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Question from Michael:
My peach trees are about 7 yrs old and I have never trimmed them because I do not know how. I live in Illinois . About 4 yrs ago I had a good yeild of peaches and i canned them. Every year after when I get peaches, they seem to be drying up and just hang on the tree. I was told to cut the branches off, to thin the tree out. Also the trees are ozing sap out trunk and joints. Any suggestions on what I should do to help the trees.

Answer from Pat:
Yes, I sure do have a suggestion. You need to undertake a program of corrective pruning in winter or very early spring after your tree has dropped its leaves and before new buds open, followed by annual fall pruning to keep the tree growing and bearing. You also need to undertake a regular schedule of cleaning up the tree to remove all mummified fruit, debris, twigs, and dead fallen bark, and thoroughly clean up the ground under the tree in winter, followed by spraying with fungicide more than once in winter to control the pests and diseases that can and will beset neglected peach trees. Also cover the ground with fresh mulch under the tree after spraying and pruning. This will do much to control diseases, and fertilize your trees according the the time and directions provided by your local University Extension. Placing a layer of aged manure under the tree after cleaning the ground in fall, and covering the root zone but not touching the trunk, could do much to aid the health and recovery of your tree and would provide both fertilizer and mulch. (Deciduous fruit trees do not have a heavy requirement for fertilizer but they do need some.)

It sounds to me as if your tree is suffering from a disease such as brown rot, which results in mummified and rotting fruit, or it may have other fungus diseases such as bacterial leaf spot, which can also turn fruit brown and shriveled. Also, your failure to prune is why the tree can no longer bear much fruit. Oozing of sap can be caused by diseases such as gumosis, but also from peach-tree borers and other pests. Unfortunately, neglected peach trees always go into severe decline and seldom if ever come to a good end.

Peach trees need more severe winter pruning than any other deciduous fruit trees because the fruit is only born on one-year old shoots. Dormant spray is done to control pests as well as diseases. If you do not prune and if your tree isn’t bearing or only bearing on the tips, this is because you haven’t pruned it enough to stimulate growth of adequate new wood that will bear the following year.

Go to your local book store or look online and purchase a good book on pruning deciduous fruit trees. Make sure it contains diagrams. You will also need to know when to prune in your area. Here in California where I live we have a mild-winter climate so we prune our deciduous fruit trees in January. In summer the only pruning we do is to remove suckers arising from branches or from the ground. In Ohio the right time of year to prune a young peach tree is March. But your tree is a mature tree, and timing for that might be different, so refer to the University Extension In your area and phone the Master Gardeners for advice. I would expect March to be the time to prune, but I am not sure about the correct time to prune in Illinois, so ask the experts at your University of Illinois University Extension. Also send for a copy of Ohio State University Extension Bulletin 528. “Training and Pruning Fruit Trees.” (Mentioned below.) You can also find out if there is a similar publication in Illinois.

For your own safety I recommend you purchase a sturdy three-legged ladder. A three-legged orchard ladder is one of the best purchases a gardener can ever make. I have owned one of these for many years. With good care it can last a lifetime.

Brown rot is a fungus disease that attacks fruits and twigs of stone fruits. Peach leaf curl attacks the leaves of peach trees twisting them out of shape and can kill trees. Another disease is bacterial leaf spot which causes black or brown spots on green leaves and brown sunken areas on fruit. In order to prevent these diseases from ruining your harvest and killing your tree, in addition to pruning you will need to undertake undertake a regular program of annual dormant spray in late fall and winter, which you will need to repeat more than once. (Ask your University Extension when spraying should be done and wear protective clothing.) Spray with a product such as dormant disease lime sulfur spray mixed with horticultural oil against pests. Some organic gardeners claim that beneficial fungi control all negative fungi in their gardens, but obviously this is not the case in your garden. Thus you need to spray with dormant spray. If you are an organic gardener, choose an organic product, such as Bonide Organic Lime Sulfur Spray. Even organic gardeners need to use dormant spray on roses or if they intend to have any luck growing deciduous fruit trees, especially peaches that are more subject to disease problems than any other fruit tree.

For more information: Please refer to the information on peach leaf curl on pages 59 and 62 of my organic book and see the information on pruning of peaches and other deciduous fruit trees discussed on page 51. Page 382 once again covers the subject of peach leaf curl at the right time of year when we need to control it here. This timing of course will not be right for you, but will help others reading this blog.

For how to correct your tree’s shape and size, see UC University Extension Publication 8058: Pruning Overgrown Deciduous Fruit Trees. (This pamphlet is on the internet and includes excellent instructions for correcting an overgrown deciduous fruit tree.) Also see: Ohio State University Extension Bulletin 528. “Training and Pruning Fruit Trees.”
Ohio University Extension Fact Sheet 4321-1086 will also give you much information on growing peaches and nectarines in the home landscape.
University of Illinois Extension has some helpful information also: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/fruit/tree.cfm?section=tree
Also see this valuable information from the University of Illinois (Your state!) http://urbanext.illinois.edu/fruit/peaches.cfm?section=tree

It is not too late to save your peach trees but I hope you realize now you can’t simply plant them and forget them.

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49 Responses to “Peach Tree Problems and Solutions: Pruning, Fertilizer, and Dormant Spray”

  1. Hello, I’m in southern Missouri and my place has some “wild” peach trees that produce small but very tasty fruits. A few years ago I found a peach tree blooming in the ditch by the side of the road where it was certain to be killed by the road grader or mowing equipment, so I transplanted it into my garden where it flourished. It produces beautiful looking fruit (larger than my wild peaches) which unfortunately is nearly tasteless and very hard to the touch. I’ve let it be for a few years to see if the quality of the fruit improved, but it is the third consecutive year of wooden fruit and I’ve decided to cut it down as it’s taking up valuable space in the garden. I’m curious if you have any comments on such a tree that produces good looking but inedible fruit. Am I right to just cut it down? Or is there something I can do to improve the fruit?

    Reply
  2. Diane Miessler August 5, 2013

    GREAT site – Thanks for being here.
    I’m growing peach and almond trees that are scraping by in terms of hours of sunlight – tall trees nearby, but long daylight hours, here (Nevada City, CA) in the summer.
    My fruit trees, however, have been a bit sickly, partly because they were planted in just-graded soil, partly because of sun, I think. I mulch with whatever I can get, and top dress with compost, spray with compost tea and Serenade in my own erratic way.
    Had problems with brown rot, which I’ve improved with pruning off diseased wood, compost tea, some copper sulfate, and pruning for more air and light.
    I had a decent crop this year, but some varieties of peaches are completely dimpled, with hard dots of clear “sap” at the indented parts. Haven’t been able to see larvae or bugs – the dimpled ones just have a lot of hard, brown parts to the fruit. Maybe I need better glasses. . .

    Almonds, too, have the clear sap spots; I haven’t harvested them to see how the nuts are effected. They looked healthy and great until, as I recall, mid-June.

    I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts on this, Pat, and thanks for fighting the Bayer/bee Alzheimers fight.

    Reply
  3. Phillip Martin July 28, 2013

    dear pat
    i recently bough a peach tree in a container from Lowe’s it was about 4 feet tall and even had two small peaches on it it remained in the container for about a month and the peaches grew and ripened and they tasted extremely sweet. i eventually planted them in the ground about a month ago and didn’t have to water because its been raining at least 4 days in the week/ today i bought some citrus fertilizer and when i went to put it i noticed that most of the leaves were eaten away. the tree was planted at the far end of my back yard so i didn’t notice it earlier. i am worried that will lose this tree. i live in north central florida ( zone 8??). Please let me have your valuable advise. thank you
    Phillip Martin
    philliprm46@aol.com

    Reply
  4. Tiffany May 21, 2013

    I have a peach tree that has grown back from a stump. The tree has tiny peaches on it this year, I have never pruned the tree, is there anything I need to do now that there is fruit on the tree. The branches are quite small.

    Reply
    • Thin out the fruit now so it is properly spaced down the branches and can grow larger. Continue to irrigate when necessary. Study the tree to decide which scaffold branches you will keep next winter. In August cut off any water sprouts going straight up from scaffold branches. Mulch in fall, dormant spray against peach leafcurl and other diseases and pests when the tree is dormant. Prune in winter to develop a good shape and create enough new growth to bloom and bear next year. Fertilize appropriately (lightly for fruit trees) in spring when the flower buds are swelling.

      Reply
  5. Paul Pettitt May 1, 2013

    I have a 4 year old elberta dwarf and it is bearing fruit and appears healthy except tiny holes on fruit with clear sap coming out. What can I do to fix this?

    Reply
    • Cut one open and you may be able to find out what insect has bored inside the fruit causing it to ooze. If you find an insect phone your local UC Extension farm advisor for advice what to do. Sometimes just ridding your property of a particular weed can help cut down on a specific insect. Next winter do a good job of dormant spray each winter month. Also scrape away debris from bark and spray it well each month with dormant spray. Peach trees have a lot of pest and disease problems and dormant spray is very important. (Dormant sprays do not harm beneficials.) Peach twig borers, plum circulio, June beetles and stink bugs are among pests that can cause fruit to ooze. My advice is do not spray with chemical pesticides that kill beneficial insects but instead encourage beneficials, such as lacewings by planting pollen bearing flowers. Try hanging up sticky yellow traps to catch stink bugs in early spring. Creating good organic soils also can help trees fight off attacks of pests and diseases. I personally believe spreading dry Wormgold worm castings under trees once annually helps them fight off pests. I know it sounds crazy but it has worked for me and there are scientific reasons why this can actually be the case. Some gardeners even make a spray of dried earthworm castings and spray it on the tree as a way to fight pests and diseases.

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  6. Pat – in response to your may 28 2012 statement –
    Bayer cannot be trusted. I read their entire statements and website about how their systemic insecticide works – it hurts the nervous systems of the insects, but their tests show no harm to people. DON’T TRUST THEM. 5 years from now it will show that is does harm people and then they will ban it in the USA and will sell it overseas where they use it and then export the fruit to the USA. I believe you are correct about the bee colony collapse being attributed to the Bayer insecticide. A bigger concern is some of the really poisonous insecticides used by the big growers – cancer comes from somewhere and I think I know where! This was my big motivation to grow my own fruit – I’ve got 60 trees on my postage stamp size lot in San Diego. Some of the things I learned that might help your readers –
    I had a bad case of peach leaf curl – I used copper sulfate solution 2 times in San Diego – November and late December – 99% gone! A nursery man told me thin fruit to 1 every 6″. I thin to about 1 in 4″, but 6″ is probably better and I remove the ones at the tips of the branches because when putting a net over the tree the birds can reach those – why put energy into fruit the birds will ruin? My biggest problem is the leaf miner on my citrus. If anyone has a solution to that I would love to know it.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for backing me up about the danger of Bayer systemic insecticides and what they might be doing to us as well as to the bees. And I agree about cancer being caused by pesticides. Thanks for thinking I am right about how imidacloprid (Merit) is causing Colony Collapse Disease, and it must be also getting into our food supply. Who knows what it is doing to us? Many people in Europe agree. By the way, the bees in Paris who live in hives on the roof of the Paris Opera, are fine! They do not have CCD. There are no lawns in Paris being treated with imidacloprid so those bees are fine! Regarding leaf miner, try putting Worm Gold dry earthworm castings all over the ground under the tree. It contains chitinase. Eventually the tree will take in more chitinase than it normally would contain. Chitinase attacks chitin, out of which the exoskeletons of insects are made. I did this about a year ago and my lemon tree doesn’t seem to have any leafminers. Luckily leaf miner doesn’t kill the trees. It takes a while for the earthworm castings to take effect.

      Reply
  7. Richard April 29, 2013

    I noticed that several of my baby peaches (about the size of a cherry) have some of the skin stripped off from top to bottom – a section about a quarter of the circumference. Where it was green skin is now brown from under the skin and has some spots where there are globs of hard sap like substance. Is this from an insect or a mold or what? BTW – great forum! It would be nice to insert a picture so you could see it.

    Reply
    • What you are explaining might be cat-facing, caused by the tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris) or by various stink bugs . They overwinter on vetch and weeds and then attack, buds, flowers and immature fruit in earliest spring, sometimes even longer, removing skin and scouring fruit. Cat facing can cause early fruit drop or even earlier these bugs can make flowers fall off. Sticky yellow traps hung up in early spring might control them. Don’t use Malathion since it can kill bees. Without bees, you’d get no crop. Hail can also cause cat-facing and damp conditions can cause brown spots that rot and may cause immature fruit to fall off prematurely.

      Reply
  8. Jonathan March 16, 2013

    I have a peach tree in San Diego that gets worms in the fruit. I read on the label the uses for Bonide Organic Lime Sulfur Spray and did not see worms under the treatments of peaches. My tree has a few blossoms on it now. Not sure what I should do. If I use a dormant spray which one would I use?

    Reply
    • Peach trees are prone to so many pests and diseases that it’s difficult to grow good one’s. Now is March. The tree is blooming. These two facts tell you the tree is no longer dormant. Hence it’s too late to use Bonide or any other dormant spray. Next year prune the tree in winter cutting out all dead, damaged, and diseased wood and properly cutting back healthy wood to encourage plenty of new growth. Then scrape and clean the bark, clean up the ground and follow up by applying dormant spray three times during winter, in November, December and January. It’s too late this year. Dormant spray protects trees from peach leaf curl and some other diseases and several pests. Had you done all this in winter, you might have prevented some of the problems you are having with worms. That said, dormant spray might not have totally prevented or cured your problem with worms in peaches. These are usually caused later on by a flying moth that lays eggs. These moths might have overwintered on your tree or flown in from somewhere else. In this case the culprit is probably Oriental fruit moth (Grapholytha molesta) which has five generations in most parts of California. Pyola (which contains pyrethrins and canola oil) and is available from Gardens Alive or possibly Spinosad might control it if you can spray at the right moments which, to put it mildly, is a challenge. (Spinosad kills or harms bees so don’t use when the tree is blooming.) Additionally, growing a patch of sunflowers can help since these provide an overwintering host for a beneficial parasitic insect that preys on the Oriental fruit moth. You should also use traps to monitor the moths and find out when they fly. Refer to the article on Oriental Fruit Moth in the UC Pest Management Guidelines, which explains controls in detail. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r602300211.html

      Reply
  9. Pat: I Live in So. Cal. my peach tree
    puts new growth on the ends of each
    branch but soon they all dry up and die.
    Can you tell me what the problem might
    be? The tree is healthy otherwise.
    Frank

    Reply
    • New growth dying back at the tips of branches is a symptom of boron deficiency. Boron is a trace mineral. Fertilizing annually with a fertilizer containing trace minerals can cure this problem. Or apply seaweed concentrate, which contains many micronutrients, including boron. Some of our soils in Southern California can be ranked as “poor soils” and if your tree is growing in such soil, for example sand, then you need to apply the nutrients plants need. Another possibility is that this indicates something is killing the roots. Could it be a gopher? If so only one or two branches would die back and usually the whole branch dies or else a few branches in a patch on one side of the tree. Look and see if you have gophers. Another thought comes to mind, are you perhaps making the mistake of watering the trunk instead of the roots? That may sound like a silly question, but many years ago I had a neighbor who used to stand on the side of the road and water his mature trees right next to their trunks. He evidently thought that was where the roots were instead of out from there several feet and under the tips of the branches.

      Reply
  10. I had a mature peach tree that always bore fruit in abundance until Sept. 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area. The tree was damaged extensively and we had to cut the trunk about a foot above ground level. To our delight, it grew back from the trunk but has yet to bud. It looks very healthy, but I’m trying to decide whether I should keep the faith or replace the tree. Should we have seen some type of fruiting by now?

    Reply
    • It usually takes a newly planted peach tree three years to bear fruit, and many deciduous fruit trees can be cut off above the graft and they will re-grow from the stump. In your case, it is only three years since the hurricane, so there is still hope. (Your tree has put a lot of energy into re-growing so it might take another year or two for it to bear flowers and fruit.) However, I am concerned that if your tree was a grafted specimen, which most likely it was, you might have cut it off below the graft. In that case it is no good and you might as well cut it down. If you cut it above the graft, then your tree should bear again. If you are unsure if the tree regrew above or below the graft, look at some other trees in your area and see if you can see where the graft is and how far from the ground. Also talk to a nurseryman or fruit-orchard person in your region. I am worried that about one foot from the ground is right about where the graft is on many fruit trees, at least in the area where I live. If you decide to keep the tree, when you prune it in winter, concentrate on developing a good shape with low scaffold branches, and well-placed laterals. When the tree is a good size, go back to your old way of pruning hard in winter as peach trees need to make much fresh growth each year since they bloom and bear on new wood. Assuming you cut above and not below the graft, I will share with you an odd old-timers trick for getting a recalcitrant flowering tree to begin flowering: In summer, beat it’s trunk hard with a chain. It sounds crazy, but damaging the bark on the trunk of a tree this way will often make it think it is going to die and will force it to bloom the following year.

      Reply
  11. I live in Virginia, and have a two year old Alberta, last year give us lots of fruit, this year was growing beautiful, lot of green leaves and fruit. but lost all of the leaves and the fruit dried up. no leave left,looks dead? will it come back next year?.

    Reply
    • It sounds as if your peach tree died. If it is dead, it will not come back next year. To find out for sure if it is dead or if it is still alive, take a sharp knife and scrape back a small area of bark on a few twigs, a branch or two and also the trunk to see if the wood is still green or if it has gone brown. If there is no green wood and no sap inside then the tree is dead.

      Reply
  12. bonnie July 28, 2012

    Hi Pat,

    I am having a problem with my peach tree. Last year it was great and we got alot of good peaches off of it, but this year something strange has been happening. The peaches have a red stripe down the one side and are oblong and splitting completely I cant figure out why. Can you shed some light on my peach problem?

    Reply
    • Splitting fruit can be caused by a couple of problems. One is variety. Some peach varieties have fewer split fruits and fewer split pits than others. Another cause is sudden variations in soil moisture. If there is a drought followed by a lot of rain or irrigation, the tree can take in a lot of moisture all of a sudden. This moisture may cause a growth spurt inside the fruit. The flesh of the peach may expand suddenly but the skin of fruit cannot keep up with the growth rate of the fruit inside. The result is that the skin may split open from the pressure inside it. Try to preserve even moisture in the ground while the fruit is developing. The red stripe you speak of may be connected to this problem. Some peach varieties, including ‘Gulfcrimson’, for example, naturally bear a red stripe on the fruit. Hot weather can increase the color of the stripe and make it more noticeable. (Some varieties have several stripes on them.) Intensification of the stripe might result from stress to the skin of the fruit as the flesh expands, or from hot dry weather sunburning the fruit. One way to overcome the moisture problem is to water more during hot dry weather. The best way to overcome sunburned fruit is to make sure the tree has plenty of foliage. Sufficient foliage results from three things—growing a variety that is adapted to your climate zone, adequate fertilization that is correctly timed for where you live, and correct pruning. Peach trees need heavier winter pruning than other fruit trees in order to replace enough canopy and bear fruit which in the case of peach trees is born on new wood. Inadequate growth of foliage can occur if gardeners living in a Mediterranean climate send away for a fruit tree variety from a catalogue and thus plant one that is not “low-chill” and thus not adapted to their climate. If a deciduous fruit tree that is designed for a cold-winter climate is planted and grown in a warm-winter climate, it will be unable to bear enough leaves to adequately shade the crop. Oblong fruits also can be caused by growing the wrong variety or by failing to thin fruit properly so they do not grow at the right rate. Misshapen fruit, such as oblong fruit, are usually caused by lack of pollination. Does your tree need or have a pollinator? And were there plenty of bees in spring? Unseasonably cold weather can reduce the activity of domestic bees. In short all of your problems this year might come down to vagaries in weather patterns.

      Reply
  13. We have a 6 year old Elberta Peach tree (along with other fruit trees in the same area). We are in northwest Missouri and we’ve noticed that we have an spot on the tree trunk just below where the branches start coming off the trunk that looks like a scar of some sort. The spot is about 10 inches long and it doesn’t seem to effect the tree’s growth or fruit production. We have been getting a good fruit crop for the last 3 years. My husband says that he has seen this on many peach trees around this area, but neither of us know what it is or if it is harmful and we should do something about it. It doesn’t look like we have a fungus problem nor do we have any problems with pests (other than the local deer who love our fruit). We don’t want to ignore the problem, but we are afraid of making it worse by doing the wrong thing. Do you have any advice for us? Thank you.

    Reply
    • The scar on your peach tree could be caused by a stag, a young male deer, rubbing his antlers on the trees to wear of the fuzz that grows on them. Very often a deer will return to a particular favorite tree for doing this. I don’t know for sure that the scar on your tree is caused by this but it sure sounds like it since you will see a stag stand in front of a tree with head down and rub his antlers up and down. Have a look and see if this seems logical. It’s really funny that you mentioned the deer in the region and that they eat the fruit from your trees. They maybe also use the trees for this purpose as well. There are several other possible explanations: Deer, rabbits, mice, and ground squirrels all gnaw and chew on bark of fruit trees and eat twigs but damage is usually worse in winter. You didn’t mention oozing sap. If sap were oozing this is called gummosis. Many fruit trees ooze sap in this way which can be caused by several factors, including mechanical damage, a natural tendency to ooze sap, environmental stress, diseases, or insect damage. Cytospora canker is another possible problem, but scars are not usually as long as 10 inches. Finally sunscald could be causing long, 10-inch wounds on tree trunks. This is most frequently a problem with young trees, particularly, in winter when the bark is cold and unshaded due to lack of foliage and then the sun comes out and heats the bark. The damaged bark usually splits open, forming long cracks or cankers. These patches appear on the sunny side of the tree. If all the marks you have noticed are on the sunny side of the trees then you know that sunscald is the problem. Water and feed the tree and wrap the trunk and main branches to prevent further damage. Use tree-wrapping paper or else paint the exposed trunks of trees with white interior latex or whitewash. The tree will eventually protect itself by growing thicker bark and more foliage.

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  14. Bhaskar May 20, 2012

    Dear Pat:
    I am trying to save a large peach tree that provides a lovely green shade in my garden in New Mexico. In the 11 years that I have been at this house, it has always provided a rather curious variety of peach that is hard and without any taste. Over the last two years a gum disease has taken over. Initially it was oozing from the top branches and now it has gone to lower branches. In the last two weeks I have seen traces on the trunk close to ground level. In the past, I took suggestions from a friend and made five deep holes at drip level and filled them with compost and natural fertilizer. This along with some watering helped last year but this year the gums have come back with a vengeance. I do not see any insects or borers when I scrape off the gum areas. In the internet I have read about a number of fungicide treatments but do not know which to try. I wonder if you may have any suggestions on how I can save this lovely green tree in my garden. I want to thank you in advance!

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, peaches are prone to a flock of pests and diseases. The best defense is to spray in winter several times with dormant spray and also to prune the tree when it is dormant. In New Mexico the correct time to prune is early spring just before the tree begins to grow again. http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/H-327.pdf. You say you can find no borer holes. Nonetheless one of the causes of oozing gum is often borers. A thick oozing gum often hides the borer holes. To cure borers organically, contact your local County Extension office to find out the emergence date of borers in your community. Then locate the hole and kill the borer inside by inserting a wire or making a vertical cut with a knife. If there are no visible borer holes, however, and if the sap that oozes emits a foul smell then the problem is more likely to be bacterial canker (gummosis.) Moist conditions and frequent rains or many days that are excessively wet or cold can exacerbate the problem. It sounds as if this is more likely to be the problem. The cure for bacterial canker is to prune out the dead or dying branches. Disinfect your pruning tools by dipping in rubbing alcohol or a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water after every cut so you do not spread the problem. (Don’t get bleach on clothes. Wash gloves after finishing the job.) In fall spray with a product containing basic copper sulfate or other dormant spray recommended against bacterial canker disease. Spray once a month as part of your regular dormant spray schedule every winter. In future keep the tree healthy by fertilizing and irrigating properly during dry weather. Water when the soil 6 inches deep is barely moist (use a tensiometer to find out), then apply enough water so it penetrates from three to four feet. In winter, prune and dormant spray according to the timing guidelines offered by your local County Extension. In future, never make holes of any kind, be they deep or shallow under the drip line or anywhere under the canopy of the tree. This was an error. Disturbing the roots may do irreparable harm to a tree. The proper way to mulch with compost under a fruit tree is to lay the compost on top of the ground under the canopy as mulch and the correct way to fertilize is (before mulching) to sprinkle the fertilizer under the canopy all over the ground from a foot or two from the trunk to the tips of the branches and then water the fertilizer into the ground. In future derive advice from experts, not from friends unless they are trained Master Gardeners or known horticultural authorities. By the way, your peach tree is probably not a known variety but was grown from a seed or if the spring flowers are particularly stunning, it may be an ornamental or flowering peach. This is why the peaches are not worth eating.

      Reply
      • Bhaskar May 28, 2012

        Dear Pat:
        Thank you for the detailed reply. The gum does not appear to have a particularly foul smell, and so borers might be the problem. While I do not see holes immediately under the point where the gum oozes out, I have found holes in other locations where the bark has dried and come off. I have contacted the local nurseries and for now I mixed a Bayer borer prevention herbicide around the tree trunk (up to 3-4 feet distance from the trunk) and mulched and watered it. I will also follow up with your advice on contacting the local County extension office regarding borer emergence periods.

        Reply
        • Just so that other gardeners may be warned, I wish to point out that in my opinion, you made a serious error by treating your fruit tree with Bayer Borer Prevention Tree and Shrub Insect Control. This product is designed to control ash borer. It is not designed to control borers on fruit trees which bear edible crops. I never told you to use a pesticide of any kind except for dormant spray, which is safe and time-honored. I told you how to find and kill the borers in a safe, organic way. Unfortunately, you used one of the most evil pesticides on our planet and it’s made by the Bayer Company, a company that refuses to admit the harm they are doing to honeybees. (Pardon my pointing this out but you also used the wrong name of the product. It is not an “herbicide” as you called it. It is an insecticide.) Perhaps your nursery recommended this product but I bet they didn’t tell you it kills bees. If you had read the entire label you would have found that out. Your fruit tree will bloom and attract bees and they will be killed or their larvae will be made sick and they will then get CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder.) Bayer Borer Prevention is a systemic pesticide containing imadacloprid (Merit). Imidacloprid kills honeybees.http://patwelsh.com/wpmu/blog/bees/please-help-save-the-bees-pt-2/ In my opinion and in the opinion of many experts, the widespread use of this insecticide by professional and home gardeners is the main reason domestic honeybees along with bumblebees are being killed off by CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) . I am constantly warning gardeners on this site and in all my writings to avoid use of imidacloprid.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imidacloprid. But sometimes I feel as if I am a Cassandra whom no one will listen to even though I am telling the truth. Since imidacloprid is systemic, this year every time you eat the fruit from your peach tree (if you eat it) you will be ingesting some imidacloprid. This insecticide is not supposed to be very toxic to humans, but guess how it kills insects? It kills them by disrupting their life processes. It confuses them and they cannot remember what they’re supposed to be doing. Thus bees that have collected honey cannot find their way back to their hives. Human beings use a huge amount of Merit or imadacloprid without even knowing they are using it, because it is one ingredient in many popular lawn fertilizers. Imidacloprid kills white grubs. But this widespread use means it’s getting into our food supply—even in many home gardens especially those near lawns. Thus, how do we know that imidacloprid is not the main reason for the hugely increased numbers of human beings with Alzheimer’s? One main symptom of Alzheimer’s is that people become confused and often lost, like bees who can’t find their hives. They can’t remember anything, even the people in their own family When I was a kid, there was no imidacloprid and neither did old people have to be locked in rest homes so they wouldn’t wander off looking for where they live. Without bees, your peach tree in future would get no fruit. Maybe I should say carry on, since too many other people are doing as you are doing. Were it not for the fact that I have friends and family—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren whom I adore, my attitude would be that the sooner the human race kills itself off the better. So far, we are doing a superior job of killing ourselves off by fighting unnecessary wars, filling the ocean with plastics, raising meat animals and birds on feedlots, designing nuclear plants incorrectly, failing to dispose of nuclear waste, and using pesticides. Once we are out of the picture this planet can go back to normal. Human beings were one of nature’s greatest experiments and so far the experiment is failing a lot quicker than did the dinosaurs.

          Reply
          • Dear Pat,

            I wanted to respond to your post regarding the effects of imidacloprid. I absolutely 100% agree that it shouldn’t be used due to its effects on honeybees, I am gardening organically and just returned from Armstrong where they wanted to sell me Bayer’s Fruit and Vegetable imidacloprid solution as organic and not toxic because it is applied to the soil. However, as a biologist, I also have to comment on the effects on humans. There is certainly not much we know how it will truly effects us if we consume this fruit, however, a lot of enzymes or other proteins of cells in insects are so very different from mammalian cells, that disrupting the insect machinery is not comparable at all to what happens in Alzheimers. Just my 2 cents. I would definitely not use that stuff because of the honeybees. Thanks, Yvonne

            Reply
            • Thank you for writing and your point was well-taken. I looked back at what I wrote and you are right I implied, though did not exactly say, that imadacloprid might be responsible for confusing humans as well as insects. Your attitude is more fact based than mine was and I stand corrected. You are correct in stating that something that might produce confusion in insects might not necessarily have the same effect on mammals. However, if we take my comment as a broader, semi-humorous, side remark regarding parallel events in this era, some other insecticide might be affecting human beings to the extent of increasing the percentage of folks who suffer senile dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mainly, though, I think cancer and other diseases, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are among the more common ailments of humans that could be caused by or accelerated by exposure to pesticides and other chemicals in such frequent use today. I do appreciate your keeping me on the straight and narrow, however. I try to be factual in my statements and should control myself when I get carried away with enthusiasm and go over that line into speculation.

              Reply
              • Dear Pat,

                thanks for your response. And yes, there is a good reason to be concerned about pesticides. I am very careful what to use in my garden and am proud that after a few years I have a thriving population of bees, praying mantises and ladybugs in my backyard. Now if I could only convince the monarchs to slow down in reproduction long enough that I can prune my overgrown vegetation! By now I have transferred more than 20 pupae into my little greenhouse.
                I just want to reiterate that I appreciate your blog and your wonderful books.
                Yvonne

                Reply
                • Thank you so very much, Yvonne!

                  Reply
                  • Hi,
                    I live in the north eastern part of Colorado. We have a couple fruit baring trees in our yard. We had to trim some of our peach tree during the summer and now there is the sap coming from everywhere. There still is fruit on the tree. I dont think it is from pests. I really think it’s because we had to trim some of it. Do you think my tree will make it? Is there anything I should do other then fertilize it? Thank you!!

                    Reply
                    • It is natural for many fruit trees to ooze sap. It’s called gumosis and may be increased by the weather— swings in temperature for example, or uneven moisture in the soil. Summer is not the optimum time to prune fruit trees, but I doubt you did anything that could kill the tree. What you may have done is stimulate vegetative growth at the wrong time of year, but it will even out. Summer is the time, however, to cut off any water sprouts (buggy-whiplike growth going straight up from scaffold branches.)

  15. George M May 4, 2012

    Hi,

    We have an Elberta Peach tree here in SC. The tree was doing very well until we were gone for about 2 weeks and it had no water.

    The tree has lost all its leaves but two and has three small peaches on it, there were other smaller peaches but they dried out and fell off.

    The base of the tree is green under the trees bark.

    I might have recently over watered it because I was scared of losing another peach tree.

    Also during this time our newly planted pomergranet tree has lost a lot of leaves but still has some very green ones, yellow, orange but in spots it has lost all of the leaves and has bear brittle branches.

    I was going to put some more fertlizer out for the peach tree and grass clippings for mulch.

    Any ideas or do you need more information.

    Thanks,
    George

    Reply
    • Your new peach tree is not dead. Nursery people tell me that every year people bring back leafless plants that are still alive but were not watered enough, particularly bare root trees and roses. If you let a fruit tree go dry soon after planting and the tree already had leaves all the leaves will fall off. This is how the plant protects itself from dying. Leaves give out moisture, so it wants to put a stop to losing water from its leaves so it can survive if it gets water eventually. You did not tell me if you planted this peach tree from a can or bare root, but regardless, when surrounding earth is dry and you water a new plant in a planting hole, particularly when it was amended with planting mix, the dry soil surrounding the hole will often wick away the moisture in the hole. This is particularly true in sandy soil but any soil can do it. You mention that you think you might now have watered too much. Here is how to water new trees, shrubs, and vines after planting: First: Always check the drainage before planting. http://books.google.com/books?id=xhmUrvunsV0C&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=How+to+check+the+drainage+in+a+planting+hole+Pat+Welsh&source=bl&ots=cNfFa18iVW&sig=QQBgBqr472n3_gp9sZC3vACizk8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jDepT8CMFaehiAL59LHIAg&sqi=2&ved=0CF4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false If the ground does not drain well choose another spot or plant in a raised bed. Then, in dry soil always fill the hole with water at least a couple of times before planting and let it drain out and then after planting in any soil, water as follows: Water thoroughly the day of planting. Water again the day after planting and the next day after that, water again. Water deeply three times the following week. Water twice a week for the week after that. Then water once a week for the first month or two. Once the plant is established, lengthen out the periods between irrigations but when watering water deeply and in sandy or decomposed granite soils always water once a week If you have clay soil and live in Southern California, lack of drainage can be caused by alkalinity, so always put gypsum http://patwelsh.com/wpmu/blog/water-plants/how-gypsum-improves-drainage/in the bottom of the planting hole to loosen the clay and make it drain. (Don’t do this if you live in South Carolina. It does not do the same thing there since clay soils in South Carolina are acid not alkaline.) You mention that you live in SC. I hope that you mean South Carolina since ‘Elberta’ is a great peach there but not in coastal zones of Southern California. Here in mild Mediterranean zones of California we must plant low-chill varieties of peach. ‘Elberta’ needs a cold winter climate in order to go dormant in winter and bear flowers in spring and later to put out sufficient leaves so the fruit will be shaded. It also needs plenty of summer heat in order to have good flavor and sweetness. It is ideal in a place like Ohio. It will bear good crops in most interior zones of South Carolina, but may be a little less reliable in gardens close to the Atlantic Ocean.

      Reply
      • P.S. George: I see I didn’t answer all parts of your question. No don’t fertilize. This might burnroots and further stress the tree that is now going to have to put out another set of leaves. This is what to do: Cut off the remaining fruits left on the tree so they can’t take energy from the tree. Continue to keep the ground moist but not soggy (water on the schedule I have already explained.) Apply a solution of humic acid to stimulate the roots. Don’t use any other root stimulant since they don’t work. Humic acid is available from Peaceful Valley Farm Supplyhttp://www.groworganic.com/fertilizers.htmlin liquid or powdered form. But also John and Bob’s Soil Optimizerhttps://www.johnandbobs.com/contains humic acid and is a very helpful product in cases like this. If you can’t get humic acid use John and Bob’s according to package directions. Once the tree has shown signs of life again and begun putting out new leaves you can fertilize very lightly with a solution of fish emulsion. If you get the kind with seaweed in it, this is good too. Next time you are going on a trip when you have newly planted trees in your garden, pay a neighbor’s kid to water for you while you are away.

        Reply
        • George May 8, 2012

          We are in South Carolina I shouldn’t have put SC, sorry. The tree is not a bare root but from a local person here.

          Reply
  16. Anna Noah March 26, 2012

    Hello Pat — In our backyard,we have two three-year-old peach trees and one nectarine of the same age that all developed peach leaf curl in their second year. We applied dormant spray once in January 2012 (did not have your book at the time, which recommends 3 applications in winter), and the peach leaf curl is back this spring, even with so far healthy looking fruits. From what you say, it sounds like our trees are eventually doomed, and we do not want the healthy peach tree in our front yard to be infected. We are thinking of taking the three backyard trees out now. Can we plant new peach trees in the same location (no other available space in our yard), or would they become infected in the same soil? Thank you for your advice.

    Reply
  17. Richard Burnham September 5, 2011

    I have a dwarf late elberta peach tree in
    my yard that is about 10 ao 12 years old.
    I take care of the tree reasonably well
    as it produces a nice crop of fruit each
    year. The problem is the last few years
    the fruit falls to the ground one to two
    weeks before the fruit is ripe. I live in
    south east Washington state. The summer
    temperatures run 90+ and the tree is watered three time a week with our lawn
    and any fertilizer the tree gets is that
    intended for the lawn. Not all the fruit
    falls, but roughly one-half or more which
    wastes a lot. Any suggestions?
    Rich

    Reply
    • Fruit drop from peach trees is perfectly natural and if more than usual my guess is you just didn’t thin the fruit adequately in spring. That said, lawns are not the best place for growing fruit trees because lawns have shorter root systems and need more frequent water and fertilizer than do fruit trees. Too much fertilizer or at the wrong times can force unnecessary growth on a tree and could possibly influence fruit set or fruit drop. Also lawn grass roots compete for nutrients with tree roots. However, my guess is these conditions are not the problem.

      A second possibility is that unusual weather patterns in recent years—heavy winds, for example, or more likely a sudden cold snap or devastating drought can exacerbate fruit drop of deciduous fruits because the trees fear they can’t ripen them. If a tree feels threatened, its first defense is to drop off anything unnecessary to its survival. Any damage to surface roots, such as unusually dry conditions or digging under the tree, or using an aerating machine on the lawn, for example, could also lead to sudden fruit drop of immature fruit. (Parts of Washington State have suffered from severe drought this year. However, you have kept your tree watered even more often than it needs so it doesn’t sound like a problem.)

      My guess is you are not thinning the fruit enough. Since peach trees regularly set too much fruit, you need to remove 93% of all the fruit your tree sets. This may be painful but is necessary. This is a common problem. Many gardeners just hate thinning out fruit because it seems wasteful but the exact opposite is the truth. If fruit is not adequately thinned out much of it will fall off in June (called “June Drop”.) June Drop happens earlier in the southern states or later farther north and sometimes late varieties drop even more fruit in August. Most peach trees are able to hang onto more fruit than other deciduous fruit trees but growing your tree on a lawn might—to put it anthropomorphically—give the tree a feeling of false confidence until it suddenly realizes “Oops, we’d better let some more go.” Of course it’s disappointing to see good fruit fall and it will be larger than if you had taken them off earlier. Try next year to remove most of the fruit when it’s very small. By doing this you will allow the tree to put all its energy into the fruit you leave on the tree. The result will be a larger and better harvest.

      Here’s what to do: Begin thinning out the fruit on your Dwarf Elberta Peach when the fruit is about the size of an almond. The smaller you get it, the better the fruit will be that remains on the tree. Continue as necessary until the fruit you leave on the tree is evenly arranged down the branches about 4 inches apart. Just remember in spring when the fruit is almond size, to snap or twist off about nine immature fruits for each one you leave on the tree and you should have it about right. Let me know a year from now if it worked.

      Reply
  18. Lori Harding August 17, 2011

    My tree is about six or seven years old.It is very skinny and straight (about seven feet tall)with a very small canopy. The fruit has always been very small and this year they are about the size of a quarter. I don’t know the variety. It was purchased at Big Lots here in Michigan. Is there something I can do to get nice fruit or is this the way it’s going to be?

    Reply
    • Not knowing what kind of peach tree you have makes it a little difficult to determine the problem. However, your tree sounds starved for nutrients and additionally it sound as if you have never pruned it and failed to cut back the central leader at planting time. Michigan has very cold winters and peaches are less adapted to cold than some other stone fruits. Buds of peach trees can be killed by minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the tree when such cold temperatures are expected.

      In Michigan you should not prune until early spring. Purchase a pruning handbook or look online for pruning directions for peach trees. It sounds as if your tree seriously needs pruning. It is probably not too late to correct the problem. Try to choose three main scaffold branches off different sides of the tree and cut out the center of the tree down to these, removing all other unwanted branches. Open up the center of the tree and additionally cut back the scaffold branches by one or two feet, then pinch back the side branches coming from these. You did not tell me how many branches are on the tree but you say it has a very small canopy. This sounds like a lack of pruning, allowing the tree to grow too tall and lack of nutrients. Also your branches may be too high up on the tree. This came from not cutting back the leader at planting time and failing to choose the scaffold branches earlier in the tree’s life.

      This fall after the tree has gone into dormancy and dropped all leaves, rake them all up, clean up the ground and then spread a layer of manure about 4-inches thick all over the roots of the tree beginning 2 feet from the trunk and extending 3 feet beyond the tips of the branches. Allow winter conditions to wash these nutrients into the ground. In earliest spring after pruning you can also lightly fertilize the tree with an organic product recommended for fruit trees. Make sure the tree stays well watered during any drought conditions.

      Pruning and fertilizing your tree as well as building up a rich organic soil with annual applications of manure, should help it on the path to better health and harvests. Next time don’t purchase fruit trees from a big box store. These places often fail to have the best plants. Instead, go to a nursery and get advice. Look in books and find out the best varieties for your area. Ask a good local nursery. They should know. You may be growing an inferior variety or one that was too tall when you bought it and should have been cut back at planting time. (Usually all fruit trees need to have the main leader cut back at planting time.) Also you may have a tree that is not adapted to your climate. Big box stores purchase in massive amounts and sell over a wide region. They have no idea about things like the adaptability of specific plants to specific regions. That is why you don’t want to buy plants from such places. They may look like a bargain but they are not.

      Reply
  19. deborah Holmes February 25, 2011

    I want to know how to prune apple and peach trees in South Carolina. What do I use on my trees to get rid of pests on them. My trees are two years old and I need help. Please send some imformation on this.

    Thank
    Deborah

    Reply
    • Pruning of deciduous fruit trees does not vary greatly in different parts of the country. All deciduous fruits need annual pruning while they are dormant in winter. It would be a very good idea for you to purchase a pruning book which includes diagrams. Better yet, contact your local University Agricultural Extension and ask for a booklet covering pruning of the specific types of deciduous fruit trees that you are growing. However, today many of these services can be accessed online. Therefore, I am sending you herewith, as you have requested, links to sites that give you the pruning information you need, specific to South Carolina.

      Here is an internet link to instructions on pruning peach trees in South Carolina, including diagrams. http://www.ent.uga.edu/peach/peachhbk/preplant/treedensity.pdf
      Here is the Clemson University Extension information for: Pruning Peach and Nectarine Trees: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/tree_fruits_nuts/hgic1355.html
      Here is the Clemson University information sheet on Pruning Apple and Pear Trees: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/tree_fruits_nuts/hgic1351.html

      Here is a list of specific handouts for fruit trees: (All can be ordered from your University Extension at Clemson University. (864/654-8227) or accessed online.
      HGIC 1350 Apple
      HGIC 1351 Pruning & Training Apple & Pear Trees
      HGIC 1352 Asian Pear
      HGIC 1353 Fig
      HGIC 1354 Peaches & Nectarines
      HGIC 1355 Pruning Peaches & Nectarines
      HGIC 1356 Pecan Planting & Fertilization
      HGIC 1357 Persimmon
      HGIC 1358 Plum
      HGIC 1359 Pomegranate
      The Clemson University Information sheets to which I gave you the links above are based on the South Carolina Master Gardener Handbook. This can be purchased from your local University Extension or through Clemson University.
      For fruit trees I strongly recommend that you follow up pruning with dormant spray using a spray such as Bonide Organic Lime Sulfur Spray. After cleaning off the tree and scraping the trunk clean of loose debris, go over the trunk and branches with this spray mixed according to package directions and do the job twice, usually one month apart but if time does not permit this year then let a week or two go by before spraying again. You do not want to spray when blossoms are opening. If it rains right after spraying it’s doubly important to spray again. Dormant spray does more to solve pest and disease problems than anything else other than good organic practices, a layer of mulch over the ground and appropriate feeding and watering.

      Reply
  20. Home Depot is not the best place to purchase deciduous fruit trees, such as peaches. Also, though fall planting is an okay time to plant any landscape item, in general I think it’s best to plant fruit trees bare root in spring. As soon as good, reliable nurseries in your area are carrying bare root deciduous fruit trees, that’s the correct time to plant them and it’s very important to choose a variety that is adapted to the climate zone where you live. The problem with purchasing a deciduous fruit tree in a can from Home Depot is that the plants might have been stressed and held in the can too long. Also, you might not get a variety that is properly adapted to your climate zone. Discount houses, such as Home Depot, purchase plants in large lots and send them to all their stores. Thus, they often carry plants that are not adapted to the location in which the plants are sold. Of course I do not know what variety of peach tree you purchased since you did not mention that and though you mentioned that you live in west Texas, I am not sure what part of west Texas. There are at least six different Sunset climate zones in West Texas http://www.sunset.com/garden/climate-zones/sunset-climate-zones-texas-00400000036339/. Sunset Western Garden Book also includes lists of good varieties of peach and nectarine trees, including information on the characteristics of each variety and which climate zones each variety is adapted to. The fact that the leaves fell off your peach tree is totally natural, however. In fall the leaves fall off all deciduous fruit trees as the trees naturally go into winter dormancy. After winter pruning, which should be minimal for young trees, be sure to spray in winter with dormant spray to kill diseases and pests. If your tree was oozing sap or had a few pests or was otherwise weakened before you planted it, this can attract ants. Ants do not actively harm the tree themselves, but they bring pests such as aphids to weakened plants with oozing sap. The pests feast on oozing sap and then the ants return to milk the pests for their honeydew. So get rid of the ants and clean up the tree with a soapy spray to remove pests. Since the tree is young and recently planted I would wrap its trunk with “Tree-Wrap” paper to keep it from sunburning in winter during the absence of leaves. Or, alternatively you can paint the trunk up to its scaffold branches with white latex paint. You could also put a strip of brown paper around the trunk after wrapping or painting it and then apply Tree Tanglefoot, a very sticky substance that will stop ants at the pass. Wear gloves and don’t get any on yourself or your clothes or you may be very upset with me for telling you to use it.

    Reply