Peaches are stunted and not maturing

butterflymomok(7a NE OK)July 19, 2013

I have a peach tree on the new acreage that seems to be stuck in time. I'm not sure how healthy the tree is, as I found lots of black mummies on the ground in the winter. Does this tree need to be removed, or is there hope that if I remove the current crop, and treat the tree (?) I will eventually get some fruit? I'm not much on the use of chemicals. Any help is welcome. Haven't had fruit trees in a long, long time.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I am going to go out on a limb (pun intended) and guess that the fruit was not thinned at the proper time. If that is the case, these fruit will not be worth much. It is likely they will consist of a large pit, very little flesh and and the skin. And, by making that guess, I am assuming there's tons of little peaches. Is that correct? The fruit are not maturing because too many of them were left on the tree and they were left too close together. The tree just doesn't have the energy to mature all those little peaches.

Peach and other stone fruit trees like plums, when healthy and happy, set many many many more fruit than the tree can carry to maturity. You have to thin the fruit when they are very small. If you wait too late to thin, the ones left on the tree often won't even size up well because so much of the tree's energy went into the large number of fruit before they were thinned.

In a good year when it seems like virtually every blossom has set a fruit, I remove approximately 94-97% of the fruit from my plum and peach trees, leaving the fruit at the recommended spacing for that type of fruit tree. That means in a good year I easily can remove well more than 1000 and maybe even 2000 small fruit per tree, which still leaves a pretty heavy load of fruit to mature. Even with only five fruit trees, it can take me several days of fairly steady thinning to remove all the excess fruit by hand. In a great year, I'll harvest 300-400 lbs. of ripe fruit from 2 plum and 2 peach trees. That is after they were thinned. You can imagine how a fruit tree that can mature, let's say, 100 lbs. of fruit after the grower removes 95% of the fruit that set, would not be able to mature a larger load of fruit, so you get small fruit that doesn't size up if you don't thin. I don't thin the fifth tree, which is a native Mexican plum. I just leave its fruit for the wild things to enjoy. Unlike the named cultivars we raise for fruit, the wild native plums tend to stay small even if thinned, so it is a waste of your time to thin them.

I thin by hand because that is what fits in with my organic practices. My friend, Fred, thins using a chemical that he sprays on the tree. It knocks a certain amount of the fruit off the tree. Different strokes for different folks and all that. His way is faster, but my way is chemical-free.

You tree should be fine, but since the fruit you have are not enlarging and seem unlikely to do so, I'd remove them so the tree can focus its energy on getting ready for next year's fruit. You could just leave them and let them fall when they get ready, but once that occurs, it is best to clean up all the deadfall fruit so it doesn't encourage pests or diseases that could be an issue for the tree next year.

I suppose since the tree already was there on the property, you don't know what variety it is. Next year, make a note of when it blooms and when the first fruit are ripe and that could help you figure out what variety you have.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 8:43PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Thanks, Dawn.

There didn't appear to be too many peaches as the tree flowered in the midst of a cold snap which nipped some of the blooms. I'll take your advice and see what happens next year.

The apple tree next to it did not produce any fruit, and it bloomed at the same time. It's obvious the trees haven't been cared for, so will see if I can shape them up, feed them, and encourage them to produce.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 9:55AM
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My peach trees are having a rough time this year . As Dawn said prune, thin fruit and it will help. Those mummies could be brown rot

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:11AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome.

If the apple tree is fairly young, it might be too young to fruit. They take a few years longer to come into production.

I forgot to say to be sure to clean up any mummified fruit still laying around if there are any because, as oldokie noted, they likely had brown rot and you don't want to let the disease stay there on the mummified fruit and hit next year's crop. I don't even throw fruit with brown rot on the compost pile---I put it straight into the trash.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 12:10PM
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IF there are only a few fruit and they don't seem to have brown rot, I think I would leave them to see if they will ripen. Not all peaches ripen in July; some ripen in August. You can learn more about peaches at Stark Bros website. I just finished reading an email (with a link to a blog) from Stark's about peaches. They dealt with all you need to know. Wintertime pruning, fruit thinning, watering, dealing with brown rot and plum curculio. (Tiny white worms that live next to the pit and mess up the fruit.) We use Neem oil for both or we wouldn't get any peaches. I would link it but I deleted it as I knew what they talked about--except the names of those late maturing peaches. We are in the middle of peach harvest right now, and we have more issue with both brown rot and plum curculio than last year. I believe because it rained once a week until a month ago, making it difficult to spray. Like Dawn, we thin by hand but this year not strenuously enough because we've had two branches break from high in the tree where we couldn't easily reach. We don't try to compost our bad peaches either, but throw them onto a brush pile in the woods that we will burn in the fall.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 8:35PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Thanks, all. I'll thin some and leave some and see what happens.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Peaches require a lot of water also to fully develope

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 9:28AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

My peaches begin to mature in mid-June in an average year, normally right about Father's Day. If the last frost is really early, like in 2012, they can mature in mid- to late-May because they bloom early and then no cold weather slows them down.

I need to plant some more varieties that bloom later and mature later so we can have fresh peaches all summer long, and not just in June and early July.

I have plans to plant a lot of fruit trees in the new back garden this fall, but I'm going to have to plant them in gopher cages because voles have been eating the roots of plants, randomly, in the back garden. They've eaten fig tree roots, fennel, lantana, squash, all the dahlias and daylilies, and now they're eating zinnia roots. I've had more vole trouble in that new back garden in the three or four months since we planted it than we've had in 15 years in the front garden.

Rather than fighting voles every year, I'll just plant fruit trees and berries in large gopher cages that will protect their roots until the roots grow outside the cages. I might build a raised bed or two lined completely with hardware cloth so I still can have flowers and a few veggies back there, but because of the voles, I've had to change my plans for how we'll use that area.

Busy1, That's so true and it is one reason I've never planted the later season varieties since I know I'll have to water them a lot. Most years (ha ha ha, except for 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, etc.) my peach trees make fruit just fine on the natural rainfall we get, but that's because they are earlier varieties that ripen before the real summer dry spell begins. After looking at my list of drought years, I guess I didn't have to water the peach trees a lot in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2009.

Since Sandy bought a new place, there's no way to know if the previous owner gave the tree good care before she bought the place, and 2011 and 2012 would have been really brutal on a tree that wasn't being irrigated. I am wondering if it is just suffering the aftereffects of a couple of bad drought years.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 12:09PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Dawn and all,

No need to worry about the peach tree anymore. Last night's storm took out the tree--by the roots. The fruit was starting to grow, of course!

More tree damage, and the pole barn was damaged. No power, as the Utility poles along the highway were snapped like toothpicks. Lots of cleanup work for OG&E. They were already busy as I drove out to the acreage this morning. All of Bixby was without power including businesses. Saw where a roof looked like it had just been "peeled" off on a nursing home in Bixby. Lots of damage here in NE OK, but it could have been lots worse.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 1:14PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Sandy, Oh no, I just hate to hear that. I was wondering how you fared up there after I saw all the storm reports. It is just terrible that the great blessing of rain in this state always seems to come with the curse of strong wind, hail, flooding, etc. Why can't we just have nice gentle rain without all the storms and fury?

Our news early this morning said Bixby and the surrounding area may have had the worst damage from this round of storms.

I am glad it wasn't worse, but it sounds like it was plenty bad.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 2:08PM
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