Once a peach tree reaches maturity, it follows a predictable pattern year over year. This pattern is particular important to peach farmers as it determines their schedule throughout the year and allows for an organized and foreseeable set of events. The yearly pattern of a peach tree is easy to recognize as each stage is marked by a visible change on the tree that are used as benchmarks for pruning, fungicide applications, and picking. In order to give a better understanding of this yearly growth here are the eight stages that occur in the life of a peach tree over a twelve month period.
1. Dormancy: Each year, every peach tree starts out in dormancy. During this stage, there are no visible signs of growth. Inside the tree, however, chemical reactions are occurring that will set the stage for more visible changes when the weather becomes appropriate. Typically, farmers will administer a spray during this time formulated to prevent leaf curling.
2. Bud Swell: As the weather slowly begins to change, the flower buds will swell as a result of the flower structures forming within despite the fact that no green tissue will be visible.
3. Green Tissue Emerges: With the ongoing flower structure formation within the bud, the green tissue within slowly begins to emerge. At this point, about a half an inch of green leaf tissue will extend from the bud.
4. Pink Appears: With the weather gradually turning warmer, the buds will slowly begin to open and the pink flower will be visible within. At this point, farmers will administer fungicide to prevent brown rot.
5. Bloom: Without a doubt, the most beautiful time of peach season. When the tree blooms, the bare limbs are filled with vibrant pink flowers designed to attract insects for pollination. Once the flower is pollinated, the peach fruit begins to form.
6. Petal Fall: As the peach fruit begins to grow, the tree slowly loses its pink petals. When over half of the petals are gone from the tree, growers will usually apply another application of fungicide to prevent brown rot at this crucial stage.
7. Fruit Formation: Typically, the peach fruit begins to form about ten days after the tree blooms. As the fruit grows, the protective covering over it will fall off. Exposed to the elements, peaches are particular susceptible to the plum curculio beetle and will most likely be sprayed by an insecticide for protection.
8. Harvest: When the fruit changes color from yellow or green to red, the time has come to pick them. Due to the uneven nature of fruit growth, multiple pickings are usually necessary as the peaches on a tree tend to ripen at various times.
Fortunately, peach trees follow a fairly linear pattern each year that allows for growers to effectively manage the growing season and make sure that every tree is progressing as it should. With Mother Nature, however, no season is ever entirely without its surprises and growers must be prepared to adapt to an earlier or later harvest season depending on weather patterns. Hopefully, this outline of a peach tree’s yearly cycle allows for a more in depth understanding of how the delicious fruit makes it way from the orchard to your table. Certainly seeing all of the hard work our employees put in to making each crop a success, gives each person at Pearson Farm a new appreciation for the fruit so many of us have come to love.