John has observed the Arizona heat and soil since he was five. His trees yield oranges, apricots, peaches, figs, grapes, and pomegranates.
Growing Peaches in Arizona Is a Kick
One of my joyful experiences for the summer of 2010 was watching my peaches mature. From a small green bud, they get larger every day, eventually blooming into brilliant yellow peaches ready to pick in August.
Peaches are my favorite fruit and can be used in so many ways. There's fresh peach cobbler, baked peaches, peach slices in heavy syrup, Elmira sour cream peach pie, Baltimore peach cake, peach muffins, peach frozen yogurt, peach ice cream, and hundreds more. My first harvest gave me the feeling of success!
What I intend to share is my seven years of experience raising a peach tree, and what I have learned about peaches from a number of sources.
The peach tree originated in China, then was carried around the world. You can raise one from a pit (sometimes called a stone), but most of us are too anxious to get a crop of fruit and buy them at stores.
How, When, and Where to Plant a Peach Tree
- Peach trees should be planted in spring.
- The flowers and buds should be protected from early and late frost.
- Peaches love the sun—they should not be shaded. Find a spot in the sun for it—peach trees need full sun.
- When possible, plant the tree at elevation so cool air will run beneath them.
- Digging a good hole is paramount. The fruit tree needs to have a good broad root system to take up nutrients and anchor itself well. I like to dig the hole three feet in diameter and three feet deep. I know, I know, that doesn't sound like fun. But it is the most important step to a healthy plant. Take several days to dig it, what's the rush? You'll be happy in the long run that you took the time to make it a good home. A peach tree is a favorite garden plant.
- If you live in the southwest, you will probably need a hex shaft digging bar to loosen up your soil and move rock. A five-footer should do. It is good to make the soil mixture that will go back in the hole as clean as you can, so I use 1/4" screen to get rid of all the rocks.
- In the bottom of the hole, I throw in a couple of shovelfuls of manure. Fruit trees like an acid soil. I then add sifted natural soil and store-bought topsoil and compost in equal parts (I like Nature's Way found at Walmart. It's inexpensive and very good)
- Keep your tree hydrated. The plastic cans the trees are usually in don't hold the moisture in all that well. Don't forget to water it while you plan your orchard.
Transplanting a Peach Tree
- When the hole is ready to receive the tree (don't expose the tender roots to the air any longer than necessary), cut your plastic can with knife, scissors, or clippers down opposite sides and fold the plastic down. I grab the bottom of the trunk and the bottom of the root ball and move the tree to the hole.
- The top of the plant dirt should be level with the top of the hole. Fill in the sides with your soil mix. Gently tamp the soil down and add more top soil, then add compost. Turn the water on slowly and fully water the soil. If the soil subsides, add more topsoil and compost.
- I like to build a berm border around my fruit trees about six feet in diameter. This way water can be concentrated at the tree. Don't let the tree stand in water. Peach trees do not need persistent dampness. I live in Arizona and deep watered my peach tree twice a week. Constant saturation encourages fungal infections.
- A stake will keep your young tree from breaking in the wind. I have taken to using metal stakes with green rubber coating that are sold at plant stores. I use one stake as big as the trunk or larger—usually the largest size offered in a standard variety.
Fertilizing a Peach Tree
The next step in the process is to find some fruit tree food. I use Expert Gardener Fruit & Citrus Tree Fertilizer Stakes. As advertised, it "feeds the roots all season long." These stakes are slow-release, and I recommend them over granules you scratch in the soil.
You use three stakes for every two inches in diameter of the tree trunk measured at chest height. Of course, when first starting out, your tree will be lucky to have a two-inch trunk. So plan on using two stakes spaced evenly.
Drive the stakes in two inches below the soil's surface.
Expert Gardener advises feeding in spring, mid-summer, and fall. There are many fruit tree nutrient stakes, but in general, the composition of the stake is the same.
Peach Tree Diseases
I have read that peach trees are easily susceptible to plant disease, as well as damage caused by insects. Spraying trees regularly is required lest most trees die. This is noted in all the articles on peaches that I read. This was my first fruiting, and I did not spray out of ignorance. Next early spring, I plan to use a dormant oil fruit tree spray which is supposed to kill a number of insects.
One has to be on the lookout for plant disease also. The most common plant disease in peach trees is brown rot. With this disease, the flowers first get a fungus and die. Then, 1" - 3" wounds open up on the wood. Spores from this and dead material migrate to the fruit which then rots. My tree was not affected by this, but I am going to be vigilant.
To stop brown rot, remove diseased fruit (with brown spot enlarging to a bruise) when it occurs. Remove any dried dead fruit and deadwood in fall. Then spray in the summer before the fruit ripens (when the yellow starts to appear). Use fungicide with thiophanate methyl, captan, or azoxystrobin. Very thorough spraying is required. Make sure the fungicide is for peaches.
I did have trouble with birds, and purchased a black netting for fruit trees at Walmart. It eliminated the problem completely, as the birds didn't seem to like lighting on the net
I left all the fruit on my tree, as is recommended in the beginning. See what size your fruit is, and then thin accordingly in later crops. The idea is that thinning allows the other peaches to grow bigger. My peaches were the size of schoolboy apples. I may not thin next year either. Pruning should take place in dense, bushy areas. Smaller new growth can be taken out so the larger more mature limbs have room; pruning peach trees is important. I would say there should be at least 3-4 inches between branches. Leave new growth to have this spacing uniform around the tree. More air and sunlight get to the tree after such pruning with a resultant healthy tree.
As I look out my window, the leaves are still on the peach tree on October 9, 2010. The peach tree leaves are a beautiful shade of green. But soon there will be winter's chill, the leaves will fall, and the tree will go dormant. It might seem that this is a sad thing, but I look forward to seeing those green buds in spring! In the meantime, we'll be defrosting our frozen peaches. We waited until the peaches were ripe and had limited time to consume them so we froze peaches for compote and for lathering on ice cream.
Get a peach tree, they're fun!
Frozen Peaches and That Ain't All
My Peach Trees
To start with, my peach tree was probably about 2 years old when I got it at Walmart. If you are looking for fruit trees for sale, check Walmart and Home Depot garden centers in the spring. That is generally the age they have attained when we go to the nursery and buy them. After two more years of tending it, the tree popped out with small green buds about the size of a dime. I probably had 35-40 peaches.
By 2017, I found that my tree averages 40 peaches per year. Sometimes around 30, other times as high as 50. I fertilize in the early spring every year, as my readings on the subject stress it. Jobe's Fertilizer Spikes seem to do the trick nicely. Since I love my harvest, I have had no incentive to not fertilize to see what happens. If you are so inclined, go ahead and see, but if the possible disappointment at a crummy harvest would send you into a deep depression, don't do it!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Should I cover my small peach tree for the hot summer in Phoenix?
Answer: My peaches have tolerated full sun well. I don't think they need to be covered.They will let you know if they are thirsty. The leaves will droop quickly. In summer, I water my trees once a week. Run the hose slowly (little stream) over an hour's time. Soil should be wet down 4 to 6 inches.
Question: I have an unpruned peach tree that is too heavy with a large branch touching the ground from the weight of its fruit. Do you recommend pruning now that we are entering our summer heat? Or should I wait?
Answer: I wouldn't prune the tree in summer. I support such heavy limbs with wooden supports - 2x4's work well. Put a groove in one end and push it under the branch. Secure the other end at the base of the tree - lifting the branch and then nudging the 2x4 in the ground works well. I try to position the supports leaning in the opposite direction of prevailing winds. It is not a good idea to prune in the summer in Arizona - and spring is a bit too hot for that also. Wait until winter.
Question: My fig tree has small white insects on its leaves. How do I get rid of them?
Answer: It might be mosaic virus, though that is a light yellow, almost white. The scale would be white. For a great discussion of fig tree ailments, see https://homeguides.sfgate.com/fig-tree-white-spots...
Question: I bought and planted my dwarf peach this spring, had a dozen or so fruits tiny and sweet. My little tree looks exhausted and I’m losing a branch. We are fighting gophers but have a cage around the roots. We are at 4600 feet north of Prescott. What can I do to help my new baby?
Answer: Of course, you have done the right thing with the cage. But you want to know how to give the little baby the best chance to thrive now that the gophers have done their dirty deed. In the video I provide a link to, I would use the meals they talk about. Bone meal, fishmeal, fish emulsion, kelp meal, seaweed meal are all recommended. I have used Jobe's fruit sticks for three years and with the exception of one year? I have had good crops. If you transplanted the peach, reducing water loss is important. I have heard that liquid vitamin B-1 is good for preventing transplant shock but I have never used it. You can find it at the nursery or garden center in bottles.
Since the lady in the video is speaking about dealing with the dwarf in the desert, and you live at a bit of a higher altitude, I am not sure you need to dig down as much? I don't have a gopher problem in Superior so I need to look on the web for advice. Best of luck, and congratulations on the fruit you have gathered. My full-sized peach tree has given me a good harvest this year of about 59 peaches and I am enjoying one as I type.
© 2010 John R Wilsdon
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on October 13, 2018:
Insect infestation in figs is rare. The most common problem with small almost white spots is mosaic virus. If you have black mission figs, this increases the probability. Sulfur spray before the tree blossoms or oil spray (Bonide) can help. Once it is evident on the tree, it is hard to get rid of. For resistant varieties of figs and managing pests read https://www.garden.eco/fig-tree-care. Thanks for the question, and good luck. Figs grow well in Arizona and are wonderful in the summer!
Reem on October 13, 2018:
Hi I have fig tree and I see a small white insects on the leaves. How can I get rid of them?
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on September 15, 2018:
U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone range depends on species, but common fruiting varieties for the home garden such as the dwarf “Reliance” are hardy to USDA zones 5 through 8. Peaches require temperate climates, where they will get sufficient “chilling hours”. Temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and no temperature extremes in either direction are best. My peaches did not get the required chill in Arizona this year and I have none this summer.
jawadsyllab005.gamil.com on September 14, 2018:
Who can establish peach garden ?
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on April 10, 2012:
Thanks for the info. I stand by my comment. Closer? A bit farther away can't hurt. Thanks again.
Superman on April 09, 2012:
Most fruit trees are 15-20 ft apart
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on January 10, 2012:
I love it too! I would give your trees AT LEAST 18 feet.
You have made good choices on trees. Good luck.
lovefruit on January 08, 2012:
We live at phoenix area. We want to plan two peach trees(florida prince and desert gold) and one plumb tree(santa rosa) in our back yard. How much space do I need give them between trees?
thank you for your advise.
f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on October 31, 2010:
My dad loved his fruit trees. Pruning them so we had a few different kinds on one tree used to make him very happy!