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conflicting microclimate advice for peach trees in northern zones

 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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Hoping someone can help me choose between these 2 permie strategies for growing peaches in marginal zones (4a here):

1. Warm micro-climate: train peach trees as fan espaliers about 8" in front of a light-colored south-facing stucco wall. Obvious benefits throughout majority of growing season (assuming the blossoms survive the early spring thaw/frost spasms).

2. Cool spring micro-climate: put peaches where lower late winter/early spring sun is somewhat blocked to prevent early budding out (like right now in the Twin Cities, MN, we have unseasonably warm weather but could easily have a hard frost any night through mid-to-late April). I had heard of this before in gaia's garden and various blogs but it seemed to not make sense until I reconsidered this spring. Now I'm wondering if my warm micro-climate will make things worse by encouraging the peaches to break bud way too early. The warm micro-climate is only useful if the flowers survive the early spring so now this strategy seems a little more important.

We have 4 cold-hardy peach varieties arriving mid-April so I need to decide which strategy seems better since I don't have a spot with a warm micro-climate for the growing season but a cool shady micro-climate in late winter/early spring.

One possibility not mentioned anywhere that I have seen would be planting in the warm micro-climate by the house wall, but then constructing some kind of artificial shade barrier to discourage early budding out (not sure what would keep the peach trees/wall cooler but maybe opaque fabric or a tarp hung from some hooks on the overhang of the house. Not sure if shade alone would prevent budding or if it would cause other problems (less air flow, damp, etc.).

Either way, they are going on small raised berm with some grading/fishscale swales to hopefully drain frost pockets away from them. I also wonder if the tarp idea would provide another layer of barrier against cold air/winds getting stopped up against the wall and collecting around the bottom of the peach trees. If the tarp ran down onto the ground I think the cold would mostly settle on the outside rather than sneaking into the insulated peach tree zone underneath.

Ideas?
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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we plant your route #2. Cool spring micro-climate. we have one peach in a warm climate and it always blooms way way too early. the cool planted or northern slope planted ones do fine.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i would suggest the cool spring plan, as right now we have had nearly 2 weeks of much above normal temps with upper 80's and lower 90's and all of our fruit trees are in bud..2 months early..and we are likely to lose our entire crop .

you don't want to encourage them to bud out too early and lose all your fruit.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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also make sure they get as much mid day and afternoon sun as possible.
 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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thanks, I will try to provide a cool spring micro-climate to delay the buds. It may take some trial and error but at least I have 4 trees so I can test up to 4 different shading/cooling methods each spring.

I thought I might be able to combine another project (potted fruit and nut trees that overwinter indoors) with the lack of convenient early spring shade. The potted trees will need a gentle reintroduction to the outdoors each spring so I may try to drape them and use them as another layer of extra insulation to keep southern sun off the peach trees.

I only wish we had room for some potted fastigiate evergreens to move in place as a screen as needed. I know of some juniper and arborvitaes that would work well but have no room to move them to once it is time for the peaches to be in maximum sun.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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today, Michigan, buds OUT, not quite open flowers, 15 degrees this morning..not good
 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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A suggestion: Look into the Flamin' Fury line of trees. They are bred to be cold hardy and resilient. We bought one last year, and this year its acting like last summer's 90+ degree weather, and this winter with temps down to -13F never happened. This is a peach, but they have other trees available. We got ours through Starks, but they may be available direct or through other sources.
 
Brenda Groth
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Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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we continue to have frosts ..3 this week..so we have basically lost our entire fruit crop as they began blooming 2 months early this year..but I did notice that anything that was even partially shaded is doing much better than those that get the morning sun..so IF I was starting over I would put all my fruit trees in the morning shade and may attempt to find a way to shade them from the morning sun now
 
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