Tips on Growing peaches

Often on guided walks people have asked for tips on growing peaches so I thought I’d share some ideas here. Here in Northland brown rot can be a significant problem if we have hot, humid weather while the trees are fruiting. It can be so bad that a huge crop can turn from beautiful almost ripe peaches to brown inedible mush within a couple of days. The following ideas have all worked well for us in the north and can be useful in other areas too:

  • Firstly select your varieties well. The Koanga trees are heritage varieties which have proven themselves to be tasty, nutritious, reliable croppers and disease resistant. Heritage trees have been selected and kept alive by home orchardists and do well under organic systems.

  • Select varieties to crop different periods. We’ve found that we tend to get hot humid weather for short periods over the summer. We have varieties that crop at different times and by selecting these varieties we can have peaches from November (Orion), at Christmas (eg. Mary’s Christmas), January (eg. River), February (eg. Christina), March (eg. Four Winds) and on to late March (Batley). Having peaches from November through to late March is fantastic but the added bonus is that if there is a period of humid weather and brown rot becomes a problem you don’t loose all the crop, just the one that’s fruiting at that time.

  • Select your location well. Peaches like free draining soil so we’ve planted ours near the top of the orchard where the soil suits their needs. Air movement through them helps with the brown rot too so higher up in our orchard meets this need as well. Its sunny and still has shelter but not too much. Basically you don’t want them to be planted in a place that’s so sheltered that it traps all the hot damp air and makes the situation worse. If your soil is heavier and not so free draining then having peaches then you can still grow peaches but will need to have them on a plum rootstock.

  • As with all fruit trees plant them well and care for them particularly while becoming established. Big planting holes, lots of organic matter, mineral fertilisers, mulch, and regular irrigation (particularly while they are establishing) really pays off in terms of the health of the tree and the quality of the fruit. Prune to an open vase shape (again to encourage air movement through the tree).

  • Clean up any diseased fruit from around the trees. Cleaning up brown rotted fruit isn’t on my list of favourite jobs and I’m not disciplined at doing it. At Kohatu Toa the peach orchard was separate to the rest of the orchard. The main orchard was fenced and had chooks, ducks and geese running in it and the chooks especially really help to clean up any fallen fruit. I think that not having the chooks around the peach trees to clean up was definitely a disadvantage and here the peaches are part of the main orchard and (once we finish the fencing!) will have chooks, ducks and geese under them.

We love our peaches. Hope you can find room for some too. Happy Growing!

Gail