bottle of white wine.
4. Easy Peach Lemonade
We’re including this recipe from the The Cookie Rookie because it’s so shockingly easy, yet it will impress the heck out of your guests at any summer gathering. It’s like cheating and getting away with it. You can add alcohol if you want, but you don’t have to.
5. Bourbon Peach Slush
You’ve got to check out this photo at Recipe Runner. You’ve just got to. (Go ahead, we’ll wait.) OK, now that you’ve seen it for yourself, clearly you’re going to have to make this concoction as soon as possible. Sorry, not sorry.
6. Peach Wine Slushies
Another slushie, this one at Dessert For Two is staggeringly easy, using all of two ingredients: frozen peaches and a bottle of fruity white wine. OFFICIALLY READY FOR SUMMER.
Jams, Fixins, Etc.
Again, overripe fruit isn’t an issue here because you’re cooking these peaches and breaking them down. It’s the opposite of freezing them.
7. Peach Preserves
You’ll need peaches, sugar and a little lemon juice for this super-simple Country Living recipe. Oh, and a saucepan. That’s it.
8. Peach Jam
No, not Pearl Jam. Let’s not get sidetracked. (Anyway, I’m still trying to get that cursed “Peaches” song out of my head.) We’re talking about peach jam here. Easy homemade peach jam, courtesy of Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.
9. Peach Puree
Writing for the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, chef David Lee says: “I’ve used this puree to make cocktails (Bellinis and Peach Mojitos), peach iced tea, peach and sparkling icewine dessert soup, peach sorbet and peach ice cream. It also makes a lovely condiment for vanilla ice cream with no further labour involved.”
You know he’s Canadian because he puts in that cool British “u” when he spells “labour.”
10. Crockpot Peach Butter
You’ll need a slow cooker for this Frugal Girls recipe. This stuff is awesome for spreading on biscuits.
More cooking of peaches here. Let no peach go to waste, we say.
11. Almond- and Peach-Crusted Pork Chops
Take those Peach Preserves you made, and put them to good use with this dish from Betty Crocker.
12. Grilled Salmon With Curried Peach Sauce
Don’t worry for a second that this recipe calls for “two fresh peaches, peeled and diced.” Your less-than-fresh peaches will do juuuuuuust fine for this culinary masterpiece from Allrecipes.
Saved this category for last. You just skipped right ahead to this category, didn’t you? No, it’s OK, that’s cool.
13. Peach Ice Cream
You’ll need an ice cream maker for this recipe from Country Living. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, skip ahead to the next dessert. If you do have one, then my God you need to try this.
14. Mini Spiced Rum Peach Pies
For serious bakers only. Real Simple guesstimates the preparation time for these babies at 40 minutes. Also, you’ll need rum, ginger, light brown sugar, cornstarch, rum, nutmeg, an egg, pastry dough, rum, turbinado sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and rum. Still, these look awesome. Did we mention you’ll need rum?
15. Peach-Banana Smoothie Popsicles
The healthiest dessert on this list, if you’re into that sort of thing. You’re going to mix the peaches with other ingredients in a blender for this recipe from Offbeat & Inspired, so it’s OK if they’re a bit overripe. You don’t have to peel them or anything.
There you have it — 15 ways to use overripe peaches. They’ll never go to waste in your kitchen again.
My favorite fruit. Yummy, flavorful, delicious. Luscious and delectable. Glorious.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite recipe for peaches? Share it with us!
Mike Brassfield () is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After writing this, he is so hungry right now.
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