should i fertilize my peach tree now?

greetings all,
we just bought a house and the previous owner tells us that the 12' tall tree in the front yard is a peach that usually manages to bear tasty fruit. don't know the variety. i live in boulder, co (zone 6?). the temp fluctuates wildly in the winter. yesterday it was 60, today we got 6 inches of snow and it's 20. like many other parts of the country, we have been suffering through a drought the past couple of years. two questions:
1) should i fertilize my peach tree now? if so, with what and how? if not, when?
2) can anyone recommend another variety of fruit tree that tolerates relatively dry conditions fairly well? i just hate to have to drench thirsty plants in the desert in the summer.
thanks for the advice!
jon
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Hi Jon,
I'm a little SE of you in NW Texas and last year I watered my peach, plum, cherry and apple trees like crazy. First I suggest you get your soil tested. Then use that information to see if you even need any fertilizer and what types of ammendments you'd need. If you can get some compost you might want to work some of that into the soil around the tree (within the drip line) this is always good stuff.
I would definitely stay away from high nitrogen mixes early on as they may result in lots of foliage at the expense of flowers. Since you are having problems with moisture I'd suggest something with phosphorus, this will help fruit development as well as the root system (for moisture and nutrient uptake), potassium will help with the flowering as well.
Something you might consider is a so-called winterizer fertilizer, these mixes are low in nitrogen and are designed to allow the lawn to have active root growth during the cooler months, they give the benefit of your lawn generally requiring less nitrogen during the growth season. A fertilizer designed for tomatoes might help as well, it is low in nitrogen and designed to promote flowering and fruit production.
Of course if you want lots of juicy fruit you'll likely need to water. :)
This is, of course, my humble opinion. ref. http://www.thegardenhelper.com/fertilizer.html
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On 25 Jan 2004 21:34:35 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (jon) wrote:

Don't fertilize plants while they're dormant. Generally speaking, you probably do not need to fertilize the tree at all, just make sure it does get adequate water, and keep the ground evenly moist throughout the year. If you let it get really dry while the fruit is forming, they'll either drop, or if they have adequate water to hang onto the tree, and you then water it heavily, or it rains enough to saturate the ground after a dry period later in the formation of the fruit, the pits will split, and when that happens it often lets earwigs in, and allows fungus to grow.
If you keep the tree happy, it'll give you lots of fruit. But watch out for the Peach tree borer. The peach tree can live for decades, but the average life of a peach tree is around 8 years, because so many are killed by the peach tree borer. Keep vegetation from growing around the tree.. 18 - 24" and you can buy special borer crystals to scatter around the tree, or just put moth balls out there around the tree.. keep pets away. It doesn't kill the moths that look more like wasps than moths, but it repels them and if they lay their eggs far enough from the tree, the larvae die before they get to the tree where they like to bore in. There are some which will lay eggs in the crotches and twigs too. Call your local extension agent and find out what they recommend for water and care for the tree, and to recommend what other trees you can grow there.
I will plant peaches, nectarines, plums/prune, apricots, but not apples or pears because I can grow peaches, nectarines, plums/prunes, apricots without spraying them for codling moth, because the codling moth far prefer apples and pears which are usually around in peoples' yards because so many people get a house, plant apples and cherries, and then don't spray them and let the fruit drop and don't clean them up, so it's practically impossible in my area to grow apples or cherries without spraying with something other than BT.. but.. BT (bacillus thuringensis (sp?) is at least an organic pest control that can help keep the maggots out of the apples, and possibly the cherries, if you spray at the right time and often. But if I can't grow it without chemical sprays, I figure I'll let the professionals grow them and spray their ground. I have only had a few peaches damaged by coddling moth or anything else. However, early peaches and occasionally some late ones, will be pecked to the pits where the sun hits the peaches and that spot ripens. Finches are the culprits there. I tried to grow the sweetheart apricot that has an edible almond like pit and I did not get a single one because squirrels cut them off while they were still green, every one! When chickens roosting in it broke it I just had it cut to the ground. I wasn't going to win any kind of a war with squirrels, and I knew it would keep me angry forever trying! Can't legally kill them and there are way more squirrels than I could trap! Grumbling.. need a herd of trained squirrel killing Maine Coon Cats stationed in every tree! LOL
Oh.. my area, zone 6 high desert SW Idaho. And get your soil tested if you really want to know what your yard may lack. Get the test stuff from the extension agency.. box and instructions. I think that it's $35 now though :(
Janice
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Hi Jon. I used to live in Ft Collins. I picked up two peach trees and put them in my back yard. Everyone told me that we wouldn't get peaches (or any sweet fruit other than apples on the East Slope) because of the weather. I have always loved a challenge and gave them a chance. About one out of every 3 years we got a lot of good fruit.
Peach trees get hurt two ways by cold weather. If the temp gets to -16 for longer than 45 minutes, the fruit buds are killed. Then if that doesn't happen, and during bloom it frosts, the tree wont produce. Be prepared to protect them during the winter. I used plastic wrapped around poles stuck in the ground, with an electric heater inside.
You can also get some Christmas lights (not the cool bulb type), and wrap the trees in the lights. Then when you get a freeze/frost warning, turn on the lights.
You can also try watering the ground around the tree before an expected frost. Sometimes that helps. Someone said that after a frost, but before the sun comes up, spray water on the frosted parts of the tree and melt the frost before the sun has a chance to shine on it.
You might do some research and see if you can get anything else. If you do, please share it with us. I now live in western KS (54 mi from the CO border) and have planted some peach, pear, plum and sweet cherry trees here. After that our primary concern it the bugs and borers mentioned by others.
Dwayne

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I can add one that I forgot, sun scald. That was why I cut down the parent of the tree in the front yard now. I pruned it too much, and a lot of the branches were badly sun scalded, and I didn't think it could possibly survive. Well, a year or so after I had the parent tree cut down, a seedling peach tree came up and it was so sun scalded on the trunk that it bent over to a near 45 degree angle before it started growing upright again.
Normally, I'd have dug it out, but I've been unable to do much of anything for some years now, and so it suffered, but amazingly enough, the poor trunk that was nearly black where it was scalded, grew new bark over the damaged areas over the years. The tree has been bearing pretty decent sized peaches that while not quite as good as the elberta parent tree, they're better than some named varieties they're selling these days. I guess it's unusual to get a seedling tree that volunteers to bear anything that's not small and hard and bitter.
Protect your tree trunks from scald. Some paint them with thinned latex white paint to reflect the warm sun that causes the sap to rise unseasonably early on the south or southwest side of the trunk and then at night it's cold again, and the action splits the bark I guess. I may be off on the way it works, but sun on the bark in winter/spring causes it, so either paint it or wrap it to protect it, and watch scaffold branches for sun scald too. might have to paint them too. Talk to your extension agency or arborists, orchardists someone who has knowledge to see what they recommend for your area. Janice

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Hi Janice, Is it possible that your original peach tree was grafted? If that were the case, the seedling you have now is possibly from the rootstock and not the same variety as the original tree. If that is the case, you are very lucky that you got anything that tastes halfway decent.
Sherwin D.
Janice wrote:

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I would first question if seedling is the right word. Did it really sprout from a seed or did it sprout up from the base of the old tree? If it is a sprouted seed, the seed would have come from a good peach and would probably produce fair to decent fruit. If it is a sprout from the original tree, it's either the exact same variety again OR it is the rootstock. Since rootstocks are not selected for their fruit, Sherwin is right, getting good fruit from that would be unexpected. One thing about peaches though, even a bad one isn't too bad. I would rather eat fruit from an average peach seedling than from an average apple seedling.
Steve (in the Adirondacks)
Sherwin Dubren wrote:

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Yes, my father in law (in Georgia) has three volunteers, all different. The peaches barely get green-gray-yellow when ripe and not very uniform in shape and fuzz. They are pretty good eating, and he does nothing to them. I can't but be surprised at how easy it is to get a good volunteer with peaches. But even a volunteer apple will give you apples that are good for hard cider if nothing else..
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Seedling from a self fertile (no near peach trees to cross with) Elberta peach pit. Not a root stock. Janice

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That sounds good. I don't have a huge amount of experience with seedling peach trees but I've tasted fruit from several over the years. I would guess that if you grew a thousand seedlings from Elberta seeds, maybe one would produce fruit as good or possibly better than the parent tree. Dozens or maybe hundreds of them would produce fruit that is pretty good. Only a few would be so bad that you wouldn't want to eat them at all. I'm glad you didn't get one of the duds. ;-)
Steve
Janice wrote:

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On Tue, 27 Jan 2004 21:56:17 GMT, Sherwin Dubren

The original tree was an Elberta peach that I bought from Grand Central Store in 1978. I assume it was bud grafted, but the fruit that fell was from the Elberta, not the root stock. The seedling just grew on its own rootstock. I believe one of the trees I'd ordered from Stark Bros some years later was the rootstock. I think the bud graft did not take and the rootstock managed to grow on, and of course, I didn't know for 3 or 4 years later when it started bearing small hard inedible little "stones" when they were supposed to be HalBerta Giants, a cross between the J. H. Hale and Elberta peach trees, and the resultant fruit was supposed to be over a pound each. They were lucky to weigh 3 to 4 ounces and were hard an bitter.
Janice

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I just read in our local paper about caring for peach trees that are being sold in our area now. According to their instructions, you should fertilize a mature tree with 5-6 lbs. of 10-10-10 fertilizer. You should apply half of it in spring (about 1 month before buds swell) and the other half should be applied in May-June.
We're in zone 7b (NC) and I would probably fertilize around the end of February for the spring application. I would venture a guess that you might be in the March timeframe.
I notice that people here like to grow figs, plums, peaches and pecans. We usually have very hot, humid conditions here. Last summer was out of the norm with lots of rain. The summer before was a miserable summer of drought. Tomorrow will be the third day that my children will be out of school due to ice on the roads here. The weather forecast for tomorrow says warmer weather is coming though. Above freezing tomorrow with lots of sunshine.
Hope this information is helpful to you. Good luck with your peach tree.
Penny Zone 7b - North Carolina

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