Saturn and other early peaches a bit disappointing

milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)August 14, 2012

I finally got a harvest from my Saturn peach tree and I have to say I was not overly enthralled. They are sweet and unique, and I can see why they carry a heavy price tag in the stores, but I think I'd rather have a yellow peach instead.

I am also debating on the early peaches I have and thinking maybe plums that ripen when early peaches do would be better as far as taste goes. I have PF-1, which seemed to be inconsistent, Earlistar, which was better but still inconsistent, and even Garnet Beauty failed to enthrall me. The PF-17's are ripening now and they seem to be the best I've had so far.

I don't have any plums that are ripe yet either so I'm thinking the space for my early peaches would be better used on earlier plums. I have Toka, which is just beginning to ripen, Elephant Heart, Satsuma, Green Gage, and Shropshire Damson. I've already decided to replace the Shropshire for a Castleton.

My neighbor's Santa Rosa was wonderful, but I don't want to plant what she has as we share the harvest.

Any thoughts on this?

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olympia_gardener(5)

These flat peaches originally came from China. But it had never very popular with Chinese people. It was just a novelty. But since its looks so unique, it was marketed well in U.S.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 3:58PM
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alan haigh

Lots of people love Saturn because it is intensely sweet and its low acid makes it taste even sweeter. I'm not one of them as I like acid with that sugar. If you want to try something intensely flavored in stone fruit try an early nectarine, like Eastern Glow.

Garnett Beauty is a pretty nice early peach IMO so I'm wondering what you are looking for in a peach. If the fruit is inconsistent maybe the tree's getting too much water. This will lead to bland peaches but plums always get up the sugar. So do Nectarines, IME.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 4:55PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

harvestman,

I wondered about the Garnet Beauty too. It ripened before the PF-17, which doesn't add up either. Maybe I have the two labels switched.

I actually have been feeling guilty because I haven't watered my peaches for at least a month. They are looking dry and I must do it or they will start wilting.

On another note, how far apart do you thin your peaches, and what do you do with twins? This is the first year I am having a full crop and it's really hard to thin, but I can see it is absolutely necessary.

Do you wait till after the harvest before you do summer pruning?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 5:19PM
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alan haigh

Generally peaches are best thinned about 7" apart but it's so hard to thin to more than 5". If ripe fruit is touching other fruit you certainly didn't thin enough and this is a detriment to quality.

When and how much I summer prune depends on the vigor of the tree. Some trees on some sites don't need to be pruned in summer at all. If the fruit is highly shaded than the trees are vigorous enough to get some pruning a month before fruit ripens just to get some light on the fruit. If you over prune it can make for bland fruit though.

Pruning after harvest can be helpful if most of the wood you want to get fruit from next year is shaded by higher wood.

If you can submit a picture of one of your trees I could tell you a lot more.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 6:59PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"I wondered about the Garnet Beauty too. It ripened before the PF-17, which doesn't add up either."

Milehigh,

Most literature lists Garnet Beauty as -10 and PF17 as somewhere around +12. In my own backyard Garnet Beauty ripens somewhere around -17. I haven't fruited PF17 yet, but my PF Lucky13 ripens +7 and PF17 is supposed to ripen after that.

White peaches (Saturn included) are different. Like you and Hman, I prefer the more "tang" of a yellow peach. It's interesting, I spoke with the rep from Adams a couple weeks ago and told him I don't want any more sub-acid peaches and he said sub-acid is becoming the hot new thing. He said it's mostly popular with the younger generation.

Asians (as a group) prefer white peaches to yellows.

On thinning, I don't keep both twins but remove at least one. I don't keep any doubles (connected twins). Twins and doubles generally aren't as sweet as peaches allowed more space to ripen. I try thin to one fruit per 12" of branch space (at thinning time) so that by harvest the fruits average about 9" between them, but I seem to thin a little heavier than most folks on this forum.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 8:55PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

harvestman,

I wondered about the Garnet Beauty too. It ripened before the PF-17, which doesn't add up either. Maybe I have the two labels switched.

I actually have been feeling guilty because I haven't watered my peaches for several weeks. I'm watering right now though.

On another note, how far apart do you thin your peaches, and what do you do with twins? This is the first year I am having a full crop and it's really hard to thin, but I can see it is absolutely necessary.

Do you wait till after the harvest before you do summer pruning?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:17PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Oops, I didn't think the last posted went through.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:20PM
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alan haigh

Olpea, you thin more than commercial guidelines I've read as well. You go for the big peaches- customers must flock you your stand!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 5:25AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Hman,

You're right, I do thin more than commercial guidelines.

I think perhaps the difference may be related to vigor. A lot of my shoots are 3' long as the norm (although not this season with the drought). Someone with just 18" of shoot extension would leave two fruit on that shoot (by commercial guidelines). However with my shoots being much longer, I'd leave five fruit on a 3' shoot (by commercial guidelines). Multiplied by lots of shoots, it becomes too much weight for the tree to bear. So I have to thin a bit more aggressively to compensate for the increased vigor, I think.

I believe it's also a little windier here so that it takes less weight to break branches than in most parts of the county. I noticed I had a large broken branch yesterday on one of the trees, but I've been catching a lot of possums lately, so it could have been a possum that broke it down.

I do think I sometimes over thin on some trees, but I still try to follow the 12" rule because I have a somewhat laissez-faire attitude about yield. I know I have some mature trees that produce two bushel of fruit when they should really be producing three, or younger trees producing 25 lbs. of fruit when they should be producing 50 lbs., but at this point I don't get too excited about the lost opportunity. Maybe I'll go broke with that attitude. I'm sure I've still got a lot to learn about growing peaches commercially.

I recommend thinning to 12" on this forum not only because I do so, but also because the tendency for most people harvesting their first fruit is to under thin. Even if they over thin a bit, as I sometimes do, I think a lot of people will be happier with their first harvest of nice large fruits vs. making a mistake the other way and have a tree full of peaches that are little bitty. But you're right, I think a lot of trees can tolerate one fruit for every 8" of branch space or so, under lower wind and vigor conditions.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:35AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

I cannot stand flat "doughnut" Saturn peaches but the other blooming yellow Saturn peaches are pretty tasty.

Doughnut Stark Saturn
http://www.lecooke.com/Images/Fruits_&_Nuts/Peach/DonutCMYK%29.pdf

Normal Flowering Saturn (Much Better)
http://www.lecooke.com/Images/Fruits_&_Nuts/Peach/Saturn-Peach%28RGB%29.pdf

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:37AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Sorry here are the links

Normal Saturn
http://www.lecooke.com/Images/Fruits_&_Nuts/Peach/Saturn-Peach(RGB).pdf

Doughnut Saturn
http://www.lecooke.com/Images/Fruits_&_Nuts/Peach/DonutCMYK).pdf

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:40AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

blazeaglory,

I read somewhere that Saturn was a yellow peach but I couldn't understand why. Now I know they were probably talking about the normal Saturn, which doesn't look hardy enough for my zone.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 2:53AM
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alan haigh

Olpea, I think about thinning about opposite of what you state. If a tree lacks vigor, thin more. It's partially about leaf to fruit ratio but even more about balancing vigor to fruit set in order to help sustain the desired level of vigor. For young peach trees in good growing conditions this isn't so much an issue, but as trees mature it seems to me that overcropping quickly puts them out of production and into senesence.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 6:02AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Hman,

I suppose it depends on what level of vigor we are referring to. The commercial guidelines to thin to every 8" also recommend 18-24" of shoot extension. If shoot extension is less than that then a lighter crop load (more thinning) would certainly increase vigor and lighten the stress on the tree.

My point is that I simply have too many broken branches if I thin to one fruit per 8". It has been puzzling to me why some people can thin to 8" and I can't get away with it. I've come to conclusion my circumstances must be different than theirs as mentioned above (i.e. more wind, longer shoots so that they carry more fruit load). I can't think of any other reasons why I can't get away with one fruit per 8". If I tried to crop the trees heavier, I know I'd have most of my trees on the ground (broken). I don't have time anymore to prop the branches up.

I've discussed thinning with another commercial peach grower in the area and he thins about like I do, so I don't think this phenomena is completely isolated.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:28AM
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alan haigh

Olpea, your trees are all pretty young. I almost never have branches break on older trees that I've started heading back to keep in bounds. By the time they are 7 or eight years old they will probably be stout enough to handle whatever load they produce given how vigorous your trees are.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 8:40PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Perhaps age will make a difference. My peaches are in their 9th season on down. Many of them have fully developed canopies (20' in dia.) but I'm sure as you indicate the scaffold diameters will continue to grow and strengthen.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:26PM
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alan haigh

Olpea, a common procedure in CA peach orchards used to be a 3 scaffold low open center pulled together with a piece of rope before the weight of fruit could break branches.

My training methods are not for maximum early fruit production as trees stay in my nursery for 3 years so my scaffolds are selected and grown slowly as the trees remain central leaders for about their first 5 years. This may be why not many of my branches ever break.

If I was growing peaches commercially I think I'd use the V trellis system, especially if peaches needed to be netted from birds.

Like you, I'm having to do a lot of netting this year. My trees aren't built for that.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 6:02AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I think the trend is moving toward higher density systems - the V system for peaches and spindle systems for apples.

I know they produce greater and earlier yields with greater opportunity for profitability, but it's been hard for me to get excited about them because they take a lot more resources (more initial cost in trees, more pruning/training, drip irrigation). Even if I had the money for those extra resources, the thing is I'm not sure I could sell the extra production retail, and I'm definitely not interested in becoming a wholesale grower.

Since I don't irrigate, this year I'm really glad I have my backyard trees spaced at low density (20' spacing). We are now halfway through Aug. and it still hasn't rained enough to get water down in the tree root zone all summer. I think the wider spacing has allowed the trees to scavenge more water.

I ended up spacing the trees I planted this spring at 18' in the row X 25' b/t rows. It's a very wide spacing, but wide spacing is recommended for non-irrigated orchards. After this summer, I can see why.

As a side note, I continue to be amazed how drought tolerant peaches are. Earlier this summer, I was panicked about the new planting and thought no new trees could tolerate the 100+ temps with no rain to the root zone. The leaves did look stressed. I'm sure we're not through with the hot weather yet, but so far the new peach trees haven't missed a lick. They haven't even set terminal buds yet. Contrast that will new apple trees I planted. I lost two of them before I figured out they were dying of thirst. We've been watering those by hand weekly for the last month and a half just to keep them alive (they look horrible).

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:18AM
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