Hardy Peach Tree; Recommendations?

mark_roeder(4B IA)July 29, 2007

I am new to peach trees. I bought a Reliance three years ago and it produced about one-dozen fruit this year. The fruit is very good.

I would like to try a different variety to extend the season.

Recommendations for other hardy varieties are desired. Thanks.

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I would try Contender. I am in my second year with two of them growing in North Dakota. I didnt get any fruit this year, but hopefully next year!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 9:47PM
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mark_roeder(4B IA)


I found your post from this spring and see you had a peach on the tree then. What happened to it? Be patient. My Reliance was in its third year before it produced its first flowers and its first peaches. It had a lot more flowers than peaches this year. So I want a second variety which I think may help pollination on each tree a bit.

I was considering Red Haven. Now I am considering Contender more carefully.

The best peaches I have consumed were from Alabama, variety not known. But, I was very surprised how juicy and tasty is a Reliance peach. It is very nearly as good as the fresh peaches from Alabama. I had thought from what I read that Reliance was not so tasty as far as peaches are concerned, and I now have personal experience and can say Reliance is great.

I still want a second variety. I need a late-blooming variety because it is the late frost that kills the crop here in Iowa. I want to extend the peach harvesting season. I would like another peach variety for comparison.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 12:20AM
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I agree with Troman that Contender is worth planting in marginal peach climates, but it will not be a season-extender for Reliance unless you want the season to extend earlier.

I have a 3rd season Contender here that set and ripened out about 50 peaches, but I picked them, fully ripe and even a little overripe, on July 7 in zone 7a. I also have peaches on a Reliance, and as of today they are still pretty hard. Guessing that I will take down the Reliance peaches sometime the 1st week of August. In other words, Contender is fully 3 weeks earlier than Reliance, as far as ripening goes. Earlier peaches can be good, but they are not as firm and dense as the later varieties, and I would never consider using Contender as a freezing peach. It is just too soft and juicy when ripe, and, like all early peaches, somewhat stringier than the later peaches. It is still good for fresh use, and I eat them without peeling, but you have to eat fast when you have a tree full of Contender peaches.

Bloom time of a peach tree has little to do with ripening date of the fruit, and most peach trees will all blossom within 2-3 days of each other. What you are looking for in a cold climate peach is bud hardiness. When a young peach tree blooms but does not set fruit, it is usually not due to lack of pollination, since peaches have perfect flowers, and will set fruit as singletons. Peach trees normally overset heavily, requiring extensive thinning, and when a young tree blooms but does not set, it is just not ready for fruit yet, or the blossoms have been frozen.

If you want to extend the ripening season later, I would go ahead with the Redhaven, which should ripen about 2-3 weeks later than Reliance. Redhaven is a Michigan peach, and should have the bud hardiness you require, although in your climate you cannot hope to have peaches more than once every 2-3 years unless we get a lot more global warming than we have so far. If peach blossoms are frozen once they are open, they are toasted, and that is probably what happened to your Reliance this season.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 12:59AM
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mark_roeder(4B IA)

Don, thanks for replying. Was hoping to hear from you as I have read many posts on peaches from you.

We had an early spring in late March. Our rose bushes (which is my expertise) and peach tree were budding magnificently. We had no peach flowers budding yet on the peach tree. In Mid-April we had a freeze that went on for a week or so. In early May the peach tree bloomed. There were no freezes associated with the flowering of the peach tree.

So I presume your first theory applied. The tree was too young to produce much fruit. We are a marginal peach climate. There are no commercial orchards. I had never heard of people growing peaches here, but then I did have a neighbor who had about 3 years of success recently until his tree died, and a few weeks ago I learned about someone else who has some in his back yard 23 miles away next to my father-in-law. I am about equally torn between extending the season on the front side and extending on the backside. I am looking more for extending either earlier or later and focusing on growing the tastiest peaches whichever direction that takes. I want freestones.

I am counting on global warming. But two years ago we had a record freeze on two days around May 21 or 22 or 23. So even in the face of global warming we still have extremes.

Your further advice on Red Haven or Contender will be appreciated in view of the above.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 1:34AM
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Compared with other peach varieties I have grown, and there have been about 15 over the years, Contender is by far the earliest to ripen, but, I have to say, of lesser quality as well. Reliance, which is regarded by many to be a below average peach for eating quality, is better than Contender, for the simple reason that it is later. However, I am still happy to have my Contender, since it gives us ripe peaches right when nothing else is bearing, and is pretty decent eating. If allowed to become a little overripe, which is easy to do, Contender is slightly less than fully freestone. The Contender peach sizes up so quickly during the month of June that it is really amazing. Mine averaged just under 3/4 pound each. I had them pretty well spaced out on the tree by thinning.

For a later peach, of higher quality, it is hard to beat a standard like Redhaven. We freeze a lot of peaches, since they all ripen within a few days on each tree and you just can't eat them all fresh, and Redhaven has the firmness and density to be a good freezing peach. It is also fully freestone.

I am an Iowa native, and my uncle Frank had a peach tree in his back yard in Sioux City for many years, with nary a peach. Suddenly, after about ten years, it set dozens of beautiful peaches. This was in the early 60's, and I don't know what variety he had.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 1:55AM
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Mark thanks for the info glad to here that you didnt get your first peaches til year 3. I did get flowers on one of them this year, and one set, but shortly after fell off.

I always love your advice Don. When I bought my peach tree at Gurneys I had the choice of Contender and Reliance. They wrote that Contender had the hardiness of Reliance, but was a better peach. Now I am wondering if I made the right choice after listening to what you said. I am thinking of trying another tree (maybe to soon I should just see if these make it another year!) I read about another variety named Madison. Does anyone have anyone information on these trees? Are they hardy? When do they ripen and how do they taste? Don do you think the Red Haven would survive in North Dakota? Are they as hardy as a contender?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 10:50AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Belle of Georgia may not sound like the most hardy peach with Georgia in its name, but it is very hardy. It is also a month or so later than Redhaven, and is very disease-resistant and an easy grower. It is a white-fleshed peach.

Don, on the topic of early peaches I have found the California variety Gold Dust does well for me and is very early. It is an early peach that tastes like a late peach. The squirrels found most of them before I did but I managed to get a couple peaches. BTW, by coincidence I am also originally from Iowa and have many relatives in Sioux City -- maybe your uncle Frank lived next to my aunt Roseanna, or my aunt Marge.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 11:24AM
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kaihui(Z7 VA)

"but you have to eat fast when you have a tree full of Contender peaches"

I will be happy to offer some help:-)


    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 11:50AM
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I will take a shot at your questions, but do not have all the answers for your North Dakota climate, which is on the outer margins of peach growing country. I have grown Madison here; it is a Virginia peach, part of the Virgina presidential series, and quite late to ripen. I doubt that it would have a chance in ND, and have the same opinion of Belle of Georgia, which, like most white peaches, is quite late to ripen. But I really don't know for sure which varieties would have the bud hardiness to give peaches a chance in your rigorous winters. I also tried to grow Belle of Georgia here, but both it and the Madison are gone now, mainly due to disease problems. But if you can grow these peach varieties, they are both very fine quality.

Gurney's description of Contender as a better peach than Reliance is simply fiction. Nurseries like Gurney's, now part of the large conglomerate that has evolved from the Gardens Alive! takeovers, often include information about their trees that is not even close to real world experiences. But Contender has the advantage of being very, very early, which is quite an advantage in some locations.

Growing peaches, like so many other things, is a series of trade-offs. Late peaches are better, but often more difficult to grow in areas where bacterial spot, peach scab, and brown rot are problems. The ripe Contender peaches I picked in early July were completely clear-skinned, but all of the later peaches, much slower to size up, have some bacterial spot, particularly on the lower branches that have poorer air circulation and receive less sunlight. I have improved my growing techniques and care since the early years when I grew peaches like Madison, Hale Haven, and Belle of Georgia, and have found that dormant copper sprays help reduce the incidence of bacterial spot on the peaches. I also prune the trees several times right in the middle of the growing season to keep them as open as possible to sunlight and air circulation, which helps reduce skin infection problems. In fact, I just pruned three trees heavily yesterday, trying to get the sun in on the peaches, since spraying them won't help them now. My peach trees are extremely vigorous growers, and if your location causes them to grow a little slower, so much the better. I wish mine would slow down.

The bottom line for you in North Dakota is: Any peach you can grow is going to be a good peach. If you can get the blossoms past the spring cold and set some fruit, your climate may actually be better than my humid, hot summers for growing out the fruit.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 12:29PM
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Thanks again for the advice. I may try a reliance than, I was just afraid that they were not as good a peach, but after seeing pictures of the peaches they look good! Don have you grown or tasted Reliance peaches? Do you think a Red Haven would be cold hardy enough?

I know your Contender peach tree ripens in early July, but my trees just started blooming in the middle of May, I am assuming that if I ever get peaches they would ripen later than yours? I know that seems like a dumb question, but I had to ask. I am also assuming that any early or late peach varieties I would have to knock back a month or so because of our growing season. I guess I will find out alot more next year if I am going to have any luck or not.

As far as the weather here, you havent been to ND in the summer than it is very hot and humid here also! I sometimes feel that people think North Dakota is next to Siberia or something. It gets very warm and humid in the summers. The winters are cold, but I wouldnt say alot colder than any other northern states.

Thanks for any help

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 1:30PM
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Great to hear that you enjoyed your Reliance fruit this year. I planted one last year, and had one fruit set this spring, only to have it fall off (or get eaten by a squirrel) about a month ago. As you mentioned, most descriptions aren't overly glowing for the Reliance. However, as I've heard several times, any tree-ripened peach you grow yourself is going to be better than the best peach variety picked under ripe and shipped 1000 miles to your local grocery. Looking forward to next year.

I was interested to hear your description of Red Haven as a late peach, when around here (upper Midwest) it is considered more of an early peach, at least for a freestone. The Michigan Redhavens are starting to ripen now, and the peach harvest in MI extends into September, over a month from now. Also, I have often read Elberta used as the standard 'late season' peach, with Red Haven ripening several weeks before Elberta.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 2:01PM
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Late and early are relative terms when it comes to peaches. There are lots of peaches later than Redhaven, but the ones we are mainly discussing here are earlier. Redhaven is in fact the standard by which ripening dates of other peaches are established -- plus or minus days to harvest compared with Redhaven, so this peach may more accurately be called neutral.

For Troman:
I have had a Reliance in the orchard for over 12 years, and we have picked many peaches from the tree. I think they are fine for quality. Since your trees bloom a month later than mine, obviously ripening dates must be adjusted accordingly for your climate. But the relative dates of ripening among varieties will remain the same. With your later bloom and shorter season, I don't think I would try any truly late varieties like Belle of Georgia, since they would be unlikely to make it to maturity. But either Reliance, Contender, or both, would be fine for you. And I think you could probably grow Redhaven, if you can grow anything. When I have had a tough decision to make between two varieties, I usually have planted them both. Then I eventually find out which is really best in my climate and conditions.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 2:54PM
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salmon(4A WI)

I planted a Reliance and Madison peach several years ago. The Madison peach suffered from partial winterkill following it's first winter and completely died after it's second winter.

The Reliance peach suffered moderate winterkill after it's first winter, recovered nicely the following summer, got through it's second winter fine, and produced a few peaches. It survived the next winter, and produced about fifty peaches last summer. Unfortunately it completely died last winter.

I have resigned myself to face reality and purchase peaches in bulk from "local" orchards (300 miles away) grown in Michigan.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 3:00PM
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mark_roeder(4B IA)

Thank you for all the comments.

Two more questions:

First, I have read at one website, do not recall where, that fall planting of a peach tree is preferable, and I believe that would be late fall planting. But all the mail order nurseries I have run across sell only in the spring. Should we be looking at a late fall dormant tree planting, and if so who sells peach trees for late fall planting?

Second, I had excellent fruit. I sprayed a rather standard fruit tree spray with Captan. I had a lot of holes in the leaves of the tree. Is that to be expected? I grow roses, and they are closely related to fruit trees, and the holes looked like leaf cutter bee holes I occasionally get in rose bushes, so I shot some Malathion up there a month ago. But do you have an opinion on what would cause the holes in leaves, and what I might combat that with in the future?

On a personal note I have lived a lot of places over the years, in Iowa and elsewhere, including Sioux City for three years. I worked there in federal court. I traveled quite a bit. I did not become acquainted with may Sioux Citiansthere other than lawyers and court personnel.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 4:11PM
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All the information on planting peach trees that I have seen for over 30 years indicates just the opposite: Peaches are best planted in spring, especially in colder climates. The reason is that young nursery stock cannot adapt quickly to the rigors of a winter, and is likely to die before spring.

Information on growing fruit trees used to be precious and hard to get. You had to find a book or consult other growers. Now, with the internet, we are inundated with information and opinions, but much of it is unreliable.

Holes in the leaves of peach trees can indicate shothole fungus, which can be controlled with dormant sprays of a strong copper solution. I never let my peach trees get through the winter without at least two dormant sprays of copper, for this disease and several others. Shothole is quite distinct from peach leaf curl, but behaves in a similar way in that it is hard to cure once underway. Prevention is the key.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 7:15PM
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I planted a Reliance peach in Oshkosh, WI, back around 1973. It was doing well, but had no peaches. Then the winter of 1976-7 was very severe, and tree above the graft died. The bottom grew back. After a couple years I cut it off. I suppose I could have tried to graft something to the bottom, but I didn't. J.W.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 12:53AM
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Mark or anyone else,

I am interested in getting a small amount of hardy peach scion wood. I have apple scion wood to trade.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 5:58PM
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mark_roeder(4B IA)


How do you propose to do this. I just topped a couple of the main branches of my peach tree a couple days ago and threw it bottoms up into a snow pile. Temps got above freezing today. Upper 40s tomorrow, but the snow is deep here.

I really don't know what you need to graft. What do you need? How thick? How to get it to you? Can you take it now, dormant?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 12:06AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)


What are u grafting these onto? I haven't done any pruning (i don't really need too).

No peaches in Oshkosh? I'm guessing the 70's were pretty harsh and Oshkosh is pretty far up there. Lucky they survived at all. Did you ever have any blossoms? My trees are going to start getting very antsy soon, but hopefully they don't wake up too early. They currently have a couple of feet of snow around them, so the roots should stay cold.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 1:02AM
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I started with three Hale Haven about 5-6 years ago, and added two Reliance the next year. Two years ago we had about four peaches, and last year the harvest was huge (maybe a bushel?), so I am hooked. Last spring and this spring I have added several specimens of Contender and TruGold, as well as a few more of the HH and R. I will let you know how it goes... I buy them bare root, and I find that more often than not they die back a bit, and then new growth comes from somewhere on the grafted wood, and ultimately that is my new tree. Seems to add an extra year to the schedule, but as long as I get peaches in Minnesota, I'm happy!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 11:25AM
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wetclayz5(z5 Ohio)

Contender EARLIER then Reliance ? that seems very wrong.
All the reliable sources say tha tReliance ripens ~23 days before contender.

I think *maybe* you meant "candor" not "contender".

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 2:27PM
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For cool wet West Virginia I was looking for both hardy and disease resistant trees when I got started. In most cases it seemed to be either/or. I have a Reliance and a Contender and a Harrow Beauty and a few others including some seedlings. One of those seedlings is the best of any of them so far, and I'd really like to have it grafted. Anyway, Reliance here has ripened about July 15 to 23 for six consecutive years. Contender only set fruit one year before being set back severely by borers. Its ripening date (for tree ripened fruit) was July 28 to August 5 - definitely later than Reliance, and right along with Harrow Beauty. For me, Reliance has been as disease resistant as Harrow Beauty or more so. Its fruit was of excellent quality the first few years, but this last year its flavor was lacking and it had less color. Still not bad though. The tree is still vigorously growing. The 'Contender' tree was purchased from Cummins Nursery in NY, grafted on to Halford. The 'Harrow Beauty' was purchased from Adams County Nursery and was grafted onto Baily. The 'Reliance' was from Stark Bros and they said it was grafted onto "seedling" rootstock.
Peaches have done surprisingly well for me here in the mountains, but I put a lot of work into preparing the planting location. I really believe nutrition is the most important key to healthy productive trees. I may have more to say about 'Madison' and 'Intrepid' in the future.

Here is a link that might be useful: Last year's report

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 6:51PM
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I have grown Red Haven, Reliance and Contender peaches many years and find Reliance and Red Haven to ripen about the same time. Contender, on the other hand is always nearly 3 weeks later in ripening. Reliance is inferior to other peaches for flavor most years. The reliance peach is less peachy flavored, and almost has a slight citrus zing. It is okay, but compared to Red Haven or Contender it is less flavorful. The catalogs always say Reliance has showy blossoms, but that is not true either. The flowers on Reliance are non-showy. As far as frost tolerance flowers, Contender is equal or better than Reliance. I have had Contender fruit after 19 degree freezes at half bloom and still produce a crop when all others failed.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 9:39PM
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I'm planting a backyard orchard in Great Falls, Virginia, I already have 15 apple trees in the ground and I want to plant peaches this year. I was inspired by Dave Wilson's 3 trees in one hole video ---https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0WM0HFduXI . Now I'm trying to pick three peach varieties for one group. I've narrowed it down to Nectar, Redheaven, Reliance, and Contender. I like the idea of successive ripening dates. Any suggestions. Also thinking of a group of Necteries, Apricots, or Pluots.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 1, 2015 at 11:35AM
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