|Prunus persica subsp. var.||Peach|
The peach and the fuzzless peach known as the nectarine (Prunus persica) are a species of Prunus native to China that bears an edible juicy fruit also called a peach. It is a deciduous tree growing to 4–10 m tall, belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae. It is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus within the genus Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.
The leaves are lanceolate, 7–16 cm long (3–6 in), 2–3 cm broad, pinnately veined. The flowers are produced in early spring before the leaves; they are solitary or paired, 2.5–3 cm diameter, pink, with five petals. The fruit has yellow or whitish flesh, a delicate aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth (nectarines) in different cultivars. The flesh is very delicate and easily bruised in some cultivars, but is fairly firm in some commercial varieties, especially when green. The single, large seed is red-brown, oval shaped, approximately 1.4–2 cm long, and is surrounded by a wood-like husk. Peaches, along with cherries, plums and apricots, are stone fruits (drupes).
The scientific name persica, along with the word "peach" itself and its cognates in many European languages, derives from an early European belief that peaches were native to Persia (now Iran). The modern botanical consensus is that they originate in China, and were introduced to Persia and the Mediterranean region along the Silk Road before Christian times. Cultivated peaches are divided into clingstones and freestones, depending on whether the flesh sticks to the stone or not; both can have either white or yellow flesh. Peaches with white flesh typically are very sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed peaches typically have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness, though this also varies greatly. Both colours often have some red on their skin. Low-acid white-fleshed peaches are the most popular kinds in China, Japan, and neighbouring Asian countries, while Europeans and North Americans have historically favoured the acidic, yellow-fleshed kinds.
Peach plants grow very well in a fairly limited range, since they have a chilling requirement that tropical areas cannot satisfy, and they are not very cold-hardy. The trees themselves can usually tolerate temperatures to around −26 °C to −30 °C, although the following season's flower buds are usually killed at these temperatures, leading to no crop that summer. Flower bud kill begins to occur between −15 °C and −25 °C depending on the cultivar (some are more cold-tolerant than others) and the timing of the cold, with the buds becoming less cold tolerant in late winter. Certain cultivars are more tender and others can tolerate a few degrees colder. In addition, a lot of summer heat is required to mature the crop, with mean temperatures of the hottest month between 20 °C and 30 °C. Another problematic issue in many peach-growing areas is spring frost. The trees tend to flower fairly early in spring. The blooms often can be damaged or killed by freezes; typically, if temperatures drop below about −4 °C, most flowers will be killed. However, if the flowers are not fully open, they can tolerate a couple of degrees colder. In Vietnam, the most famous variety of peach fruit product is grown in Mẫu Sơn commune, Lộc Bình district, Lạng Sơn province.
Important historical peach-producing areas are China, Iran, France, and the Mediterranean countries like Italy, Spain and Greece. More recently, the United States (where the three largest producing states are California, South Carolina, and Georgia), Canada (British Columbia), and Australia (the Riverland region) have also become important; peach growing in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, Canada, was formerly intensive but ended in 2008 when the last fruit cannery in Canada was closed by the proprietors. Oceanic climate areas like the Pacific Northwest and coastline of North Western Europe are generally not satisfactory for peach-growing due to inadequate summer heat, though they are sometimes grown trained against south-facing walls to catch extra heat from the sun. Trees grown in a sheltered and south-facing position in the southeast of England are capable of producing both flowers and a large crop of fruit.
For home gardeners, semi-dwarf (3 to 4 m) and dwarf (2 to 3 m) varieties have been developed by grafting desirable cultivars onto dwarfing rootstock. Fruit size is not affected. Another mutation is flowering peaches, selected for ornamental display rather than fruit production.
Depending on climate and cultivar, peach harvest can occur from late May into August; harvest from each tree lasts about a week.
Peaches should be located in full sun, and with good air flow. This allows cold air to flow away on frosty nights and keeps the area cool in summer. Peaches are best planted in early winter, as this allows time for the roots to establish and be able to sustain the new spring growth. When planting in rows, plant north-south.
For optimum growth, peach trees require a constant supply of water. This should be increased shortly before the harvest. The best tasting fruit is produced when the peach is watered throughout the season. Drip irrigation is ideal, at least one dripper per tree. Although it is better to use multiple drippers around the tree, this is not necessary. A quarter of the root being watered is sufficient.
Peaches have a high nutrient requirement, needing more nitrogen than most other fruit trees. An NPK fertilizer can be applied regularly, and an additional mulch of poultry manure in autumn soon after the harvest will benefit the tree. If the leaves of the peach are yellow or small, the tree needs more nitrogen. Blood meal and bone meal, 3–5 kg per mature tree, or calcium ammonium nitrate, 0.5–1 kg, are suitable fertilisers. This also applies if the tree is putting forth little growth.
If the full amount of peaches is left, they will be under-sized and lacking in sugar and flavour. In dry conditions, extra watering is important. The fruit should be thinned when they have reached 2 cm in diameter, usually about 2 months after flowering. Fresh fruit are best consumed on the day of picking, and do not keep well. They are best eaten when the fruit is slightly soft, having aroma, and heated by the sun.
Most peach trees sold by nurseries are named cultivars budded onto a suitable rootstock. It is also possible to grow a tree from either a peach or nectarine seed, but the fruit quality of the resulting tree will be very unpredictable.
Pests and diseases
- Main article: List of peach and nectarine diseases
The trees are prone to a disease called leaf curl, which usually does not directly affect the fruit but does reduce the crop yield by partially defoliating the tree. The fruit is very susceptible to brown rot, or a dark reddish spot.
The nectarine is a cultivar group of peach that has a smooth skin. Though fuzzy peaches and nectarines are regarded commercially as different fruits, with nectarines often erroneously believed to be a crossbreed between peaches and plums, or a "peach with a plum skin", they belong to the same species as peaches. Several genetic studies have concluded in fact that nectarines are created due to a recessive gene, whereas a fuzzy peach skin is dominant. Nectarines have arisen many times from peach trees, often as bud sports.
As with peaches, nectarines can be white or yellow, and clingstone or freestone. On average, nectarines are slightly smaller and sweeter than peaches, but with much overlap. The lack of skin fuzz can make nectarine skins appear more reddish than those of peaches, contributing to the fruit's plum-like appearance. The lack of down on nectarines' skin also means their skin is more easily bruised than peaches.
The history of the nectarine is unclear; the first recorded mention in English is from 1616, but they had probably been grown much earlier within the native range of the peach in central and eastern Asia.
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White peach and cross section
A peach tree in blossom
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A nectarine branch in blossom
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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Peach. The tree and fruit of Prunus Persica (or Persica vulgaris), widely cultivated in the United States and parts of Canada for home use and market.
In the northern prairie states and on the plains, and in the colder parts of the mountain regions of the West, the peach is little grown or is even altogether absent; yet the range of adaptability is constantly extending as the local conditions and requirements become better known. There is less dependence on "fruit-belts" than formerly, in which some special favor of climate or location was supposed to exist. Some parts of New England are well adapted to commercial peach-culture. Parts of Canada bordering the Great Lakes, and regions in Nova Scotia, are prominent peach districts. Varieties of special adaptability to climate and useful also for particular purposes have arisen in recent years; and the requirements of the peach are now better understood than formerly. The range of its cultivation will probably be considerably broadened in years to come. The discussion of the peach is here comprised in four articles:
The culture of the peach (M. A. Blake) 2492
Peach-culture in the South (J. H. Hale) 2500
Peach-growing in California (George C. Roeding). 2503
Protecting peach trees in cold climates (W. Pad- dockj 2504
The culture of the peach. The marked feature in the development of the peach industry in the United States since about 1900 has been the extension of the areas of commercial peach- production because of the introduction of hardier varieties such as Carman, the discovery of materials and methods that make certain the control of peach- scab and brown-rot, and the organization of fast-freight and refrigerator-car service that permits of successful long-distance shipment of this perishable fruit.
The introduction of the San Jose scale was the cause of the destruction of hundreds of thousands of peach trees throughout the country from about 1900 to 1907, the period of greatest damage varying to some extent in each district. The growers who persisted in the business were those who had the capital, energy, and persistence to take up the new problem of spraying, and these men may appropriately be termed the pioneers of the modern peach business.
The necessity of spraying to control the scale also focused the attention of the growers upon all other factors of peach-production except marketing, which for the time presented few difficulties because of the great reduction in the number of bearing trees and the ability of the local markets to absorb much of the crop produced.
Peach-scab and brown-rot caused serious damage to the crop annually in central and southern peach districts until the self-boiled lime-sulfur summer spray was proved to be a successful remedy.
The development of large commercial areas at long distances from market has resulted in better grading and packing. The Georgia six-basket carrier has become the popular shipping package from southern New Jersey to Georgia, Alabama, and Texas. (Fig. 2707.) Innumerable changes and improvements in the growing and handling of the crop have occurred within the last ten years.
The United States Census reports show many interesting facts in connection with the extent and development of the peach industry. A few trees are found in every state in the Union. According to the Census of 1910 only three states, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana, have less than 5,000 trees. Five other states, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Maine, and Vermont, have less than 10,000 trees.
The most significant fact, however, is that twenty-six states reported a total of more than 1,000,000 bearing trees each, which definitely shows the extended area over which this crop is produced to some commercial degree. The Census for 1910 shows Georgia to lead in the total number of bearing trees with 10,609,119; Texas is second with 9,737,827; and California is third with 7,829,011 trees. On the basis of total number of trees, however, Texas leads with 12,696,640; California is second with 12,238,- 573, and Georgia is third with 12,140,486.
The Census reports also indicate the general trend of the industry in no uncertain way. In 1890, five states led prominently in the total number of bearing trees, as follows: Maryland, 6,113,287; Kansas, 4,876,- 311; Delaware, 4,521,623; Texas, 4,486,901; and New Jersey, 4,413,568. The greatest peach district in the country at that time was comprised by the states of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, with a total of more than 15,000,000 trees.
The three leading states in 1900 were, Michigan with 8.104,415 trees, Georgia with 7.668,639 trees, and California with 7,472,393 trees. The states of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, which geographically comprise one district, reported a total of a little more than 9,000,000 trees, the San Jose scale and other factors having reduced the total about 6,000,000 trees. Yet as a peach district, this still held its place as having the greatest total number of trees.
The Census of 1910, however, shows that this number was greatly reduced during the period from 1899 to 1909, having less than 4,000,000 bearing trees. This great reduction and loss was due largely to the introduction of the scale. Michigan reports a loss during this period of more than 5,000,000 trees, and Ohio more than 3,000,000. The following states made gains during this period: New Hampshire, Vermont, Illinois, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Georgia, Tenneassee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and California. Summarized to a few words, the Census indicates that while the Middle- Atlantic and Great Lakes districts were suffering severe destruction of trees, the southern and western districts were developing. These facts lead one to wonder as to how much of a part the San Jose scale played in the development of these latter districts, and whether such development could have maintained itself in some cases without the good markets and high prices occasioned by the widespread destruction of trees in the East.
The Census of 1910 is of particular value in showing the recent trend of the industry, because the number of trees in bearing and those not in bearing were tabulated separately.
The western states, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington are increasing their plantings. The young trees not in bearing in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey were greatly in excess of those producing fruit in 1909. West Virginia has also been planting peaches extensively in recent years.
The extensive planting of peaches in the eastern and Middle Atlantic states, following the earlier destruction by yellows, was only just beginning in 1909, when the last Census was taken. Since that time, millions of trees have been planted and have come into bearing. As a result, the marketing factor became the most important peach problem in 1915. Southern districts can no longer expect the prices of former years in the great eastern markets, the Middle West is growing quantities of peaches and so also are the states along the Great Lakes. The problem at the beginning of 1916 is where and how can the crops from these trees be marketed profitably.
In any broad discussion of the peach regions of North America, the Ontario district of Canada should not be overlooked. Situated south of the western end of Lake Ontario, climatic conditions are so modified that such yellow-fleshed varieties of peaches as St. John, Fitzgerald, Elberta, and Niagara can be grown successfully in large quantities.
The northern limits of peach-production extend from the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario along the southern shore of Lake Erie and the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as far north as the Grand Traverse on the 44th parallel. This area is often termed the "Great Lakes Belt."
Beginning in southwestern and central Massachusetts, another commercial peach area extends across Connecticut, Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. The Coastal Plain areas in New Jersey, Delaware, and along the eastern shore of Maryland are favorable to peach-production, and the fruit is grown to within a few miles of the seaboard. Farther south, the Coastal Plains area is unfavorable to successful commercial production and the industry is transferred to the Piedmont area across Virginia, North Carolina, and southward to the Gulf districts in Alabama and Texas. Florida has too warm a climate to suit the common standard varieties of peach and has developed a special type from the South China race.
The central or Mississippi Valley district extends from Texas across Oklahoma and Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas to Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, practically connecting with the Great Lakes area. The Pacific Coast Belt includes, California, and areas in Nevada, Utah, Colorado,Oregon, and Washington. There are many areas in these so-called "peach- belts" that are not favorable to peach-production, but they indicate the general grouping of the industry.
Varieties and types.
All of the common forms of the peach belong to the species Prunus Persica, but are sometimes grouped under the name Amygdalus Persica. The flat or Peen- to peach is P. platycarpa. The United States Department of Agriculture, through its Bureau of Foreign Plant and Seed Introduction, has secured a form of peach from China known as A. Davidiana which is used there as a stock for certain cherries. It is said to be very hardy and may prove of value in breeding work, or as a stock for the peach. Its fruit is not attractive enough for use as it is now developed. Several other forms or types have been collected in China by Frank N. Meyer, of the Department of Agriculture, and sent to the United States for propagation and study. See the article Prunus.
The common types of peaches have been grouped into certain races. Onderdonk (Rept. Commr. Agric.,1887) and also Price have placed North American peaches in five groups: (1) The Peen-to or flat peach race, comprising the variety known as Peen-to (Fig. 2784), and also the Angel, and Waldo; (2) the South China race, with oval long-pointed fruit with deep suture near the base, represented by the Honey (Fig. 2785); (3) the Spanish or Indian race, with very late yellow firm often streaked fruit, represented by various southern varieties, as the Cabler (Fig. 2786), Columbia, Galveston, Lulu, Texas, and Victoria; (4) the North China race, with large mostly cling or semi-cling fruit and very large flat leaves, represented by the Greensboro, Waddell, and Carman; (5) the Persian race, including the common varieties of the mid-country and the North, as Crawford (Fig. 2787), Mountain Rose, and the like. The so-called North China and Persian types of peaches are now very much mixed in commerical varieties.
We have been content to say that Elberta (Fig. 2788) is of the North China type, when it is plainly mixed with the Persian, and when studied carefully its characters resemble the Persian type even more than they do the North China. Two types of peach blossoms are commonly recognized (as shown in Fig. 2790), yet there are three distinct types, the large bloom, typical of Greensboro and Waddell and the North China type, the medium bloom of such varieties as Elberta and Belle, and the small bloom of Early and Late Crawford, and others. The botanical significance of these types is not well understood.
A double-flowered peach (Fig. 2789) is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental, as well as a purple-leaved form. A form of the cultivated peach growing wild near Pekin, large-flowered, is shown in Fig. 2791.
The peach is universally propagated by means of the pits or seeds. A few are sometimes secured by budding upon plum or even cherry stocks, but this dwarfs the tree and makes it susceptible to various stock troubles.
So-called natural seedling pits or seeds gathered in Tennessee and North Carolina are said to be the best for propagation work. Such seeds are considered to be more viable and to .produce hardier stock than pits from cultivated varieties. Considerable quantities of so-called "seedling" seeds have undoubtedly been secured from canning factories and represent commercial varieties, although one can readily detect the difference between them. It has not been definitely shown that wild seedling pits will produce a stock that is any more hardy than that which might be secured from the pits of some of our hardier cultivated varieties. Seeds or pits for propagation are treated in two ways. Where severe freezing weather occurs they are commonly planted in the autumn in nursery rows from 4 to 6 feet apart. The pits are scattered a few inches apart in the rows and covered to a depth of about 2 inches. In less severe climates, the pits are stratified very shallow in autumn, are dug up in the spring and the kernels separated from the soil and shells, and planted in nursery rows. By this method, any pit or seed which is not cracked open by the action of the frost may be broken by the use of a hammer. Pits not affected by the frost usually fail to grow the first season, but may do so the second year.
The pits should be planted in good soil and be given careful cultivation so that the seedlings will be at least 24 to 30 inches high by the latter part of August of the first season, and in condition for budding. The buds are inserted the latter part of August or early in September, and simply become united with the seedling stock without making any growth. Early the following spring the seedlings are cut back just above the inserted buds, and all shoots developing from buds of the stock itself are kept rubbed off.
In this way the desired bud develops into a vigorous well-branched shoot or tree which should be from 3 to 6 feet high at the close of the season's growth, and is ready for sale that fall or the following spring. So-called "June buds" are secured by budding vigorous seedlings in June and selling the resulting trees in the fall or the spring following. Such trees are smaller and are seldom equal to one-year-old trees except possibly for planting in the South. In Fig. 2792, at the left, is a well-branched one-year-old nursery tree: at the right a slender tree of the same age and height, and in the center a June bud.
The question as to whether trees should be propagated north of the region in which they are grown is a common one. Evidence has shown that it makes little difference as to the latitude in which the trees are raised if they are well grown and are free from injurious insects and diseases. It is generally best, however, to purchase trees as near at hand as good ones may be secured.
The ideal climate for the peach is one in which the winter extremes do not go much lower than zero at any time, and no warm periods of many days' duration occur in winter. The absence of late spring frosts and presence of bright sun during the ripening period are also important essentials. Extremes of either warmth or cold in winter are almost equally detrimental.
Soil. The peach will succeed upon a wide range of soil- types, but prefers a sandy loam. It will also develop exceptionally well upon gravelly or stony loams, if deep and well drained. Heavy poorly drained soils should be avoided. It also thrives on sands.
Site and elevation.
The type of peach-growing business one expects to engage in has much to do with the kind of location and site that should be chosen. A successful local market business may be established even upon disconnected areas and at some disadvantage. But extensive peach plantings for supplying the wholesale markets should be planted upon uniformly favorable areas near good shipping-points and where plenty of labor is available. Locations should be sought where peaches can be grown and placed on the market cheaply because of large annual yields and low cost of production and marketing.
The elevation above sea-level at which peaches are planted in any region is a most important matter. It is not sufficient that the orchard be on land that is higher than its immediate surroundings. In some localities an elevation of 150 to 200 feet is sufficient to secure good yields, while in others one must seek altitudes of 800 to 900 feet, or even more, for successful crops. The site of the orchard should also be readily accessible, so that fertilizers, spray materials, and packages can be delivered cheaply and so that the crop may be picked, packed, and shipped economically. Uneven land broken up by gullies or wet areas is to be avoided, as well as hilly areas that are difficult to reach by team and expensive to manage.
The particular exposure is not important in a relatively flat country. In hilly or mountainous sections, it may become so. Severely exposed situations should be avoided, as well as warm pocketed areas.
Some protection from severe prevailing winds is most desirable and does not increase the danger of too early blooming if good air-drainage prevails.
Establishing the orchard.
A well-defined plan should be drawn up before planting is begun. The peach is a relatively short-lived tree, and packing-houses and permanent buildings should be located in connection with roadways and plantings so as to result in the most economical procedure of the work.
The selection of varieties must be made previous to the planting of the orchard. Specific recommendations for each district cannot be given in a brief article, but some general statements as to the variety question follow. Yellow-fleshed peaches are preferred by most markets. Such varieties as Mountain Rose, Reeves, Stump, Oldmixon, and the Crawfords are falling behind in popularity except in a few localities. Better varieties are needed commercially. Carman and Belle (of Georgia) are rapidly gaining in commercial importance. New varieties, such as the J. H. Hale, are demanding recognition. Elberta is still the most popular single variety. It is the most widely successful commercial variety of any of our tree-fruits. In making a choice of commercial varieties for any section, a few hardy sorts that are known to do well in the locality are the safest to plant. One should also have enough trees of each variety for economical growing and marketing.
Vigorous one-year-old trees that will caliper 5/8 to 3/4 inch and are from 3 to 5 feet in height, as illustrated at the left in Fig. 2792, are an ideal size to plant. They should be free from yellows or little-peach or rosette, root-gall, scale, peach-borers, or other injurious peach enemies.
Fall planting is successful with well-ripened trees in localities in which the winter weather is not severe and where soils are sandy and well drained. In northern districts, fall planting is less likely to be successful. In spring planting, the land should be prepared and the trees set as early as soil conditions permit.
The trees should be set about 20 feet apart each way under average conditions. In some localities 18 feet is sufficient distance, while in others 25 feet is not too much.
Vegetable crops, such as peas, beans, tomatoes, and potatoes, may be grown between the rows of young peach trees for the first and second seasons, after which the practice is of doubtful economy.
The apple is sometimes grown successfully under the sod-mulch system, but attempts to manage the peach in the same way have commonly resulted in failure. The soil of the orchard should be plowed or disced into a fine mellow condition in the spring as soon as it becomes dry enough to "work" well. This state of tillage should then be maintained until about mid- season by frequent harrowing. The time when culture should cease varies with the locality and the variety. It is seldom possible to cultivate later than ten days or two weeks previous to the ripening of the fruit, as the branches become bent down with the crop. Early varieties should commonly receive one or more cultivations after the crop has been picked. In the South, tillage is often stopped in bearing orchards in late June, while in the North it is continued until late July. In dry seasons, late varieties require additional culture to reach good size. A large proportion of vegetable matter in the soil is an important factor in the production of large fruit, especially in dry seasons. Cover-crops should be grown wherever possible.
Rate and character of growth is a great limiting factor in peach-production. A certain amount of growth is necessary to maintain vigor and a proper number of flower-buds. The extent and time of greatest growth determines size, color and quality of fruit to a marked degree. The application of plant-food or fertilizers is a feature of orchard practice that directly concerns rate of growth.
Trees in full bearing should make an annual growth of at least 12 to 18 inches at the tips of leading branches in most peach regions to maintain a maximum produc-tion. Fruit-growers should apply fertilizers to secure a growth according to their soil type and its conditions. If such a growth is obtainable without fertilizer, its application may prove detrimental, while if the soil is thin and poor, heavy fertilizing will be required for good results.
Under the average conditions, the equivalent of 100 pounds nitrate of soda, 150 pounds muriate of potash, and 400 pounds acid phosphate will not be found to be excessive, and additional nitrate will be needed in many cases. In districts where the winters are severe, however, nitrogenous fertilizers must be applied sparingly.
Two distinct types of pruning are practised with the peach. One is to allow the tree to form its own particular habit of development except to thin out the branches somewhat as illustrated in Fig. 2794 as contrasted with Fig.2793. Figs. 2795 and 2796 show other examples of this treatment. The other is to practise annual cutting back of the branches as well as tliinning out, to produce a strong compact and yet well-spread tree, as illustrated in Fig. 2797. The first method may result in the somewhat earlier production of fruit, as much pruning tends to delay fruiting. Trees whose main branches are not cut back annually are more likely to suffer from breakage not only in seasons of heavy crops, but also during ice-storms in winter. On each tree, also, the vigorous fruit-bearing parts tend to extend farther away from the main trunk each year. Fig. 2793 illustrates the habit of growth assumed by an unpruned tree.
The peach produces its fruit-buds upon the one- year-old wood-growth. On vigorous twigs the buds commonly occur in groups of three, as illustrated in Figs. 2798, 2799, the two outer buds being flower-buds and the center bud a leaf-bud. Sometimes all three buds are flower-buds and sometimes only one. Single flower-buds may frequently occur also.
Many fads in pruning prevail, which have no economic bearing upon the amount and quality of the crop. The height to which the trees should be cut back when planted varies with different growers, but from 18 to 24 inches is a good average. Some prefer the extreme of 6 inches, but such low trees often make borer- removal difficult.
At the end of the first season's growth, the real pruning of the tree begins. At that time the main branches of the tree should be chosen.
The best three or four well-placed branches should be chosen to form the framework for the future top of the tree as illustrated in Figs. 2800, 2801. These should be distributed upon the trunk and not issue from the same point, although on different sides, as in Fig. 2802. In some cases a tree may have developed only a single irregular shoot and this will then require severe cutting back to encourage branching at the desired height. Fig. 2803 shows a good two-year-old tree, low-headed.
When several side branches occupy much the same space or cross one another, a choice of one should be made and the remainder pruned off. The amount of cutting-back to be practised at the close of the first season upon the main branches selected for the permanent framework of the tree depends on the form of the tree. If it is compact, vigorous, and of the desired form, the cutting back of each tip to the first good side branch is all that is necessary. Should one main branch be irregular in growth, more severe pruning is desirable. Severe cutting- back, save in the case of poorly formed trees, only delays fruiting and increases the expense.
During the second summer, the necessity for severe winter pruning may be prevented by the rubbing off of any shoots that tend to develop as suckers low down upon the trunk, or in the center of the tree where they are not wanted, and the pinching back of the tips of any branches that tend to develop in an irregular manner. The removal of shoots should be done before they are more than an inch or two in length. The pinching back of irregular shoots should be accomplished in June or early July before they are more than 18 or 20 inches in length. The removal of much growth and foliage in the summer may cause a severe check to the tree.
The annual dormant-season pruning beginning with the second year should be somewhat as follows: The main branches will develop numerous side branches and the strongest and best placed of these should be retained. A well-formed tree is not only agreeable to look upon, but furthermore the maximum production of good fruit is secured only when the greatest possible amount of vigorous fruit-bearing surface is properly exposed to light. The annual cutting back of the leading branches to the first good side branch will result in well-spread vigorous trees. The cutting of a branch to an "outside bud," however, does not change the direction of growth of that branch to anywhere near the same degree. The cutting back of the branches causes a thickening of the top, and some thinning out of shoots and branches is necessary, otherwise the fruit will lack color.
A central leader is avoided in the pruning of peach trees, and any shoots which tend to shut out the light from the center of the tree should be kept pruned back and not allowed to become more than fruiting twigs. The general form of the tree should be about complete at the close of the third or fourth summer after planting, and the annual pruning will largely consist of the removal of any broken branches and the cutting back of the annual growth on each branch about one-third or one-half, according to the variety and the amount or length of growth. Pruning is often the most economical method of thinning, and this point should not be overlooked.
After peach trees have fruited for several years, they commonly require a severe cutting back to reduce the size of the top and to secure more vigorous wood. Such a cutting back should be practised whenever the fruit-buds are destroyed in winter. All branches may be cut back into wood-growth formed the two or three previous seasons.
It is never advisable to saw the main branches back to mere stubs a foot or more in length except upon young trees that are to be top-worked.
Thinning the fruit.
Thinning is now a regular feature of good orchard- management. Small fruit sells for low prices at all times and in seasons of heavy crop-production can hardly be disposed of at any price. When trees are allowed to mature as much fruit as will set in a favorable season, much breakage of branches is the usual result. The small green fruits should be thinned as soon as the so- called "drop" or the natural thinning occurs. Sometimes this fails to take place and then the fruit should be thinned as soon as it is about the size of a shelled hickory- nut. Thinning the fruits to not less than 6 inches apart will not reduce the yield of the tree, and 8 inches apart is not too much to secure extra-large fruit, especially upon such sorts as Waddell, Crosby, Mountain Rose, and Stump, which tend to be small to medium in size under average conditions.
Harvesting the fruit.
This part of the peach business really begins as soon as a crop is definitely assured for the season. The necessary number of packages should be purchased, the packing-house put in order, and arrangements made for the needed number of teams, trucks, pickers, packers, and other labor.
When the fruit is ready to pick, the work should be organized with one man in constant charge in the orchard. He should direct the pickers and see that each one picks all the fruit that is mature enough at any one time and yet does not take off that which is too green. An efficient picking-crew is necessary in order to secure good results at the packing-house.
White-fleshed peaches change from a light green to a cream-white ground- or under-color as they mature. So-called yellow-fleshed varieties change from a yellowish green to various shades of yellow or orange as they ripen. Pickers should be instructed to determine the maturity of a fruit by its color, and be corrected if they attempt to test it by pressure with the fingers. Good pickers will harvest from sixty to one hundred sixteen- quart baskets a day from well-pruned trees.
The fruit is not uncommonly picked directly into the package in which it is sold, but this practice is rapidly passing in favor of a distinct picking-basket. The most common type in use is a round flat-bottomed wooden stave basket of sixteen quarts capacity.
A low-wheeled wagon is best adapted for hauling the fruit from the orchard to the packing-house.
Packing the fruit for market.
Some sort of a packing-house is necessary when any considerable amount of fruit is handled. A shelter against rain is imperative to prevent the warping of wooden packages. Rapid work in packing can best be organized in a building with a wooden or cement floor and where stencils and tools can be kept in order. A long and relatively narrow packing-house with large doors upon either side is likely to prove the moat economical for the handling of the fruit. Packages, tables, and box- or crate-presses should be arranged in a way to promote rapid and efficient work. No distinct grades of peaches, unfortunately, have become recognized in any broad way. Persons employed as packers should be chosen for their honesty and interest in the business as well as for their rapidity in filling the packages.
The common commercial packages now in use are the sixteen-quart Jersey or Delaware basket and its modifications, the Georgia six-basket carrier, the Michigan bushel and half-bushel, the Climax basket (Fig.2804) and the western or California box.
Packages often arrive on the market in bad condition because they have not been sufficiently well-filled at the orchard. The fruit must be packed tightly enough so that it cannot move in the package during transit.
Simple mechanical graders have been used for some time in some of the peach regions, but have never been entirely satisfactory. The new types of graders are still in the experimental stage. See Packages, page 2426, for description of types of fruit-graders.
All the large cities in the United States and Canada, in addition to the local towns, consume large quantities of peaches. A grower who is situated near a large local market can allow his fruit to become well-ripened and haul it by wagon or truck without requiring other transportation facilities. Much of the crop must go to market by rail, however, and if in transit more than a few hours, some refrigeration is necessary. Refrigerator cars are employed for this. The large so-called "Fruit- Growers Express" or "Dispatch Cars" will hold five and one-half tons of ice and are capable of carrying 448 Georgia carriers in four tiers, or 558 crates in five tiers.
All crates, boxes, or baskets should be so arranged when placed in refrigerator cars as to allow of a free circulation of air.
Precooling of peaches previous to shipment is practised to some extent, but is not yet common. One who engages in peach-production upon a large scale cannot depend upon local markets to take his entire crop at a profit and must be prepared to ship to the wholesale markets. The ideal shipment is the carload. To ship at least a carload of fruit constantly, one needs to have from about 1,000 to 1,200 trees of each variety in full bearing.
The most serious insect enemies of the peach are the borer, San Jose scale, and curculio. A few years ago the scale was considered the most troublesome of the three, but the borer is now the most difficult to control. The mature insect is wasp-like in appearance, the mole shining steel-blue in color with an orange-yellow band about the abdomen, while the female is of a deeper and duller color. The eggs are laid on the trunk near the ground from June to as late as September, or possibly October. The "grubs" hatch and work their way under the bark and there feed upon the inner bark for about twelve months, when a case is formed of the "sawdust" and other materials, in which the pupa stage is passed. One or two borer larvae may completely girdle a nursery tree, while several may accomplish similar damage on a young tree in the orchard. In any case the infested tree is greatly weakened. The presence of borers is easily detected by the mass of gum and "chewings" at the base of the tree.
A great variety of materials has been tested aa coatings to prevent the entrance of borers, but none has proved to be entirely successful. The expansion of the bark because of growth causes numerous cracks in the coating of most materials that are applied and the borers gain entrance. A soft grade of asphaltum applied to the trunk for a few inches above and below ground is a promising material now under test. Lime -sulfur, whitewash, and other materials may have some value as repellants, but are not very efficient.
The common practice is to remove the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches about the trunks of the trees in early spring and to kill the borers by means of a knife and a short piece of wire. Some growers examine their trees in autumn, but there is danger of winter injury unless the soil is put back before severe winter weather occurs.
The San Jose scale is now easily controlled by a thorough dormant-season spraying of lime-sulfur diluted to a specific gravity of 1.03 to 1.04.
The plum-curculio is a small snout beetle about 1/4 inch in length with four irregular humps upon the wing-covers. It is dark mottled gray in color with black markings. The principal damage caused by this insect is during seasons of light crops or upon trees just coming into bearing when the loss of a proportion of the green fruits reduces the crop. In seasons of heavy crops, the loss of a proportion of the green fruit may not prove to be of economic importance. The beetle appears in the orchard about blooming time and feeds on the foliage until the calyces are shed from the fruits, when egg-laying begins. If the egg hatches, the larva makes its way to the center of the peach and feeds upon the developing germ, causing the fruit to fall from the tree later. The mature beetle may also do considerable feeding upon the outside of the peach while it is still small, causing irregular blemishes that may markedly effect the commercial value of the fruit. The curculio is most troublesome when the orchard is surrounded by grasslands and hedgerows of weeds and native trees. When much of the area is under cultivation and good orchard practice prevails, the damage is greatly reduced. A spraying of arsenate of lead just after the petals fall, and again just as the calyces are shedding from the fruits, will destroy many of the curculio. It is best to combine the lead with the self-boiled lime-sulfur to secure a better distribution of the lead and prevent any burning of foliage by an inferior product.
The bark-beetle is a small black insect not more than 1/8 inch in length that attacks the bark upon weakened trees, causing gum to exude in spots upon the trunk and branches. Fortunately, the insect usually causes little or no damage to vigorous healthy trees and its presence indicates that some other factor is really to blame, although it is sometimes reported on healthy trees. The black peach aphis is occasionally troublesome upon light soils, but good culture and a vigorous growth commonly prevents any serious check to the trees.
Various beetles and grasshoppers may cause some damage at times by feeding upon the peach, such injuries being most common in orchards in which grass or weeds are allowed to grow freely.
The peach is subject to the attacks of a considerable number of diseases. The most difficult to combat are yellows, little-peach, and rosette. The causes of these diseases are still unknown. Some suggest the presence of a fungus, others an organism too small to be detected by the ordinary microscope, and there is also the possibility of enzymes.
The advanced stages of yellows are indicated by a prematuring of the fruit from a few days to at least two weeks in advance of the normal season. Such fruit is commonly red-spotted and blotched in its coloring and may be insipid or bitter in flavor. Affected trees may also develop sickly wiry twig-growths on the trunks and branches.
Little-peach is indicated by a characteristic drooping of the foliage and by the fact that the fruit is smaller and matures later than the fruit on healthy trees.
Rosette occurs only in southern districts and is readily distinguished by the tufts of leaf-development. This disease is fatal within twelve months in many instances.
It is not known whether these diseases are entirely distinct or not, but they have been so regarded. Yellows and little-peach attack all varieties in about the same proportion. Infection does not appear to take place through the soil, flowers, or seed. These diseases can readily be transmitted to healthy trees or stocks, however, by budding. Buds taken from the apparently healthy parts of diseased trees have invariably reproduced the diseases.
The recognition of early stages of yellows and little- peach have shown that these diseases are too frequently distributed in nursery stock. It is now known that a tree may be infected with either of these diseases for three or four years without showing any prominent symptoms. When good growing conditions are provided, the true state of affairs may be masked for a time, but a check to growth will result in the prompt appearance of the advanced stages of disease.
Many cases of so-called "cures" of yellows have been announced, but all have been without sound basis. Too often trees affected with borers, winter injury and other troubles are considered to be affected with yellows. Diseased trees should be destroyed as soon as detected. When such trees are left in an orchard, the disease spreads to surrounding trees until all are affected. If all diseased trees were destroyed annually in any district and no diseased nursery trees were introduced, the annual loss could readily be kept as low as 1 per cent, without much doubt. Yellows attacks Japanese plums as well as peaches, and this should not be overlooked in control work.
Peach leaf-curl, brown-rot, peach-scab and mildew are fungous diseases of the. peach which cause much damage annually. The leaf-curl attacks the foliage in early spring just as the leaf-buds open, and the leaves become curled, thickened, and distorted. The tips of Shoots may also become affected and the disease is occasionally seen upon the fruit in a fan-shaped discolored area. The affected leaves finally turn brown, and fall from the trees in early summer. In severe attacks, the trees are almost completely defoliated, greatly reducing their vigor and causing them to lose most of the fruit which may have set. This disease is readily controlled by a spraying with lime-sulfur, as directed for the scale, before the leaf-buds begin to make growth. After the leaf-buds begin to expand, however, the spraying may not prove effective. Recent experiments have been tried with apparent success in New York of fall spraying for leaf-curl, as late as the first part of December.
Brown-rot was formerly one of the dreads of the peach-grower. Thousands of baskets of fruit frequently rotted on the trees just at harvest time. Not until the value and safety of self-boiled lime-sulfur summer spray was demonstrated by Scott were the peach-growers supplied with an effective remedy for the disease. This affliction may not only cause a rapid decay of the fruit at ripening time, but it sometimes attacks the blossoms and causes their death. The affected blooms are distinguished from frost injuries from the fact that they cling to the twigs, and gum commonly oozes out from the canker formed upon the twig at the base of the bloom. The small green fruits may also decay at all stages, and the twigs may be killed outright from numerous cankers upon the bark. Such varieties as Triumph and Connecticut frequently begin to rot before they ripen, and the entire crop may be lost even when well sprayed. Such sorts should never be planted. Varieties as susceptible as Champion are not very satisfactory shipping varieties. A thorough system of summer spraying, as outlined under "spraying" (page 2500), should control brown-rot.
Peach-scab is a fungous disease which appears upon the fruits in the form of small black dots. In severe cases these dots may be so numerous as to form a sooty blotch. The skin of the fruit may then crack, offering an excellent opportunity for brown-rot to begin its destruction. Peach-scab is most serious from central New Jersey south to Georgia. Upon hilly areas, north of central New Jersey, it is rather uncommon and it seldom requires any attention. The disease occurs only upon the upper surface and ends of the peach as it grows on the branch. It makes its appearance in the form of very minute black spots or dote from about the middle to the last of June upon early varieties in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Farther south it occurs correspondingly earlier. It may be readily controlled by thorough summer spraying with the self- boiled lime-sulfur.
Peach-mildew most frequently occurs along the northern limits of peach-production near the Great Lakes, and in the Northwest. This is probably because of the wider extremes of temperature during the day.
Mildew appears in the form of a white powdery substance upon the leaves and fruit. It may do considerable damage to nursery stock in some cases. Sprayings with self-boiled lime-sulfur will commonly hold it in check.
The peach is subject to the attacks of numerous disease and insect enemies, and thorough spraying is required for success in most cases. The peach foliage is very sensitive to caustic sprays, however, and great damage may be done from ignorance. Copper sprays, such as bordeaux; are dangerous to use on peach foliage in humid climates. San Jose scale and leaf-curl can be controlled by a winter spraying of lime-sulfur. Peach-scab and brown-rot can be held in check by several sprayings of the self-boiled lime- sulfur summer spray.
When San Jose scale, leaf-curl, peach-scab, brown- rot and curculio appear to any considerable extent, the following spraying schedule is suggested:
1. For scale and leaf-curl, apply concentrated lime- sulfur diluted to a specific gravity of 1.03 to 1.04 before the leaf-buds start to make growth in early spring.
2. Just after the petals fall, apply self-boiled lime- sulfur of an 8-8-50 formula and arsenate of lead at the rate of three pounds of paste, or one and one- half pounds of powdered lead to each fifty gallons of spray.
3. Repeat this when the calyces are shedding from the fruits or when the latter are about the size of green peas.
4. Apply self-boiled lime-sulfur without the addition of arsenate of lead three weeks after the third spraying.
5. Apply self-boiled lime-eulfur again three weeks later to all varieties ripening later than Carman.
6. In wet seasons and especially for varieties as late as Fox, Salway, or Bilyeu, an additional spraying may prove profitable.
No spraying should be done within less than three weeks of the ripe stage, or the fruit may have a whitewashed appearance.
Where the plum-curculio causes little or no damage, the second spraying may be omitted, and where peach- scab and brown-rot are uncommon, the fourth, fifth, and sixth sprayings may be omitted.
There are several forms of winter injury, including bud-killing, twig-killing, collar injury and bark-split- ting. Bud-killing takes place when the temperature is too severe in winter. The pistils and stamens are killed in their rudimentary state, giving the center of the bud a brown or black appearance when a cross- section is made. Poorly formed buds often die even when the winter temperatures are not particularly severe. Alternate warm and cold periods may also result in bud-killing. Varieties such as Reeves, Early Crawford, and Mountain Rose suffer more from bud- killing than Greensboro, Carman, or Crosby. Vigorous trees that ripen their wood-growth early are best able to withstand low temperatures successfully. Trees that make a relatively late growth are, however, more successful in resisting the effects of a variable winter.
Twig-killing is a more severe form of injury than bud- killing, and following such injury the trees should be well cut back before growth begins.
Collar injury is caused by the action of the weather upon the bark of the trunk just at or below the surface of the ground. In mild cases, the inner bark becomes yellow in color and very spongy. The tree is checked in growth and the fruit forced to an unusually large size. The lenticels or dote are large and the flavor of the fruit is often astringent, due to a large proportion of tannin. In more severe cases of injury, the trees suddenly die in midsummer with the shriveled fruit clinging to the twigs. Bark-beetles often attack trees checked by winter injury and the death of the trees is often entirely attributed to their attacks. The Elberta appears to be more susceptible to this form of winter injury than such varieties as Greensboro or Carman. The soil should be firmly mounded up for about a foot against the trunks of peach trees just before freezing weather each fall to prevent such winter injury.
The bark on the trunks of old peach trees may occasionally crack open as a result of winter weather. The most that can be done is to cut away the bark that has separated from the sap-wood and to paint the latter to prevent decay.
Peach trees not infrequently suffer injury to the sap-wood of the branches and twigs, and the trees may fail to grow vigorously the following spring. Such trees should be given liberal fertilizing and be kept well cultivated to promote a good growth. M .A. Blake.
Peach-culture in the South.
Peaches have been abundant in the southern states since the very earliest settlement, the so-called Spanish varieties being first distributed by the early settlers in Florida, and to this day, all through the South Atlantic States, the old "Spanish Blood" or "Tinsley" peach, is spoken of as one of the choice fruits of the earth. From time to time all the improved varieties were scattered through the South by the more progressive horticulturists and nurserymen and these and their seedlings were abundant on nearly every plantation. The South being strictly an agricultural country, there was little chance for commercial peach-culture until along between 1870 and 1875, when the introduction of a number of new extra-early varieties of the Alexander type, seedlings of Hale and Rivers, gave such bright showy peaches the latter part of May and early June that attempts were made to market them at a profit in our northern cities.
A lack of quick through railway-express service caused them to be three and four days on the way, and usually to be delivered in poor condition. Occasional lots, arriving in fair to good condition and selling at $12 to $20 a bushel, convinced a few of the shippers that the extra-early peaches of the South were appreciated at the North, and persistent efforts were continued to get them to market in sound condition. Every conceivable style of shipping package was used,—paper- wrapped fruit placed between layers of cotton, excelsior, paper, and the like, and sent by express or steamer,— and all brought about the same returns, "Arrived in bad order." Only occasional lots paid a profit. Finally, heavy refrigerator boxes that would hold about six bushels of fruit in packages, and a sufficient quantity of ice. with strong castor wheels under them so they could be trundled in and out of freight cars, were utilized to bring peaches north by Savannah and Charleston steamers; and by re-icing on the steamers, much of the early fruit came through in good order and sold at such satisfactory prices as to encourage the sending of the large midsummer peaches to market in the same way, and the planting of moderate-sized orchards and the further experimenting with seedlings and varieties best suited to long shipments.
The perfection of the refrigerator car for fruit transportation, improved machinery for the cheap manufacture of ice, the consolidation of various small railway lines into great through routes of transportation, and a full appreciation by their managers of the importance of a successful peach industry, and last but not least, the originating of the Elberta peach by Mr. Rumph, were the final factors in rapidly developing the great commercial peach industry in Georgia, and its smaller counterparts in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and the more recent rush of overplanting in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and southern Missouri.
The year 1889 saw the first large peach crop successfully harvested and marketed. Profits were large, and being reported in the press many times greater than they really were, stimulated much planting by those entirely unfamiliar with fruit-culture, and with no special love for it except the money that might be made out of it. Cheap lands and the abundance of good low-priced labor were encouragements to extensive plantings. In nearly every state of the South, land in vast tracts suitable for peach-culture could be had at S3 to $10 an acre, and labor from sun to sun at 40 to 60 cents a day; while in 1915 these lands are selling at $25 to $100 an acre, with a possible average of $40. and labor costs $1 a day or more, while the added expense of three or more sprayings each year has helped to double the cost of peach-production in the South.
Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, varying from 100 to 200 miles inland, most of the land being low and flat, early' blooming, followed by spring frost, makes the peach industry too uncertain to be profitable. The hill lands in western sections of Atlantic Coast states, and northern sections of the Gulf States, is really the peach country of the South, where extended lists of varieties are grown, covering a season of fully two months; while the southwestern states, planting almost entirely of one variety, have a season of less than two weeks in many orchards. Fort Valley and Marshallville, the great peach centers of Georgia, though on tablelands about 200 miles from both ocean and Gulf, and at an elevation of a little over 500 feet, are not in what might strictly be called the hill country, being just below the southern edge of it. In this section of Georgia, most of the peach orchards have been planted on old cotton- land, much of which has been in cultivation a century or more, and while the surface-soil is worn and poor, down deep in the red clay soil underlying the 6 or 8 inches of sandy gray loam of the surface, there must be a vast amount of fertility from the way peach trees grow when once started and a reasonable amount of culture is given.
In the early days most of the orchardists, who were cotton-planters as well, planted second- and third- class yearling trees, or else small June-budded trees any time from October to March, opening furrows for the trees and cross-checking the rows 18 to 22 feet apart, later plowing this land and planting it in cotton, continuing it for three and often four years. Two to four hundred pounds of low-grade fertilizer is applied in drills for the cotton and usually very thorough culture given; trees are allowed to grow at will, their culture being incidental to the cotton crop. In such orchards very little if any pruning was ever attempted. After the trees become so large as to drive out the cotton, one plowing is given in winter, then anything from fairly good culture to none at all the remainder of each season. Such a system resulted in many "scrub orchards," that were not very profitable after six or seven years.
In the recent and more highly developed peach orcharding of this section of the South, better preparation is given the land at the start, dynamiting of the holes for planting being largely practised. There is a more careful selection of trees, far more liberal fertilizing, planting at greater distances, seldom less than 20 by 20 feet, better culture, less and less of intercropping, except of cowpeas and other cover-crops, and somewhat more of systematic pruning, though as yet this art is not fully enough practised to show best results. Many of the land-booming orchards, planted between 1890 and 1900, proved financial failures and are either no longer in existence or else have been absorbed into other and better propositions. There are less and less of the cotton farmer orchardists and more peach specialists, as time and experience have shown the business to be unprofitable, except under best business conditions. The writer's plantations, which ten years ago aggregated some 265,000 trees, have now been reduced to less than 100,000 trees, as only by planting at greater distances and giving a less number of trees better care and attention, can any profit be assured.
All land is plowed deep, and sometimes subsoiled before planting. Young orchards are given frequent and thorough tillage up to midseason, when two or three rows of cowpeas are drilled in at least 4 feet away from the rows of trees; these and the trees are cultivated frequently, until the peas have taken almost full possession of the ground, and it is time for both the land and trees to have a rest from cultivation. In the fall when peas are ripe, enough are gathered for next year's seed, after which hogs or mules may be turned in to pasture for a time. The stubble furnishes a fine winter cover, and is turned down at first plowing in February or March, when summer culture begins, and at proper tune the orchard is again seeded to cowpeas, across the former direction of the rows. Three years of this usually builds up a perfect orchard without the aid of any other fertilizers, except possibly a very little about the trees at time of planting to give them a start.
Low-headed trees are the rule, the trunks seldom branching over 18 inches up, and often 8 inches to a foot from the ground. As a rule, the close cutting- back at time of planting, and a general shortening-in of the leading branches for the first two or three years, is about all the pruning given, even in the best orchards. A good plan is to shorten-in every year much of the past season's growth, and from the central head often cut back two or three seasons growth; but under no circumstances are any of the good side shoots cut out that force themselves on all the main stems when the top is properly headed back. These little side branches have given several full crops of fruit, when without them there has been failure.
Soil and climate favor the very brightest of color on all peaches in the South; qualities of the soil and the long, hot summer sun give a richness and sweetness of flavor superior to any other section of America, though the same varieties are not so juicy or luscious as when grown farther North.
The orchards in connection with cotton plantations run all the way from 10 to 100 acres in extent, while the "straight-out peach farm" seldom has as few as 50 acres in fruit, more of them having from 100 to 200 acres, while orchards all the way from 300 to nearly 1,000 acres in extent are no uncommon sight. The Georgia peach industry turns out 5,000 to 7,000 carloads of peaches in seven or eight weeks of a busy picking season, even though the 18,000,000 trees estimated to have been in that state ten years ago have now been reduced to less than 8,000,000.
Growth usually ceases early in August, and the trees shed their leaves the last of September, a month or six weeks before any frosts occur. Should the fall be warm and wet, some fruit-buds will be forced into bloom, while the greater number will remain dormant until late January or early February, when spring growth commences. The season of full bloom is usually about the first week in March, though it varies all the way from February 15 to March 25, and no matter whether early or late, the entire blooming season of most varieties covers a period of nearly three weeks. While spring frosts are the greatest menace to southern peach- culture, this long blooming period often gives a chance for a setting of fruit between the various frosts, or after the last one, from some belated buds. Even with these varying chances of escaping between frosts, about one year in three frost destroys the peach crop in some one or more of the great centers of peach-production in the South.
Two other serious troubles hamper the southern peach cultivator—curculio and monilia or brown-rot. Curculios are very abundant; beginning early in April, they keep up their destructive work until the end of the fruiting season. In recent years in the summer spraying for monilia, the addition of arsenate of lead has controlled the ravages of curculio so well that now they are far less destructive than before. The early spring months at the South are inclined to be pleasant and very dry, and the summer rains, which are frequent and abundant when they do come, often do not set in until the latter part of July or early August, near the end of the peach- shipping season. Often, however, they begin in June, and continue for two or three weeks, and in the case of the season of 1900 it rained for six weeks through the main part of the peach harvest. Hot sun between showers and the general mugginess of a warm climate rapidly breed the monilia fungus, and brown-rot is the most serious trouble the southern peach-grower has to contend with, though with proper spraying it may be held almost entirely in check, and except for the extra expense is not now to be feared as in the earlier days of southern peach-culture. In the ten years from 1895 to 1905, probably more than 50 per cent of peaches grown in Georgia rotted on the trees, or else reached market in specky condition as the results of monilia fungus.
The first great crop of Georgia peaches that made a strong impress on all northern markets was in 1889, when the Elberta variety by its large size, great beauty, and fine keeping qualities showed up so strongly for the first time as to outclass all other varieties. Great profits were made and, being reported as even greater, there was a mad rush to plant Elterta, and Elberta. only. This was kept up until 1896-7 before it came to be realized that there could be too much of even a good thing. The rushing of a great volume of fruit, no matter how choice, into the markets in two or three weeks, before they had been "toned up" to at least a liberal supply of good fruit, was a business mistake. To remedy this there has been a hunt after a good early variety to precede the Elberta, as well as later ones to follow it. So that, while prior to 1896 more than 75 per cent of the plantings were of Elberta, since that time not more than 15 to 20 per cent of Elberta have been planted. There is a better balance of varieties, and a longer and more profitable season of marketing has been assured. Many early and mid-early varieties growing ten or fifteen years ago have mostly been abandoned, Greensboro, Carman, Hiley and Belle (of Georgia) being varieties most largely grown to precede Elberta. Growers are now beginning to abandon the Greensboro and plant excessively of other extra-early varieties, notably Uneeda, Arp (Arp Beauty or Queen of Dixie), and Early Rose. These varieties having sold at extremely high prices in recent years, there now appears as great a tendency to plant extra-early ripening peaches as there was for the Elberta in the earlier days.
When loading in cars, the crates are placed side by side about 2 1/2 inches apart across the car, taking seven crates. Then two strips of inch-square stuff, just long enough to reach across the car, are put on top of the crates at each end and are lightly nailed down. Tier upon tier is built up in this way, either five or six crates high, until the car is full. Spacing of the crates and the slatting provides space for cold air around each and every crate. In dry seasons, when fruit is free from rot- germs, cars as now constructed can with safety be loaded five crates high, but in wet seasons, with rot prevalent, they arrive in market in much better condition when loaded only four high. Besides the original icing, which requires four to six tons to a car, a re-icing after loading takes one to three tons, depending upon how long the car is loading. A car will hold 448 to 525 crates, according to the size of the car and whether loaded four or five crates high. Handled along best modern lines, with careful inspection from start to finish, it costs for the six-basket Georgia carrier, from 30 to 35 cents to take peaches ripe from the tree and place them in the car.
Some peaches of the Crawford type are grown all through the South, but they do not succeed [so well as most others of the Persian strain, and none of the Persians does so well in the far South as the North China strains, to which Carman, Hiley, Early Rose, Belle, and Elberta belong. The South "China peaches, to which the Peen-to, Honey, and Angel belong, succeed best in Florida and close along the Gulf Coast. While their bitter-sweet flavor is appreciated by some, they are not generally profitable for market.
In preparation for marketing the fruit crop, many of the large orchards have railroad side-tracks running to their packing-houses in the orchard; refrigerator cars are brought South, and every available bit of sidetrack for 300 or 400 miles about is filled with these cars. At leading centers, refrigerator-car people have constructed great ice-storage-houses, with every convenience for quickly icing and re-icing cars. Agents of these refrigerator-car companies, by frequently driving about among the orchards and keeping in touch with the managers, plan to have enough cars iced and cooled off 80 as to be ready for each day's demand, and by placing an order with the railroad agent the night before, the orchardist may have one or a dozen refrigerator cars delivered on his side-track in the morning. For smaller shippers, who cannot load in carlots, the railroads keep at all times in season refrigerator cars on siding at each station in the peach district, into which any number of shippers may load; more often there will be a number of such cars loading at the same time, so that a shipper may have a choice as to which market he will consign his fruit. Except in the height of the season, these cars are often two and sometimes three days in loading, and the continued opening of the car to put in small lots of fruit prevents perfect refrigeration ; consequently fruit from small shippers more often goes to market in bad order than from the larger orchards, where a car can be quickly loaded and at once closed up, not to be opened until ready for sale in some northern market. In the Hale orchards, a car is often loaded in an hour, and very little of the fruit is ever so long as two hours passing from the tree through the assorting- and packing-houses to the car.
In some of the smaller orchards, fruit is packed in crates or baskets under the trees, and then hauled in open wagons, often without springs, to the railroad station. In others, some of the old farm buildings are used as packing-houses; more often special fruit-houses are used, their size depending upon the requirements of the orchards, while in style and convenience more depends upon the intelligence of the orchardists and desire to handle the fruit rapidly in best possible manner. The picking-basket most generally used is a shallow, round basket, with a drop handle, and holding about a half-bushel. With good refrigerator cars and prompt railroad service, fruit is now allowed to come to full maturity on the tree, and is picked just before it begins to soften.
Since the organization of the Georgia Fruit Exchange, some eight or ten years ago, about 75 per cent of the peach-growers of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina have, through this cooperation, been enabled to secure a wider distribution and a more uniform market- price for their products, and their business is on a more secure foundation than in any other section of the South. J.H. Hale.
Peach-growing in California.
The peach is a fruit of wide commercial importance in California. The great peach-growing sections are principally in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, but orchards are found and are profitable not only in the mountains up to an altitude of 3,000 feet, but also in the coast sections. The most important districts are the first named. For size, flavor, color, and shipping qualities, the peaches grown in this state have a national reputation.
The tree thrives not only on the sandy, loamy soils which are adapted to irrigation and are well drained, but also on the heavier red and black soils, which are more or less mixed with gravel and are found both in the foothill and coast regions of California. On account of the arid climate, there being no rainfall from May until October, it goes without saying that to produce high-class peaches for either shipping, canning, or drying, irrigation is very essential. The theory that was formerly advanced that irrigated fruit would not keep, has not been borne out in practice, and to attempt to grow peaches without irrigation, particularly in the great valleys, would now be considered the height of folly.
No systematic plan has been followed in fertilizing orchards, although growers are realizing that to grow good fruit and to maintain an orchard up to the very highest standard, the application of fertilizers is essential. Considerable interest is now taken in cover-crops, and a number of experiments have been made with Canada field peas, fenugreek, and vetch. To grow a cover-crop successfully, it is necessary to have water in the fall, and as water from the canals is not obtainable, it must be secured by pumping. Barnyard manure, when it is to be had, is given the preference by growers. This is becoming very scarce, however, and eventually commercial fertilizers will come into general use.
Peach trees are transplanted in California when they are one year old from the bud, except in years when stock is scarce and trees sell at high prices, when many growers purchase June buds, which transplant readily, providing care is taken to allow them to mature fully in the nursery before digging.
Nothing will bring a peach tree to a premature end more quickly than not to prune. Trees when transplanted to the orchard should be pruned both root and top. The root-pruning should be the shortening-in of all the roots at least one-third and the removal of all bruised and lacerated roots.
After the trees are set, they should have the top cut off to within 20 inches of the ground, even if the tree be 6 feet or more in height. In most cases, the failure of trees to grow may be attributed to the orchardist's failure to observe this simple rule. It is very necessary to settle the soil around the tree, either by irrigating (running the water in furrows), or by tanking (using not less than fifteen gallons of water to a tree).
The winter following the planting in the orchard, the branches forming the head should be confined to not more than five at the very outside, and four is better. These should be cut back at least two-thirds and all laterals removed.
This pruning will not only cause the trees to grow stocky, but it will probably also serve the purpose of making the framework branches very sturdy. The tree will respond by making an immense growth and in the second winter the shortening-in of this growth will again have to be very severe, and thinning will have to be practised. The point to be considered in this case again is to give the tree not only the goblet form, but to perfect it, for this pruning increases its vigor and makes it capable of producing heavy crops which are well protected from any injury by the sun, due to its wealth of foliage. From the third year, two or three laterals are allowed to grow on each of the frameworks, and their growth is again shortened-in severely. In the fourth year, the pruning need not be so severe, and a reasonable crop of fruit may be expected. Pruning in after years should be followed out regularly each season if good crops are to be secured and the longevity of the tree maintained.
It is a mistake to plant peach trees too close together. In former years it was customary to plant 20 by 20 feet, but now trees are planted 24 by 24 feet, as better results have been secured at this distance.
Thinning must be practised when the crop is heavy, for, if not followed carefully, the fruit will lack size, and no matter for what purpose it is used it will go into an inferior grade and at prices which would be very unsatisfactory to the grower. The peaches should never be closer than 4 inches apart. If the ground underneath the tree has the appearance of being covered with a green carpet from the effect of the thinning, it is evidence that the work has been well done.
When shipped fresh, peaches are wrapped in soft paper and packed in twenty-pound boxes. The number of peaches shipped out of California is about 2,200 carloads annually. For local consumption in the larger cities, the peaches are shipped in open lug boxes, holding about forty pounds.
The free-stone peaches are the only ones dried, as a rule. These are first halved, the pits are removed, and the fruit is placed in trays. The drying takes place in the sun altogether. Before drying, the peaches are exposed to the fumes of sulfur for not less than four hours. This not only kills any insect life but gives the peaches a much more appetizing appearance. The very heavy tonnage of dried peaches, averaging 30,000 tons annually, would be utterly impossible to handle unless the same could be dried by exposure to the sun's rays. It requires from six to seven pounds of fresh peaches to make one pound of the dried product. Many persons object to the fuzzy skins on the dried fruit and in recent years peeled peaches have been in the markets in a limited way. The method of peeling has been to expose the halved peaches to the sulfur fumes for several hours. This loosens the skins and they peel off readily. This handling of the fruit is expensive, however, and with the difficulty of securing labor, it has not been practicable except on a small scale. This method has been very much improved, however, and the peaches after being halved arc now dipped in a hot lye bath for fifty seconds, using about one pound to ten gallons of water. The peaches are then given a bath in cold water, not only to remove every vestige of lye, but to cause the skins to slough off. Peaches treated in this way sell at twice the price of the unpeeled peaches and the entire character of the fruit is changed. Outside of the Ive bath, which is the only additional treatment the fruit receives, the process is the same as is followed when the peaches are not peeled.
The canning of peaches is another important branch of the industry, the output from California being in the neighborhood of 84,000 tons annually. This work is conducted exclusively by commercial concerns having every modern appliance to handle the fruit expeditiously and turn out uniform grades. Outside of the halving of the peaches, which work is done by women, the work is accomplished entirely with machinery. Sanitary cans are used as containers and a limited quantity of the fruit is placed in glass jars. The commercializing of the industry has created a demand for well- defined standards. To illustrate this, the only peaches which are regarded as the leaders by the canning trade are the clings; and in the list of varieties, the Tuskena, Orange, and Phillips, all of which are yellow, are in the heaviest demand. Peaches that have no red at the pit are preferred for canning, as the syrup never becomes discolored. The important place which the canning industry occupies in the peacn business will be sure to bring about improvements in varieties to meet the demand for peaches with smaller pits, finer-grained and more highly flavored flesh. Already several new varieties, mostly chance seedlings, have been introduced and are attracting considerable attention. For shipping, Alexander, Briggs (Red May), Early Hale, Dewey. Imperial, Sneed, Elberta, and Salway are recognized as standards; for drying, Elberta, Foster, Late Crawford, Lovell, Muir, Susquehanna, and Wheatland; for canning, Tuscan, Runyon, and Seller (Orange) Clings, McDevitt and Phillip and Levy (or Henrietta).
Fortunately, the California peach orchards have never been threatened with insect pests or diseases that cannot be controlled. The crown root-borer is troublesome, in some sections, but it has always been under control. The San Jose scale is no longer regarded as a very serious pest, for it is held in check by predaceous insects and by spraying with lime-sulfur washes. Leaf- curl in some years gives considerable trouble, but if the trees are given a thorough spraying with bordeaux, it is easily controlled.
The average life of a peach orchard is twenty years, but there are many profitable orchards much older than this, when they have received good care.
A failure of a peach crop has never been known in California, and although in some years the crop has been curtailed by late spring frosts, growers have never practised smudging to any extent.
George C. Roeding.
Protecting peach trees in cold climates.
Numerous ways of protecting peach trees from the effects of trying winter weather have been devised. Such plans include the placing of a protective covering about the trunk and branches of the tree. Cornstalks, straw, hay, evergreen boughs, and similar materials may be used for this purpose. Some persons have tried the plan of laying the tree on the ground in an effort to make the work of covering easier as well as more effective.
Peach trees may be laid on one side with comparative ease and without much injury, providing the process is begun when the trees are small. The root-system is manipulated at this time in such a way that most of it extends in two opposite directions. This is accomplished by cutting the roots, beginning when the trees are small, preferably the first winter after planting and thus accustoming them to the operation from the beginning. If this plan is followed from the start, a little work with the spade will suffice to lay a tree down. Once on its side, the branches should be gathered together with twine and the covering put in place and weighted down.
An interesting method of laying a tree down without disturbing its roots was devised a number of years ago. This is accomplished by bending the newly planted tree over to the ground, where it is fastened. The side branches are cut off at first as fast as they appear, thus inducing a long straight growth. After the prostrate stem has attained a length of 10 to 12 feet, an upright top is allowed to develop. At the approach of winter, the top of a tree trained in this manner can be pushed over easily, as the long prostrate trunk serves as a lever or pivot. The long exposed trunk will need to be protected at all times from the effects of the sun. This is easiest done by using an inverted trough made of light boards.
The process of laying trees down under irrigated conditions is somewhat simplified, as the ground can be made very soft by the use of water. Here, again, the work should be begun the first winter after planting. The ground about the young tree is first saturated with water from the irrigation ditch. The trees are then pushed over in the direction that offers the least resistance. After the branches have been drawn together with cord, they are covered first with burlap, then with a light coating of earth. As the trees become more mature, a basin about 4 feet in diameter is made in the earth about the trunks before the water is turned in.
The nicest of judgment must be used in removing the covering in the spring, as a little too much warmth or a slight exposure to cold may mean the loss of the year's work. At the first sign of swelling buds in the spring, the earth covering must be lightened during the middle of the day and replaced for the night. As growing weather comes on, still more of the covering is removed and a certain amount put back each night until the tree is raised for the summer. The danger of damage by cold continues until the fruits have attained considerable size, consequently the work of uncovering in the middle of the day and of covering for the night extends through a comparatively long period.
After the danger of damage by frost is passed, the ground is again irrigated and the trees are raised. Trees so handled are unable to support themselves in an upright position, consequently they are supported at an angle by props. It is estimated that the entire labor of laying a tree down, covering and of raising again in the spring, can be done at a cost of 50 cents a tree.
- ↑ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
- ↑ Szalay, L., Papp, J., & Szaóbo, Z. (2000). Evaluation of frost tolerance of peach varieties in artificial freezing tests. In: Geibel, M., Fischer, M., & Fischer, C. (eds.). Eucarpia symposium on Fruit Breeding and Genetics. Acta Horticulturae 538. Abstract.
- ↑ Fort Valley State University College of Agriculture: Peaches
- ↑ Georgia Peach: Georgia Peach Study
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Oregon State University: peaches and nectarines
- ↑ Oxford English Dictionary
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963