As the growing season gets closer, one crop that ranks right up there with tomatoes and watermelons is peaches. Here is North Carolina, most folks can’t wait for the peaches to get ripe and I’m one of them! Peaches and nectarines can be grown successfully in the home garden here in Burke County.
Peaches probably originated in China as early as 6000 BC and were spread throughout the world by explorers with the peach coming to North America through Spanish explorers. They were cultivated as early as the 1600s in the colonies and Thomas Jefferson had one of the first commercial orchards at Monticello.
Known for their fuzzy skin and wonderful flavor, there are many peach cultivars to choose from, but care must be taken when choosing the best plant for the garden. Peaches and nectarines (which is just a fuzzless peach) require a rest period and a specific number of chilling hours to produce fruit. Chilling hours are the number of hours the temperature is between 32-50°F. Different peaches have different requirements. Peaches and nectarines are at rest during this time and after the required hours are met, they send out buds and flowers. If your peach requires too few chilling hours, it could bud out and bloom in February. For this reason, all peaches and nectarines planted in western NC should have at least 800 chilling hours. Two of the most popular peaches for our area are Belle of Georgia and Elberta, with both needing 850 chilling hours. Nectarines work the same way with Sunglo requiring 800 chilling hours.
After you choose the correct plants for your garden, you must choose the best growing site. A well-drained soil with full sun is best but take care not to plant either at the top of a hill or at the bottom of a hill as freeze damage is more likely. Both peaches and nectarines are self-fertile so one tree will bear fruit. The use of a home orchard spray is suggested and these products are readily available at area stores.
If you would like to plant peaches and nectarines this growing season, check out the Extension Small Fruit sale that is in progress now. For more information, visit the Small Fruit Sale page or call our office at 828-764-9480 to place an order.