Report on winter damage - peach

olpea(zone 6 KS)March 31, 2014

We've had several days of warm spring weather and plants/trees are starting to push growth.

I recorded -10F for several hours at my house this past winter. From what I can tell at my house, it appears to be near a total loss of peaches in my backyard. About the only peach trees which have started to push any blooms at all in my backyard are Contender and Flat Wonderful. TangOs has been reported winter hardy, but it's flower buds look as dead as everything else in my backyard.

Strangely, at the farm there are what I would deem almost normal behavior for younger peach trees. In other words there doesn't seem to be much winter kill there. Trees are pushing blooms at what would seem at only a slightly less rate than normal for trees of their age.

This is weird to me because the farm (7 miles away) is a completely unprotected site with younger trees. Both of which would seem to make winter damage more severe, not less.

In the end, the winter was pretty disappointing to lose virtually all the fruit from the 35 peach trees in my backyard. I wouldn't have thought -10F would do it. The farm looks to have quite a few peach blooms overall, so far.

I also lost 3 peach trees last winter from pruning them too much before the winter. Normally it only gets to about 0F here for a low, so pruning during winter isn't an issue. I pruned some trees so severely before the low hit, I ended up killing them. Two of them I can replace myself with grafts (Earliglo nect and Johnboy) but one is patented and so is an expensive tree to replace..

On a positive note, I ordered a couple canning cling peaches today from Grandpa's Orchard (AKA Moyer tree fruit sales). For the last couple years I've wanted to grow some CA canning clings. Finally I decided to order a couple to try. Babygold #5 and Vinegold.

I think most home frozen/canned peaches are gross. People like to freeze/can freestone peaches because they are easy to process. But the end result is the texture completely breaks down to mush. CA cling canners are supposed to hold up under canning/freezing. I don't know if any of my customers would be interested in canning/freezing a cling peach, but I wanted to plant a couple anyway, in case someone is interested.

As an FYI, not all cling peaches are good canners. Early season peaches for fresh eating are generally cling, but make poor canning peaches. Good canning peaches are cling, but not all cling are good canning peaches.

Canning cling peaches are specially bred to retain good texture during the harsh canning/freezing process (i.e. Babygold strains, Halford, Goldnine, etc.)

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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Looks like your trees at home pushed early and on top of that a cold snap,..just a bad combination. On the farm a little later, if it's just two or 3 day's or so, it can make a difference.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 7:37PM
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alan haigh

That is odd. The only year we lost our peach crop here lows were below -20. In Z5 you expect it to get at least to -10 any given winter- which was common for the first decade I was harvesting peaches here. What about other peach growers in your area?

Wind exposure is supposed to be a big part, as I'm sure you know- maybe you need a good wind break on the northwest sides.

I'm really sorry for your lost crop- I know how that feels.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 9:12PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)


3 days here below -20F... My trees aren't pushing, but the frost is pretty much out of the ground and it was near 70F here today. I was looking and I don't like what i see on the peaches (or what i don't see) and apricots... the sweet cherries look good (we'll see)... Its going to be a very light year here with fruit, so i think i'll cut everything back hard and get a bunch of new growth.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:09PM
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mark_roeder(4B IA)

I have not checked mine yet. The only time I lost trees was a few years ago when it was below -30. And even then the trees budded and started to leaf. Then they stopped because the trunks were dead. You should be fine with -10.

I think we had a couple nights around -30. I am concerned, but since today was the first really decent day we had this spring, that is not going to tell me anything, yet.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 12:05AM
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I'm also surprised... It took -23 here to do that, and I still saw the odd peach blossom around. -8 in two different winters brought no damage at all...

What time of the winter did you hit -10? Were the trees starting to come out of dormancy at all? This is obviously very important, as is the weather leading up to the freeze. Our record cold 3 years ago came in Feb and affected apricots most because they were closest to their bloom time...

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 1:11AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I haven't talked to any other growers around here yet. It seems like around here peaches are more tender.

A few years ago a peach orchard 30 miles away had a total crop loss. They measured a low of -12F that winter. I recorded -8F that winter and had a full crop.

This last winter the low of -10F was in January after lots of cold weather. The trees should have been in deep dormancy. In terms of wind, we get much more of it at the farm. Here at the house, it's more of a protected site with lots of wind breaks.

One explanation for the difference in flower bud survival is that here at the house I summer pruned fairly heavily. At the farm I didn't touch the trees all summer. I started pruning them when they were dormant.

I know I killed those three small trees by pruning them too heavy last fall. Pruning in the fall decreases hardiness. I really pruned these three trees hard. This has never been an issue until this year because normally it doesn't get so cold. Since I've been recording temps here, the low in my area has been -8F, until this year. The record low is -22F, set sometime around 1990.

If anyone knows of a link to find annual lows for Kansas city (from around 1990 to present) I would be appreciative. I'd like to see that data for the last 20-25 years.

Everything is finally starting to wake up around here. Apples are at silver and green tip, and advancing fast. I noticed several of the fall budded peach grafts are starting to push growth, which is nice.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 2:01AM
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alan haigh

I'm sure you've read the danger of later summer pruning causing greater vulnerability to cold- anything that pushes late growth. Until now, I didn't take those warnings very seriously because one season we had severe drought until mid-Aug when the skies opened up creating a huge, late growth surge in all my trees. The following winter had temps in the negative teens and the only thing affected was the the late shoots themselves which held leaves much longer than then the rest of the trees. It was actually only on the J. plums where the tips were burned.

If you remember our discussion about mulch, I think there may be a clue there why one site suffered damage and the other didn't. I am sure you can fill in the details.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:13AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

With cherries here in MI MSU says August 1st as a cut off date to pruning. But that even might be too late? I think this was a freak winter, but we should expect some cold winters, as we are so due for this trend.
What sucks for us here around the Great Lakes is that the frozen lakes are going to keep our summer cool. They are still frozen, they are melting, a touch. No sign of any growth here yet. Just shows one zone 6 is nothing like other zones 6's. Zone info is not helpful right now.
The ferry to the island I have a cottage on is supposed to open this weekend. Not a chance, Lake Huron has not even started breaking up yet. The ice jams the river. The Army Core Of Engineers is going to have a busy spring trying to open the freighter channels! Time is money!
The ice was so thick this year! I measured over 20 inches thick.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 7:09AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Did you try this site?

Here is a link that might be useful: historical weather

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 7:40AM
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Hi, last year we had a similar problem with peaches, with the minimum temp around -14F, which had never been a problem before. On all but 2-4 trees (out of 30 or so), only the tertiary buds opened, little tiny flowers and not many of them. Pruning was done in Jan-Feb in the dormant cold, and neighboring orchards (5 miles away) had the same problem but some 30 miles away did not. The plums had great blooms, and all the cherries except the "Pearl
series" had great blooms as well (I am unsure if "Pearl" is bud hardy here). The trees with good bloom were Intrepid, PFC24, and a Balmer seedling. I put it up to some weird local weather, hopefully this year will be better (we still have a foot of snow here)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:51AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Odd that -10F would destroy the crop. I'd expect SOME bloom loss, but nowhere near enough that you'd get nothing.

I'd say the summer pruning might be the culprit, but it's been years since I've grown peaches.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:57AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Thanks Bamboo, but I clicked on the weather site and it had annual lows (which is really what I'm looking for) for KC from 1958 to 1972. That was helpful, but I'd like to also look at data from about 1990 to present. The Website did have that data, but they wanted to charge a lot for it.

After the cold snaps this winter, I read warnings of peach bud damage in trade newsletters. I looked at those again, and I guess I shouldn't be much surprised at the damage. According to Penn State (see link below), "The general consensus is that damage to dormant peach flower buds is extensive when the minimum temperature reaches -10ÃÂF." I remember reading that and was a bit worried at the time. The day of the winter low, it was -10F and stayed there for probably a couple hours (I think duration of the cold event can have an impact.) I certainly have "extensive" flower bud damage from -10F. Perhaps it's a little too far to say the the damage is a complete loss in my backyard. It's just that the trees look to have so few live flower buds, that it won't justify taking the time to spray the trees. I think my summer pruning exacerbated the bud kill, even though it was done before Aug.

It's possible the trees in my backyard will have more blooms than I think, but the trees at the farm are at green calyx. Here at the house I see vegetative buds pushing growth, but hardly any fruit buds swelling, or at green calyx, which makes me think they are dead.

At the farm, some of the trees have enough buds they will have to be thinned.

I won't discount mulch could have had a negative impact on hardening. However, if vigor is any indication of hardening, there was more vigor in the trees at the farm, which haven't been mulched as long. I had about 6' of growth on many trees there. Most trees at the house are mature and slowing down.

I can't explain why some people can still have peach crops at -20F or colder. We've discussed it on this forum before with no resolution.

Here is a link that might be useful: Grab Some Buds - Penn State

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 11:56AM
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alan haigh

I remember years when all the flowers on some varieties were burned out on most vigorous wood and peaches came from the wood I'd usually thin. I was very impressed with the vigor of your trees in photos, and although your farm trees may have fared better, I'm suspicious, given what's happened here in the past with my most robust pencils.

This is very limited anecdotal observation- just trying to throw in some possibilities.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 1:21PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)


    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:24PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Thanks Frank,

I knew the record low for KC was sometime around 1990. I see the record is actually -23 set in 1989.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:59PM
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jagchaser(5A NE, -15-115f may frost)

I think a lot of it has to do with how much our temperatures can swing compared to other growing regions. I have always read how hardiness increases as the temperature decreases slowly. If it starts to warm up then the trees start to lose hardiness.

On Jan 3rd I was 66f, then on the 6th we bottomed out at -12f. On Feb 6th we had -15f, but it had been over a week since we saw 50's. I think the freeze in Jan probably hurt more than the one in feb.

Most places don't get swings like that. The guys in WI might get -20f without seeing too much damage, but it was probably a couple of weeks of 0-10 highs before that, and after it for that matter.

My reliance and redhaven (20 trees) are either froze out completely, or later and not swelling yet. I have one Q-1-8 that has bud swell now. I haven't checked at the orchard further north. There was still snow on the ground there yesterday, so I doubt they are doing anything there yet.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 5:56PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


That's probably one of the best explanations on the variability of cropping (or survival) from one region to another. I too have read swings in temps are worse than minimum temps (to a degree) but one needs reminding.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:28PM
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jagchaser(5A NE, -15-115f may frost)

I am sure that is the main reason I cant get sweet cherries to do well here. I know the guys in WI grow sweet cherries easy and they get a lot colder than we get. It doesn't just come into play in winter either. We get big swings in the summer that they don't get too. My heat and lack of humidity might be part of the reason, I just don't know.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 11:17PM
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I would love to begin planting 2 Peach & 2 Apple Trees. I have never planted fruit trees and have no idea how or where to begin. I am in Zone 6 St. Louis, MO area and our winters can be cold & harsh. The research I have done states I need a hardy peach such as a July Elbert Peach and Candy Crisp Apples to name 1 of them. If I plant the Peach tree this year will I get peaches this summer or how long does the tree take to bear fruit?


    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 1:44AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I've not heard anything particularly winter hardy about July Elberta. Generally when discussing winter hardy peaches, some of the following varieties come up:

Contender, Intrepid, PF24c, Madision, Veteran, Reliance and McKay

In St. Louis you generally wouldn't have to be concerned with winter hardiness. This is the first year I've had an issue with it in the KC area, and it's only an issue in my backyard. At the farm, the bloom looks pretty close to what I would normally expect. Folks in zone 5 or colder generally have more issues with winter hardiness in peaches.

If you do want to plant winter hardy varieties, the first four I mentioned will probably give you the best quality peaches.

With apples, you definitely don't have to be concerned with winter hardiness in St. Louis. Apples by nature can take much lower temps than peaches.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 8:54AM
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Duration of extreme cold also plays into the equation. I was reading on how to predict yield loss from a U. of Pa site for commercial producers and with prolonged cold, the percentage can be predicted for each temp gradation on buds according to how long they stayed at that temperature. It's still too early here to tell on the buds, they're really late this year for a visual, but I'm expecting a small crop and loosing about 80% of their potential. However, the trees themselves look fine. Put a lot of new ones in last spring and two years ago and was concerned and also concerned about rodent damage. None.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 4:11PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

MSU had something the other day about peach damage in Michigan... Sounds like its hit or miss, but they are seeing it. I was out today looking at my trees (cambium)... My Puget Gold apricot looks bad, the peaches are iffy, and a few other trees look fine... I'm crossing my fingers...

Link to MSU:


    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 4:32PM
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When I examined my Redhaven and Reliance buds 2 weeks ago, I found 10 out of ten on both trees with what appeared to be dead ovaries, all of the rest of the floral tissue looked fine.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 6:05PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

As a follow up, the damage in the backyard is still extensive, but one more variety seemed to come through with a normal bloom. Encore in my backyard has a decent bloom, along with Contender and Flat Wonderful.

My backdoor neighbor's Elberta tree has hardly any blooms. It put on decent growth last year, and so should have a decent bloom like my trees should have had, but didn't. From this I conclude wood chips are probably not one of the contributing factors in the poor bloom in my backyard, since the neighbor doesn't mulch with woodchips.
I looked at 6 other peach trees today from a nearby neighbor, only one of the 6 had a decent bloom. The tree was labeled Sentinal.

I think cold hardy varieties will pay for some of the colder years here in KS.

This post was edited by olpea on Sat, Apr 12, 14 at 19:45

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 7:20PM
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