Let me preface this post with this point: I am not a professional peach grower, and I have only lived in Lower Alabama for less than three years.
But from my conversations with other gardeners and growers, I have come to the preliminary conclusion that growing peaches down here is a pain in the neck.
If you care for your peach tree well, it will grow. But they seem to be plagued with many issues, from dropping fruit, to chewing and boring insects, to random die backs, to squirrel attacks, to late frosts destroying the blooms, to deer pressure, to insects drilling in the fruit, etc.
Yesterday I visited a peach U-Pick in the Florida panhandle, about twenty minutes south of our location.
Despite there being many hundreds of trees, the yields were not impressive and the fruits were small and lacking a full peach flavor. The owner told me that they had issues with deer and late frosts. Many of the peaches were small and misshapen, with very few – very, very few – of commercial quality. A few on the trees were decent, but they were few!
The two varieties were Flordaking and Gulf Crimson. Neither seemed to be producing well. The trees were 7-8 years old and pruned short.
I don’t know if they had more peaches earlier in the season, but there were a few still on the trees. I was told that many were lost due to our late frost, though the remaining ripe fruit were mostly golf-ball sized.
Though I was impressed by the layout and the huge amount of work that went into the operation, it did not show well.
It seems that our peach growing here is still lacking good locally adapted varieties, or perhaps they simply aren’t in a good location in general. I noticed the soil was sub-par, and the interplanted pecan trees looked better than the peaches.
Sometimes it’s a matter of “right plant, right place.”
In North/Central Florida, south of Gainesville, we had some excellent peaches, with my seedlings also performing well, provided they were well watered, mulched, and given compost.
But the yields I see here aren’t so hot, even in that nicely laid out U-Pick. The best thing about it was the pecans planted in between the peaches.
Interestingly, the owner told me that none of the pecans had been worth keeping, despite the trees looking good.
Perhaps micronutrients were missing?
We had a couple of peach trees at our last place but despite them bearing fruit, we lost most of them to rot/insect damage.
It’s possible that a well-protected and excellently cared for tree would do well, but I have not been impressed with the production thus far.
Peaches seem to be quite needy, rather like growing good head lettuces here. Not a tree for beginners or casual gardeners.
Plums do well, as do Japanese persimmons and sand pears. But peaches? Whew. Looks like work to me.
We’re going to plant all the pits and see if we can get some to do better. Perhaps we’ll hit on the right culture and/or genetic combination for one that thrives. It’s hard to say whether planting a peach orchard is really worth doing here, especially when better options – such as muscadines, blueberries, figs, persimmons, etc. – might bring better yields with less work.