Fresh Delicious Peaches
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No doubt those of us who love peaches enjoyed nearby Montgomery County’s North Carolina Peach Festival. Every year on the third Saturday in July we can head over to Candor, NC for peach ice cream, arts and crafts, parades, live music, and fun for the kids. Historically, North Carolina peaches have been produced mostly in the Sandhills region of Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, and Anson counties. Currently, the Sandhills have the largest concentration of peaches, but acreage here has declined significantly during the past 20 years (but is still substantial). Peaches now are planted over much of the state, mostly in small orchards of less than 25 acres, from the coastal plain to the lower mountains, as farmers diversify their farming and marketing.
Fresh, juicy peaches from our home gardens can be a real treat too. But as with all good things, there is work involved. Before planting a peach, or any other fruit tree, understand that growing them requires regular maintenance, including pest and disease management, pruning and fruit thinning. A little knowledge goes a long way in making our efforts meaningful.
Peach fruit can be cling or freestone. In clingstone types, the pit does not easily separate from the flesh when the peach is cut in half (i.e., it “clings”). In freestone types, the pit is easily removed. Freestone types are used for fresh consumption and home canning, with clingstone types mostly used in commercial processing. Peaches are also classified by the color of the flesh: white or yellow. In America, yellow-fleshed peaches are most common while white-fleshed cultivars are favored in Asia. Many white-fleshed cultivars have words such as ‘snow’ or ‘arctic’ in the name indicating flesh color.
In the Sandhills, peaches are grown on sandy to sandy loam soils. In the upper Piedmont, they may be planted in well-drained clays. Preferred planting sites are those that have good airflow, don’t experience frost pockets or other spring frost/ freeze conditions.
Finally, consider ripening time. There are early, mid and late season types, with some of the latest ripening varieties available through late September. Remember that all kinds of critters love juicy peaches too, not just us so pest management is an ongoing challenge.
Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.