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Growing Peaches and Nectarines

Have you ever seen nectarine or peach trees for sale and thought about buying one but didn't? Take this opportunity to get on the "peach train." No other fruit brings such joy to a person as a tree-ripened peach (Prunus persica). We've all heard about the juiciness, the sweetness, the flavor, the taste of summer—now it's time to grow some peaches for yourself. If peach fuzz gets in the way of feeling the joy, just peel the darn peach. Or grow nectarines. Equally delicious.

More than most fruit, grocery store peaches never come close to the quality of fresh, homegrown peaches. Occasionally you get lucky at the store; mostly though, you're stuck with mealy, bland peaches that only look good.

Peach and Nectarines Peach and Nectarines

The biggest advantage of growing your own peaches is the superior, homegrown flavor that you won't find in store-bought peaches.

What should I consider when buying a peach or nectarine tree?

Peachcling

Before buying a peach or nectarine tree, consider your preferences for fuzz or no fuzz, clingstone or freestone and dwarf or standard-sized trees. Chilling hours and pollination are also considerations.

Clingstone and freestone are nearly self-explanatory. Clingstone peaches have pits that cling to the flesh. They are good for desserts, jams, jellies, fresh eating and canning. In freestones, the pit is easily removed from the flesh. Freestone peaches are great for fresh eating and freezing. Both are good choices for baking.

Gurney's has a selection of great-tasting peaches for both Southern and Northern climates.

Are peach trees easy to grow?

Growing peach trees is an easy endeavor. Bareroot trees and containerized trees are equally easy to plant. By contrast, field-grown trees with large root balls are not nearly as easy to plant or even available. Your newly planted trees should thrive if you plant them in full sun and moderately fertile, well-draining soil. Water regularly during the growing season until well established. See our planting video.

You want to prune your trees yearly to maintain an open center for maximum sun exposure and wind flow. This will help control some pests and diseases. Occasional, timely spraying of insecticide and/or fungicide will help even more. Consult your local extension service for information about both subjects. Applications of Gurney's® Fruit Tree Food, or a 10-10-10 fertilizer, is also very helpful for maintaining healthy trees.

Some peach varieties may fruit their second year. Depending on where you live and what variety you chose, your tree will begin to produce fruit in late spring if you're in the Deep South and early summer to midsummer the further north you live.

How to Prune a 2 year old Peach Tree Video

Pruning peach trees is easy and will help the tree bear more fruit and be easier to care for.

What are "chill hours" and why do peach trees need them?

Chill hours are the number of hours that the temperature stays at 32-45°F. Chill hours start accumulating once your tree goes dormant in the fall. Most of the United States receives at least 800-1,000 hours of chill. As you get into the South, the Southwest and some parts of coastal California, chill hours decrease, and selecting a variety of peach suited to your area becomes more important. In the very deep South, choices become even more limited. Chill hours must be met for your tree to bloom, leaf out and thrive. On our website, chill hours can usually be found below the product description in the product details.

'Reliance' is a tried and true peach, and as the name indicates, it's reliable. It often avoids those pesky late-winter/early-spring frosts that freeze out earlier blooming varieties. 'Contender' and 'TruGold' take reliability to a new level. Both are very cold hardy and bloom late. The big difference is flavor. 'Contender' and 'TruGold' have incredible fresh-eating qualities that surpass 'Reliance'. All three require 1,000 or more chill hours and can be grown in the Northern range of peach hardiness, zones 4 and 5.

At the other end of the spectrum are 'Flordaking', which needs only 450 chill hours, and 'Karla Rose', which needs only 700. This allows them to grow in Southern zones 8 and 9.

Peach/Nectarine Chill Hours Guide
Northern (up to zone 4)
1,000+ chill hours
Contender, Reliance
Central (zones 5-8)
750-1,000 chill hours
Mericrest, Elberta, Belle of Georgia, Flat Wonderful, TruGold
Southern (zones 8-9)
450-700 chill hours
FlordaKing, Karla Rose

Gurney's has a selection of great-tasting peaches for both Southern and Northern climates.

How big will my peach tree grow?

Rootstock are what your favorite peach trees are grafted or budded on to help control size. There are three general categories of rootstock based on how they affect tree size: dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard (full-sized). Gurney's offers peach tree varieties on standard and dwarf. Selecting a rootstock depends on your available space and ability to maintain the peach tree.

Standard grafted trees reach a mature height of 18-25 feet, although with proper pruning, even they can be maintained in the 12-foot range. Standard trees have an extensive root system able to fend off certain soilborne diseases and support vigorous growth. Mature standard trees can sometimes have a slight twist or lean. This is normal and adds to their beauty.

Gurney's dwarf peach trees, marketed under the Reachables brand, top out at 6-8 feet and have many advantages for the home gardener. Reachables branded peach trees produce full-sized fruits, but on a smaller tree. That makes them easier to fit into your garden, orchard or even a container. The small size allows you to plant several peach trees in the same amount of space as one standard peach tree. Reachables are also easier to manage than standard trees. One person can prune, spray, net and harvest the tree—all while standing on the ground. They also start to bear fruit much sooner than standard trees, sometimes in their second year after planting. Since Reachables produce full-sized fruit on a small tree, a tree support is required.

Reachables Tree

Reachables are easy to grow

  • Reachables are easy to grow

    Easily cared for by one person

  • Reachables are easy to grow

    No ladders required

  • Reachables are easy to grow

    Easily netted by one person

Do I need to worry about getting my peach or nectarine tree pollinated?

Good news! Most peaches and nectarines are self-pollinating and don't require an additional tree to produce fruit. All Gurney's offerings are self-pollinating.

A few good choices for your home

Mericrest Nectarine

Peaches and Nectarines

Flat Wonderful Peach

Peaches and Nectarines

Nectarines and peaches both offer great flavor to home gardeners. If peach fuzz doesn't bother you, we highly recommend Flat Wonderful for a truly decadent peach experience!

'Elberta' peach is the classic peach often recommended for home gardeners. For an even better peach eating experience, try our exclusive 'TruGold'. Richly flavored, sweet and delicious, it's the gold standard in peaches.

If peach fuzz isn't your thing, we have several outstanding nectarines. 'Mericrest' is a tried and true, yellow-fleshed, disease-resistant nectarine. Even better is our white-fleshed nectarine 'Yum Yum', the perfect combination of a bright, sparkling-flavored nectarine and a rich, sweetly flavored white peach.

Finally, let us introduce you to a peach with an unbeatable combination of flavor and beauty. All peaches are beautiful when they flower, but none so much as 'Flat Wonderful'. It's showy pink blooms precede maroon-colored leaves that are followed by flat, donut-shaped fruit with classic peach appeal. Worthy of a spot in any landscape!

Peach Dessert

If you've never used a homegrown peach in a dessert, get ready—it's something you'll be inspired to share with friends and family!

Plant peach trees and win the Good Neighbor Award!

You don't have to blow up your tv, throw away your paper or go to the country like the late John Prine suggests in his song "Spanish Pipedream," but you should plant a little garden and eat a lot of peaches. If you are going to eat a lot of peaches, you're better off growing your own. And when you're done snacking straight from the tree and making all the ice cream, jams and pies you want, make a neighbor happy and share the surplus.

Peach Tree Fertilizers

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