Homepage 5 Fruit growing 5 Establishment and Maintenance of a Peach Orchard

Establishment and Maintenance of a Peach Orchard

Establishing and maintaining a peach orchard requires a lot of careful planning, as the future success of the cultivation depends on it. Adapting the machinery to the cultivation form or vice versa, choosing the varieties, selecting rootstocks, timing of planting, planting techniques, etc., are important aspects that need thorough consideration.

Ecological conditions for growing peaches

Peaches as a crop require a lot of warmth. The most suitable locations are those used for vineyards. If the annual temperature ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 °C, peaches yield high crops. The main factor for the expansion of peach cultivation is the sum of inactive winter temperatures and absolute low temperatures. Each variety requires different inactive winter temperatures (this is the sum of hours with average daily temperatures below 7°C during winter). It is important to know these requirements for each variety and consider those that will match the temperatures of the chosen location. During dormancy, peaches can withstand temperatures down to -20°C.

There is a danger of provoking temperatures – vegetation can start and then be followed by a cold snap. In such cases, peaches can be damaged at -15°C. There is also a risk of early spring frosts – open flowers can be damaged at -2°C.

Relative to drought, it is relatively resistant, but the quality of the fruits is reduced. Varieties that mature earlier tend to perform better (utilizing winter moisture).

It requires deep, well-drained soil with plenty of humus, but it can also adapt to poorer quality soils by selecting appropriate rootstocks. The most favorable pH range is from 5 to 7.5. It tolerates up to 4.5% active lime content. If there is more lime, peaches should be grafted onto almond hybrids rather than seedlings of grapevine peaches.

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Choosing the location for establishing a peach orchard

For peaches, suitable conditions for planting include deep, well-drained soils with a lighter texture and good structure, and a neutral to slightly acidic pH. Peaches and nectarines should not be planted in areas with recent clearing or debris. For optimal growth and fruiting, peaches require plenty of warmth, making vineyard positions the most suitable. The planting site should be sunny and open to prevent cold air pockets, but sheltered from strong winds. Groundwater levels should not be high.

Preparing the soil for planting peaches

Once the decision has been made to establish a peach orchard on a specific plot of land, the first step is to take a soil sample and conduct a chemical analysis in the laboratory.

From the soil analysis, you will determine the content of organic matter, the availability of micro and macro nutrients, and the soil pH. For peaches, it is also crucial to know the content of active lime in the soil, which can be a limiting factor in cultivation. Specifically, it is known that grapevine peach rootstocks tolerate only up to 5% of active lime. It is also desirable to conduct a mechanical analysis of the soil to understand its field capacity, which determines irrigation requirements.

The first step in soil preparation for planting is leveling and contouring the terrain to ensure proper drainage of rainwater during winter and prevent water stagnation in micro-depressions. After leveling and contouring, deep plowing should be conducted to a depth of 60 to 90 cm during the summer months. Such deeply tilled soil has a significant capacity to accumulate winter moisture and conserve it for dry summers. Following deep plowing, subsoiling and harrowing are carried out to prepare the soil for planting.

Selection of peach planting material

Good, vigorous, virus-free, and healthy planting material means nothing else but a nursery that is good in every respect and profitable. In other words, one should not spare money when it comes to acquiring high-quality seedlings.

Well-developed peach seedlings are of medium height, with a diameter of 2 to 2.5 cm and well-developed lateral branches. Seedlings with a larger diameter are also good if they have been properly maintained and do not show damage from low temperatures occurring in the field or during storage. There is a high probability that seedlings with smaller trunk diameters will have a higher mortality rate after planting due to lack of vitality and resilience to survive transplanting stress, especially if planting is done in dry soil under drought conditions during the planting year.

Selection of peach varieties

When choosing peach and nectarine varieties, consider the following characteristics: yield, organoleptic properties, fruit size, resistance to bruising during harvesting and packing, flowering and ripening time, susceptibility to plant diseases and pests.

Table 1. Ripening times of individual peach varieties

Peach Varieties

Ripening Time in days (± from the Redhaven variety)

Yellow-fleshed fruit

REDHAVEN0 (ripening from June 5th to June 10th)

White-fleshed fruit


Time and technique of planting peaches

Peach is best planted during the dormant season, in autumn or early spring. Peach is a self-pollinating fruit species, so there is no need to plant another variety for pollination (except for some varieties like I. H. Hale, which are cross-pollinating). In a backyard orchard, the planting distance can range from 3 to 5 meters, depending on the rootstock.

After the soil has been plowed, marking of the planting spots follows. Using a marker to indicate the planting location, a hole is dug or a furrow is made. Afterwards, before planting, it is necessary to remove all damaged parts of the roots, while fine roots are not shortened. The seedling is planted in freshly dug hole, in well-prepared soil (to a depth of 0.7 meters) so that the grafted spot is about 10 cm above the soil surface. A layer of loose soil is added to the roots and then compacted. Additionally, 20 kilograms of manure and 0.5 kilograms of NPK 7-20-30 are applied to the roots.


Maintenance of a peach orchard

It is recommended to maintain a grass alleyway system in the inter-row space. In orchards where irrigation is not possible, especially in coastal areas and young orchards up to 3 years before reaching full production, a grass alleyway system is not recommended. During spring and summer, weed control is essential. Peach trees are highly sensitive to competitive weed growth, especially under dry conditions. Tillage should be shallow (cultivating, shallow plowing).

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Fertilizing peaches

Fertilization of peaches is based on soil chemical analysis results. In addition to soil chemical analysis for fertilizing each fruit species, including peaches, it is important to keep records of the amount of fertilizer applied to the soil, which is also required by regulatory standards.

Annually, approximately 160 kg N/ha, 100 kg P₂O₅/ha, and 200 kg K₂O/ha should be provided. For medium late and late varieties, the amounts of N and K need to be increased by 30%. Nitrogen is applied in multiple stages: after flowering (40% of the total amount), after thinning (40%), and at the end of summer (20%). Phosphorus and potassium should be applied after leaf fall at the beginning of winter.

Pruning peach trees

Regular fruitfulness and good coloration and size of peach fruits are ensured by timely and proper pruning. Pruning young fruit trees shapes their growth form, while pruning fruit-bearing trees maintains the appropriate balance between growth and fruitfulness.

During pruning, it is important to avoid shading the fruit-bearing branches to prevent slowing down the growth of shoots and the formation of flower buds.

Pruning is necessary to regulate both generative and vegetative growth, while also ensuring maximum light exposure and air circulation in the canopy. It involves limiting vigorous branches in favor of less vigorous ones and renewing fruiting wood with fruit buds. Before planting, the seedling should be pruned, but if branching hasn’t occurred at the desired height, the top of the seedling should be additionally pruned to stimulate bud growth just below the cut, which can develop into primary and often secondary branches later that same year. Branches too low on the trunk should be removed. Canopy shaping continues in the second and third years according to the chosen growth form.

One characteristic of peaches is their one-year-old fruiting branches. Peach trees require pruning methods and schedules that differ significantly from other fruit tree species. If left unpruned, peaches produce new growth at the tips of one-year-old wood, with shoots extending higher into the canopy each year and bearing poorly only at the tops of branches. Meanwhile, the lower parts of the crown become bare, and fruit production shifts upward. Given the peach’s short lifespan, proper pruning is crucial.

For modern peach production, the most suitable training system is the open center or vase-shaped bush. The vase-shaped bush in peach orchards, especially on less vigorous rootstocks, is a compromise between open center and espalier training systems. It maximizes the benefits of palmette without the cost of trellising and takes advantage of dense planting, allowing for a high number of trees per hectare.

Irrigation of peaches

For irrigating peach orchards, the drip irrigation method is recommended.

When considering salinity, which is determined based on electrical conductivity, the following should be taken into account: the content of chlorine, sodium, and nitrates in the soil due to potential phytotoxicity. For most soils, drip irrigation is the most rational method. Irrigation is carried out during critical periods such as fruit growth, fruit color change and ripening, and post-harvest for early varieties (August, September), to complete bud differentiation.


Harvesting peaches

Peach harvesting is one of the most critical parts of the production process. Harvesting does not conclude the peach production process.

Harvesting is determined by the specific characteristics of each variety, the final use in the local market or for export, whether for fresh consumption or processing. Therefore, the following parameters will be considered for selecting the right harvest time:

  • firmness of 4 to 5 kg (measured using an 8 mm diameter penetrometer)
  • sugar content in °Brix
  • fruit size

Peach harvesting is done manually.

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