Peach trees are one of the least winter hardy stone fruits. Most varieties will lose buds and new growth in -15 degrees F. (-26 C.). weather and can be killed in -25 degrees F. (-31 C.). They are suitable for United States Department of Agriculture zones 5 to 9, but even surprise snaps happen in the warmer regions. Peach tree cold protection is a manual exercise but also starts with species selection and planting location.
Peach Trees in Winter
Peach tree winter care starts by choosing a variety of peach that is rated hardy enough for your climate. A common mistake is to buy a generic peach only to find out it is only hardy to zone 9 and your zone is a 7. Peach trees in winter are exposed to a lot of stress. Choose a site on your land that is not overly exposed to wind, flooding, or full winter sun (to avoid winter scald). Prepare a peach tree for winter with good nutrition and adequate water. Peach trees are deciduous, going dormant and losing their leaves in fall. One of the most common times for winter injury to occur is in fall when an early cold snap damages a tree that isn't yet dormant. The other period when damage may be expected is spring when the tree is waking up and new sprouts are killed by a late frost. Preemptive peach tree cold protection, or what is called passive protection, will ensure the trees are defended early and well into spring.
How to Prepare a Peach Tree for Winter
Location of planting helps provide a microclimate for the tree that is less damaging. Every property has changes in topography and exposure. Plants on the east or north side can avoid sunscald. Painting the trunks of exposed young plants with a 50 percent dilution of latex paint is also a useful shield from winter sun damage. Avoid fertilizing your peach tree late in the season, which can delay dormancy. Prune in the spring and mulch around the root zone of the plant by October but remove it from around the trunk in April. Situating the tree on a slope helps avoid flooding and pooling which may freeze and harm the root system of the plant.
Peach Tree Winter Care
Protecting peach trees over winter with a canopy works best on smaller trees. The practice involves using polypropylene covers for brief periods. Erecting a framework over the small tree and tying over the cover can provide short-term protection. Even the use of burlap or blankets will help protect tender new growth and buds from an overnight freeze. Remove the covering during the day so the plant can receive sun and air. Professional growers in orchard situations sprinkle trees with water when temperatures get below 45 degrees F. (7 C.). They also use anti-transpirants and growth regulators to slow down bud break and enhance dormancy and the cold hardiness of buds. This is not practical for the home grower, but the old blanket trick should work fine for protecting peach trees over winter if you apply it before a heavy freeze.
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Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.
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