THE PEACH PAGE

HOW TO GROW PEACHES IN “GUMBO”

 

Peach trees do not like their “feet” wet, so they must be planted in raised beds or on a berm.  If you want to use the hard clay soil sometimes called Gumbo that is in this area you must till in a lot of sharp sand, sometimes called concrete sand with the clay soil.  This prevents the soil from compacting and allows a lot of oxygen to get to the roots plus allows good drainage.  You also can add organic matter such as leaves or compost to the mix and then plant your tree.  Peach trees grow fast if they are in the right soil, so they need lots of room to spread their roots. Eight inch x 16 inch concrete blocks (sometimes called cinder blocks) capped with four railroad (RR) ties arranged in the shape of a square and the square filled with the described mix makes a good layout.  Or you can use landscape brick to make a square or circle about eight feet in diameter and a minimum of two brick high. 

 

Since clay is sometime used as an ion exchange medium it has good properties of retaining trace elements.  It is a good ingredient in you peach soil mix, but there must be more sand than clay in your mix.  You can lower the pH of your soil with some pine bark mulch.   Fertilize with a fertilizer high in nitrogen (the first number on the bag) monthly during the growing season.  Prune peaches in late winter just before bud break.  Train your tree to have 3 main scaffold branches (it should look like the Mercedes emblem looking at your tree from above), and open up the center by pruning to allow good air circulation and sun light to enter the center of the tree.

 

The main diseases peaches get in this area are scale and bacterial canker (Pseudomonas syringae), sometimes called gummosis or sour sap. You can tell if you have sour sap by cutting through a branch that is infected and it smells really sour.  Scale forms on the trunk and limbs of peach trees and it sucks the sap from the tree.  Too many on your tree can easily kill the branch or the whole tree.  You can control scale by spraying with dormant oil in the wintertime.  Use up to about 1/3 cup (125 ml) of oil per gallon of water to get rid of the scale.  Do not get the oil on the leaves or they will fall off.  For you that are "organic" and don't want to use petroleum oil, there is an oil spray that is made from Canola oil and a surfactant.  It is called Vegol. It can be purchased at the big box hardware stores.  It is kind of expensive for just Canola oil and you could probably make your own oil spray with Canola oil mixed with a little hand dish soap such as Dawn and water according to the ratio given above.

 

Remember though, peach trees only live about 8 to 10 years and then die of bacterial canker- sometime earlier.  Bacterial canker is hard to control in our humid climate, and there is not much you can do to control it.  You can slow it down by cutting off infected limbs several inches away from the infection and into good wood.  Also you can disinfect your pruning tools with 1 part household bleach and 3 parts water.  But in their short life, you can get a lot of peaches.

  

There two main types of peaches, the commercial rubber ones that bounce when they fall from a tree, and the melting ones that have super good flavor and go splat when they fall from a tree.  Of course the melting ones that are super sweet and juicy are too fagile for the commercial trade and must be home grown.  Some melting types are listed next.


Early Riser sting beans & Tropic Sweet peaches


Tropic Sweet peaches showing sugar crystals that have come to the surface of the skin

Recommended varieties for the Brazosport area are:  Tropic snow (150 hrs) semi-freestone, Tropic Sweet (200 hrs) semi-freestone, Midpride (250 hrs) freestone, and TexStar (450 hrs).  Tropic snow is a white-fleshed peach, and the others are yellow-fleshed peaches.  Under evaluation Florida Prince semi-cling150 hrs, Tropic Beauty semi-cling 150 hrs, and UF Beauty 200 hrs.


 Tropic Snow white peaches

 

John Panzarella

April 25, 2007

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