Luscious peaches begin with planting

By Lee Reich The Associated Press
Friday April 05, 2002

A truly ripe peach is one that makes you jut your head forward with each bite to keep yourself from being showered with juice. You rarely can buy such a fruit, but you can grow it. Get it off to a good start with correct planting. 

Peach trees usually are sold bare-root; that is, they are dug when dormant, and shipped wit hout soil. Unwrap the roots, then soak them in water for a few hours. 

Your tree needs pruning before planting. Trim back frayed or excessively long roots. If your tree is branched, select three or four robust branches to become permanent limbs — the lowest 2 feet from the ground and successive ones a few inches apart and arranged in a spiral up the trunk. Cut away all other branches and the trunk just above the top branch.  

Shorten saved branches to a few inches in length. If your tree is not branched, cut the trunk back to 3 feet and select permanent branches as the tree grows. 

If a soil test indicates a need for lime or phosphorus, mix these materials into the ground where you’ll dig the planting hole. Farther out, sprinkle these materials on top of the soil to work their way downward by the time roots spread. 

Dig a cone-shaped planting hole two times the spread of the roots and just deep enough to get the roots in the ground. Rough up the soil at the sides of the hole to help roots penetrate the surrounding soil. 

Put enough soil back in the hole to create a mound on which to set the spread-out roots. While holding the trunk, push soil back into the hole, working it in among the roots with your fingers.  

Once the tree is self-supporting, shovel in additional soil, tamping it gently with your fingers or a stick as you work. 

After you have filled the hole, create a catch basin for water by building up a low dike of soil around the base of your tree 2 feet out from the trunk. Spread compost, then straw, wood chips or leaves as mulch over the ground. Slowly pour enough water into the catch basin to thoroughly drench the soil and settle the tree in place. 

Don’t turn your back on your tree and forget about it. Keep weeds at bay and water regularly the first season, and you should taste your first peaches within a couple of years.