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Growing Peaches in Ohio

Teri Silver is a journalist, commercial copywriter, editor, broadcast anchor, and Public Relations Specialist.

These Elberta peaches are growing in  Delaware County (Ohio)

These Elberta peaches are growing in Delaware County (Ohio)

Juicy, tart, sweet, and tangy peaches grow on trees in Ohio orchards and fruit groves—but you can also cultivate them in your own backyard.

Peach trees (Prunus persica) thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 9; Ohio is in zones 5 and 6. Weather conditions, soil acidity, climate, and pollinators will determine the best tree varieties to plant. Depending on cultivar and yield, well-maintained peach trees produce fruits in the summer.

Freestone peaches

Freestone peaches

About Peaches

Peaches are categorized in two ways: clingstone and freestone.

Whether they have white or yellow flesh, freestone peaches (and nectarines) separate easily from the pit.

Clingstone is the opposite; the peach flesh is snug against the stone. With hundreds of varieties from which to choose, you can plant trees with fruits best suitable for eating fresh, freezing (freestone), or canning (clingstone).

Peach Tree Requirements for Ohio Landscapes

With the exception of a few varieties, most peach tree cultivars in Ohio do not require cross-pollination; they are self-fruiting.

Trees need well-draining, sandy loam soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.0—test the dirt in your landscape for acidity. (In Ohio, 6.5 is an ideal target).

Testing kits are available at garden stores and nurseries; however, your local cooperative service can recommend the proper amounts of lime and fertilizer for amending the soil.

Planting a young peach tree

Planting a young peach tree

Preparation

Plant the tree in full sunlight. Dig a hole about 12 inches into the ground. You can purchase one-year-old trees at most garden stores—choose one that is about 3 or 4 feet high with a solid root system and a trunk diameter of a half-inch or more.

Adding natural fertilizers such as manure, compost, and grass clippings allows tree roots to soak in organic nutrients. For chemical mixtures, fertilize the soil with a half-pound of 10-10-10 solution spread evenly about a foot away from the tree trunk.

Fertilizing Schedule

  • Add chemical or organic fertilizer about 7 to 10 days after planting. Repeat with the same amount 40 days later. Spread the fertilizer 8 to 12 inches away from the base of the tree.
  • In the second and third years, give the tree ¾ pound of a 10-10-10 in March and May.
  • In the following years, 1 to 2 pounds (10-10-10) in March.
Not "perfect" but still tangy and juicy

Not "perfect" but still tangy and juicy

Bugs and Disease

Insects that affect peach (and nectarine) trees in Ohio include:

  • Oriental fruit moths
  • Stink bugs
  • Tarnished plant bugs
  • Japanese and green June beetles
  • Plum curculio
  • Peach tree borers
  • European red mite

Diseases that affect peach trees are: brown rot, scab, bacterial spot, powdery mildew, and peach leaf curl.

Japanese beetles munch on growing peaches

Japanese beetles munch on growing peaches

Size, Thinning, and Yields

Depending on the cultivar, well-trimmed peach trees grow to about 15 feet tall. Unpruned trees may hit 25 feet (or more). Dwarf trees can reach 6 feet high.

Thinning out drupes and blooms will let the remaining fruits grow to their normal size and shape—space them about 6 to 8 inches apart. The number of fruits per season depends on the cultivar; some trees yield around 200 peaches.

Too many drupes not only weigh heavy on the tree and may damage limbs, but they lead to poorly shaped, diseased, and off-colored peaches.

Too many fruits will weigh down branches and cause other peaches to grow small, become diseased, and misshapen.

Too many fruits will weigh down branches and cause other peaches to grow small, become diseased, and misshapen.

Pruning

Pruning excessive foliage from peach trees allows them to drink in the sunlight, develop a strong trunk and branch system, and produce healthy fruits.

When planting young peach trees in Ohio gardens and landscapes, prune them to about 30 inches high and cut off growing shoots from side branches—this helps the trees develop their upward shape. Always remove diseased or damaged limbs.

In the first year, take out inside shoots. In the second and third years, remove broken limbs and upright shoots.

The “Big Chill”

Deciduous peach trees become dormant after dropping leaves in the fall. Winter “chilling temperatures” are necessary for trees to grow the following season—buds may not open unless chilling hours are between 200 to 1000 (in temperatures of 32 to 50 degrees F).

In Ohio, for example, an Elberta tree needs a chilling period of 850 hours at 45 degrees F.

In the spring, if trees do not bloom or are not producing shoots and leaves, chances are that the winter chilling requirement was not met.

Suggested Peach Trees for Ohio Landscapes

This guide may not be applicable to all Ohio environments; consult your local garden store for specific recommendations.

Fruit & TypeRipening TimesSize & Color

Belle of Georgia; freestone

Late Season

Large/White

Canadian Harmony; freestone

Mid Season

Large/Yellow

Cresthaven; freestone

Mid Season

Large/Yellow

Elberta; freestone

Mid Season

Large/Yellow

Fantasia; freestone

Late Season

Large/Yellow

Garnet Beauty; semi-freestone

Very Early

Large-Medium/Yellow

Glohaven; freestone

Mid Season

Large/Yellow

Harbinger; freestone

Very Early

Medium/Yellow

Harcrest; freestone

Mid Season

Medium/Yellow

Hardired; freestone

Mid Season

Medium/Yellow

Harken; freestone

Early Season

Medium/Yellow

Independence; clingstone

Early Season

Large/Yellow

Madison; freestone

Late Season

Medium/Yellow

Mericrest; freestone

Mid Season

Medium/Yellow

Redhaven; freestone

Very Early

Medium/Yellow

Redskin; freestone

Late Season

Large/Yellow

Red Gold; freestone

Late Season

Large/Yellow

Reliance; freestone

Early Season

Medium/Yellow

Summer Beauty; freestone

Early Season

Large/Yellow

Sunhaven; freestone

Very Early

Large/Yellow

White Hale; freestone

Late Season

Large/White

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there a way to organically keep Japanese beetles and stink bugs off of a dwarf peach tree?

Answer: As for organic mixtures, you can try mixing a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with one cup of vegetable oil and a quart of water. Then add about a cup of rubbing alcohol and shake it up. Pour it into a spray bottle and use it every ten days or so. I cannot promise this will work – homemade remedies are hit or miss, depending on the environment and temperature -- but try spraying it in the cooler temperatures of the morning, and never when the thermometer is above 90 degrees F. Rinse leaves with cool, clean water if they look wilted. I've seen (and use) a number of chemical products on the market -- I don't make recommendations here -- you'll want to review those and read directions carefully. We also have problems with beetles and stink bugs (whoever can make an effective product to get rid of stink bugs could make a fortune!).

Soapy water helps with Japanese beetle infestations and you can try nets and traps, but they won’t protect vegetation from being damaged. Personally speaking, I don’t think they are very effective.

© 2018 Teri Silver