Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Peaches are the leading deciduous fruit crop in Texas and a favorite of most West Texans. Locally most peaches are grown for the enjoyment of the owners.
Peaches require a well drained soil since they are susceptible to being water logged. A sandy loam topsoil is ideal. When you are trying to decide where to plant your tree, avoid sites with high salinity in the water. Clean, salt-free water is essential. Rainwater is perfect for peach trees if you have a way to store and save it. Your trees should also be on the highest point of your property which is usually not a problem in our area. Air must move easily out of your orchard to minimize damage from spring frost during bloom and fruit development.
Peaches also require a certain number of winter chilling hours in order to break dormancy and bloom. Ector and Midland Counties are both in the 450-650 hour zones which require a medium-chilling variety of peach. Consider planting several varieties that ripen in sequence to extend your harvest.
The trees should be spaced 18 feet apart. Researchers have tested higher density spacing and it is not recommended. Plant December though early March while the trees are dormant. Planting early allows the roots to establish before bud break.
An hour before you plant trim any diseased or damaged roots and soak them in water. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots. Dig the hole to fit the roots, do not prune the roots to fit the hole. Plant it at the same depth it was planted in the plant container. Firm the soil around the tree and water well to eliminate air pockets.
Prune to a single trunk and cut that trunk back to 24” to 36” tall. Place a grow tube or aluminum foil on the trunk leaving 6” of the trunk exposed. This keeps limbs from forming on the trunk and reduces sun scald. To prevent trunk girdling, remove all foil or tubing after the first year.
It is important to control weeds around your peach trees the first year. Weeds will steal water and nutrients required by the tree.
Pruning each year during dormancy enables the tree to develop a healthy canopy to produce next year’s crop. Proper pruning allows for the tree center to be open and lowers the fruiting zone that helps with harvesting from the ground.
For more information about growing peaches go to https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and click on “Nuts and Fruit”.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.