Growing peaches can be interesting

olpea(zone 6 KS)August 29, 2013

It has been a bit unusual year for us. We started out with a very late spring (it snowed in May, which is unheard of here). As a result of the late frosts, we lost 80% of the crop.

Some peach trees were hardly affected. Redskin, Harrow Beauty and a few others had nearly full crops. Some peach trees hardly had any (i.e. Blazingstar, Harken, etc.) I will note this is the second time Redskin came through with a full crop from late freezes, while other peach trees had a compromised crop. I've never heard Redskin blooms are particularly hardy from spring frosts, but it's looking that way here.

Because of the frosts, we didn't have to thin any peach trees.

The size is extraordinarily large this year. Normally a standard peach is anywhere from 0.4 to 0.45 lbs. A very large peach (softball 3-4") ranges from 0.5 to 0.6 lbs.

This year because of the thin crop, peaches are coming out huge. In the past the biggest peach I've ever raised is 0.82 lbs. This year one of the peaches weighed 1.19 lbs (Both peaches were from Coralstar.) I've sold many peaches this year that weighed over a pound. Once we got through the rains, the flavor has returned to good to very good, in spite of the huge size.

What's interesting to me is the difference in peach size in different peach cultivars. Coralstar is gigantic. Redskin is huge. But Carolina Gold and Contender are small by comparison. Good highly flavored peaches, but I'm amazed how small they are compared to other peaches that ripen in the same window.

My neighbors Elberta peaches are itty bitty by comparison.

It's just interesting to me how peach size can be so determined by genetics.

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

olpea:

In Amarillo frequent spring freezes allowed a good evaluation of peach frost tolerance. As I remember the best varieties were Surecrop, Redskin, and possibly Redglobe.

I once grew apples about 1.2 lbs, Seiki Ichi I believe. That's a huge peach.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 6:06PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Those are some monsters...

Peach size is mostly determined by the amount of moisture early in the season...

link

I think i shared this pdf years ago, but its pretty interesting reading material on growing big peaches...

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 6:49PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

frank interesting but have you ever seen the same on how to maximize fruit eating quality. I doubt it. My conclusion is that's only good information for the commercial grower that never meets his customer.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 7:27PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

True... Its all yield... I would like to grow some nectarines of about a pound a piece.... Everything i grow seems to not get much size. I think i really need to thin the container trees to just a handful of fruits and water like crazy early on.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 8:19PM
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lifespeed(9B San Jose)

Most of my peaches and nectarines (Burbank July Elberta and Zee Glo) are over one pound each and the size of softballs. I thin in the spring, but don't water too much.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 12:24AM
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rayrose(8)

Here, in SC, commercial growers feed their trees calcium nitrate,
after thinning, in order to get good size. I tried it this year and
had very good results, with outstanding flavor. Although I can't attribute the flavor to the calcium nitrate, it was the best crop I've ever had(Harvester, Fire Prince, Winblo, August Prince, Jefferson).

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 9:17AM
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eboone_gw

rayrose - calcium nitrate applied to soil? or is that used as a foliar feeding?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 11:58AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Olpea-

What are you selling those large peaches for? Which one is your favorite? My blushingstar are all colored up and sized up...but still hard... maybe another week and they'll be ready. I have some other seedling peaches are still hard as a rock. I need stuff that ripens earlier!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 12:54PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"What are you selling those large peaches for? Which one is your favorite?"

Frank,

I sell all my number 1's for $2/lb. which includes sales tax.

In a way I really hate selling these huge peaches. You box 10-12 peaches, they weigh 10-12 lbs. so you are charging a twenty dollar bill or more.

Psychology is strange. People will pay about up to a dollar a peach (for large 1/2 pound peaches) but for one pound peaches, they don't want to pay 2 bucks a peach.

This season to make people feel better, I've been throwing in a lot of seconds for free when customers buy a peck (12 #s) or more.

I'm really at a disadvantage because I sell by the pound. Most orchards around here sell by volume (i.e. peck or 1/2 bushel). Customers have no idea what they are paying when they buy by the peck (because they don't know what a peck weighs). Additionally a lot of orchards short customers on the peck weight.

About a week ago, I had a customer bring a couple of peck baskets from another orchard, which he wanted me to box his peaches in. He wanted to make sure I knew those peck baskets were supposed to hold exactly 10 lbs.

I didn't tell him that a peck was supposed to weigh 12 lbs. not 10, but I did weigh his peaches in front of him and gave him a bunch of seconds because he had a long drive to get here. My point is the other orchard was selling him 20% less peaches than he should have been getting.

People have no idea what they are paying/buying in the peck baskets.

I spoke at length with a reseller who hates large peaches like Cresthaven. He does $900 worth of farm market business on a given Sat. He doesn't like large peaches because he can only comfortably put 4 large peaches in a quart box (normally about 2 lbs. of peaches). His customers fuss if they have to pay more than a dollar a peach. He can fit 5 smaller peaches in a quart box (still charges 5 bucks/quart) and his customers are happy (same weight).

The extreme thinning of mother nature this spring produced some huge peaches. The trees put all their energy into a lot less peaches. The flavor is very good. The only drawback I'm seeing is with the 90F+ weather we've had for the last 2 weeks tends to cause some minor browning around the seed with these huge peaches.

I've found if I pick them about a day earlier, they don't have the browning around the pit.

Harrow Beauty doesn't seem to take the heat well. Those peaches got a little mealy when the temps spiked. I quit selling those peaches when that happened and had a lady come out and get those peaches for free to feed to her chickens and goats.

Coralstar has come through fantastically. I love most of these stellar peaches. Hman first pointed me towards Coralstar (but he doesn't like it as much anymore - but here it's been a proven performer for several years). It has a fine grained juicy sweet flesh and is always good regardless of weather.

Coralstar so far is my favorite for a peach in this window (about three weeks after Redhaven). Carolina Gold also ripens in the same window. It's a great tasting peach, but not nearly as big as Coralstar. Carolina Gold drops from the tree a lot more when it's ripe. I don't sell drops, so the tree wastes a lot of fruit.

My favorite peach is still an unknown variety which ripens about +14. I have 2 grafted trees growing this season and grafted 2 more this season.

It has little fuzz and is very sweet, dense, intense flesh. It is very difficult to grow because the tree wants to grow straight up and gets bac. spot something horrible. I have to spray the tree with an antibiotic early in the season, or the fruit will crack from scarring. But the fruit is excellent every year. Even peaches in the interior are highly flavored. These are not only my opinions, but my customers as well. About a week/10 days ago I sold about 1/2 bu. to a customer who got mostly the unlabeled peaches. There were three boxes of peaches. She got one box of top grade (picked from the outside of the canopy) peaches from two other trees and two boxes of the unlabeled peaches. I asked her if she noticed a difference in the peaches. She said she preferred the boxes which had the unknown variety. This evaluation was from no prompting of my opinion, she had no idea which peaches were my favorite.

As I said, this peach is a bugger to grow, but it's been very consistent for the last 6 years.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 4:54PM
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rayrose(8)

Calcium nitrate applied to the soil. I gave each tree about 4 handsfull. I don't measure by the cup. LOL

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 6:31PM
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mrsg47(7)

What a report, Olpea, this is excellent info. The spring frost ruined my entire crop of peaches this year except for one lone singleton peach. The peach (Elberta) that is surviving is still green, hard as rock and is not showing any color. We have had rain and more rain (tons of water) and the peach is still below a normal size for this time of year. I've been watching it because it is interesting growing peaches. I think peaches and plums are the very best. There is something very exotic about them. I did find the furriest looking peaches in the Farmer's market last week. The owner of the stand didn't have the name of the fruit. It was a peach with dark red skin (not purple) and had thick grayish fuzz all over it. Weird looking really. Do you happen to know the variety?

About extra large peaches, I think the normal size is better. They might be interesting if you're putting them up or making a pie, but to grow them I would imagine the size is just too over the top. I would look at them as a curiosity. Taste and sweetness is what I am after. Would love to try the 'unknown' variety. Sounds delish! Mrs. G

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 8:10PM
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