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Growing Peach Trees from Seed Naturally

 
Posts: 15
Location: ws southern OR elev.1380 feet Zone 8a heavy clay soil
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[One lower branch was nearly horizontal, so the side shoots are grow up into the center of the tree.

I guess I need to remove them eventually. Should I do it now before they get too big or can I wait till winter when the tree is dormant]

Hey May, sorry I just saw your question about pruning but you probably still have a month or so. I prune fruit trees for a large orchard here in southern OR, usually pears but sometimes peaches and I have a little experience with older apple trees I prune for friends.

Peaches should be pruned in late winter/early spring. You should see the buds starting to grow or swell. It is your decision what you want the tree to look like and how you want it to grow; you can find inspiration in older trees. It can be short and wide, tall and skinny, or even flat against a wall. like Steve said you can bend the branches, if you tie them for several months they should stay. I've read that some bend them into ornamental shapes, this art is called Espalier in French. All that being said you will probably want to remove branches that are too close to the ground, and now is the time to decide if you want the tree to have one or several leaders/trunks. An open tree form with several leaders is most common, it is all I've seen in orchards and almost all on you tube. To do that you must cleanly remove the central leader/cut the trunk right above where you want the new trunks to divide. Leave several branches (people usually do four) that will be your new leaders/trunks and remove the rest. Like I mentioned, this is on youtube if you want a visual. A tree like this will need some pruning (and fruit thinning when older) every year but it should give abundant and easy to reach fruit when mature.

When the tree is a little older the buds show where fruit will be and should be thinned. You can thin the fruit anytime from when the buds show pink to just before harvest but is more effective earlier. be careful as it is easy to thin too much. Only about half of the flower buds survive to set fruit. Best would be to thin a little when you have buds and a little more when the fruit sets; leave a few inches between fruit so they don't rub.

That last bit was a little off topic for these very young trees and I know these seed grown trees could act different from the cloned grafts I normally work with. I grew a peach from seed when I was a kid, it didn't get pruned till it was more than 5 years old and it had a rough time when they did prune it. I went back to see it last year and still growing strong at 18 years old.

Alma
 
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Thanks Alma, this is the first tree I ever grow from seed and it surely shapes quite differently from store bought one. It has a strong central leader and dozens of side branches spiraling around. I will just experiment with minimal pruning with this one, only removing branches that cross. Next two weeks it will be very cold so I plan on doing that when it warms up a bit.
I am really excited to see something like flower buds on a few branches. In a few months I will find out if I get peaches!
 
Alma Naylor
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That's awesome, I cant wait to have land to plant my own trees on and try different ways of growing them. I just watered the one I grew as a kid and let it grow how it wanted.

I hope you post some updates later so we can see how the tree is doing.
 
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I planted several plum pits this Automn, but nothing is showing yet. It has rained enough, and there's some grass in the spots, also sun and nice temperatures.
I wonder if the varieties they sold in the fruit shop are not fertile.
 
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When I plant my seeds in the summer or autumn they sprout the next spring.
 
Abraham Palma
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Steve Thorn wrote:When I plant my seeds in the summer or autumn they sprout the next spring.



Thanks. I won't lose hope, then.
I really want some plums in the garden, since it's a very resilient fruit tree in this climate. Not just one, but five or six, so there can be pollination.
 
Steve Thorn
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Sounds awesome!
 
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I've had a thought about cold stratification and I wondered if anyone else had experience.

So..my understanding of cold stratification (putting the pit into the fridge for a length of time) is to replicate winter: the seed is cold for a certain length of time, then it warms up and thinks it's spring and so germinates. If it doesn't experience cold it doesn't germinate as winter hasn't passed and if it germinates before winter then it will die. So it doesn't germinate until it's been cold.

Now fast forward to mature trees...in order for most fruit trees to produce flowers and therefore be able to produce fruits they require a certain number of chill hours: hours spent below, I think 7C. I believe it's for much the same reason. No point in producing flowers if 2 days later it goes down to -2C and your flower buds die. So wait until winter is passed before flowering.  Some fruit require 10s of hours (e.g. strawberries), others 100s of hours (most fruit trees). The longest for a particular variety of peach I think is 1,000 hours. I think sour cherries may be even longer.

Bear with me...so...it seems that a lot of research has been done about chill hours for flowering, probably because it determines the growing areas where trees can and cannot be brought to fruits successfully, and trees can be artificially kept cold for a set number of hours in order then to trigger flowering out of season. My point being, the research is got it down to a fine art of counting individual hours, not weeks, yet alone months.  Yet cold stratification for seeds is always quoted in weeks if not months. So...my thought was....if the mature tree of a particular variety can be fooled into thinking that winter has passed by chilling it for, say 500 hours, then surely when it was a seed it could also be fooled into thinking that winter had passed by chilling it for 500 hours.  If the mature tree requires 1,000 hours then the seed too would require 1,000 hours to believe winter had passed.

And here's what you were waiting for....1,000 hours is 42 days. (41.6 recurring to be precise!). So...why is the recommendation for stratifying say a peach pit "put it in the fridge for 3 months"?  Put it outside for 3 months where for some of the time it will be below 7C but at other times above 7C I can understand as it's difficult to know exactly how many chill/stratification hours it's had.  But in a fridge you know that every hour it's in there it is under 7C.  So presumably the peach that requires 1,000 chill hours to flower, its pit only actually requires 42 days in the fridge. Not 3 months.  If the peach variety only requires 500 chill hours to flower, then the pit only needs to be in the fridge 21 days.

Last summer I sowed strawberry seeds. The recommendation everywhere was that they needed to be cold stratified in the fridge for at least a month. It being Covid year I got the seeds very late and didn't have a month to wait before sowing them or the season would be over!  There was a guy on YouTube (I don't always believe everything I watch on YouTube honest!) who said he'd done experiments and he found that he got exactly the same germination rate with strawberry seeds when he stratified them for only a week in the fridge. Less time than that and they didn't germinate. I took a leap of faith, stuck the seeds in the fridge for a week, sowed them, and I now have 100 strawberry plants out of 100 seeds (am sure there were sightly more seeds but my point is the germination rate was in the high 90s)!  Turns out, 7 days is 168 hours which is roughly the number of chill hours required for strawberries to believe it's spring and so flower.

Hence my speculation about chill hours being the same as stratification hours when you know the seed has been below 7C the whole time. Does anyone have experience/know of research on this?

EDIT:
This speculation is purely because I'm concerned that if I stratify my latest nectarine pits for the full length of recommended time in the fridge, they will end up being sown very late in the season. But if they only require 42 days in the fridge, they can be sown in mid March.
 
Abraham Palma
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You are assuming that whatever sensors a tree has for measuring temperature, and whatever logic is ingrained in their DNA for measuring the hours are the same in their seeds, which might not be the case.
 
Alcina Pinata
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Abraham Palma wrote:You are assuming that whatever sensors a tree has for measuring temperature, and whatever logic is ingrained in their DNA for measuring the hours are the same in their seeds, which might not be the case.


In a word, yes. I just wondered if anyone had experience or knowledge of this area.

Of course the correct answer to my question is undoubtedly "suck it and see!" After all that is what part of growing from seed is all about!
 
May Lotito
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David the good shared his story of peach trees grown from seeds in less two years:

http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/more-success-seedling-peach-trees-are/
http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/update-on-growing-peaches-from-seed/
 
Steve Thorn
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That's a really neat observation Alcina!
 
Alcina Pinata
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Steve Thorn wrote:That's a really neat observation Alcina!


Why thank you. In the sprit of experimentation I'm going to give them 42 days and sow them with the other nectarine seeds in mid March.

To experiment further: I haven't de-shelled mine, they're in the fridge in damp paper towel in a little plastic box, mostly because I wasn't confident about destroying the seeds if I took hammer to them!  The ones overwintering outside are also in their shells.  But again in the spirit of experimentation, as I have 4 each of the fridge seeds, I will de-shell 2 of each and put them in a baggie with damp potting compost to compare germination rates, albeit with a VERY small sample!



So the Sunbursts will have had a more "appropriate" length of time in the fridge by the time I sow them. The Honey Blazes will have had about 42 days by the time I sow them.  None of the ones I de-shelled appeared to have germinated in the fridge, though the seeds were quite plump in the ones that have been in longer.  But boy do nectarine seeds have thick shells!
 
Posts: 9
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Here is my peach tree that showed up in the compost pile. I got many good peaches until it died in 2019. We got two wet winters after that here in So. Cal. The almond trees and the plum and apricot that I bought at nurseries are still doing fine. I tried scions around the hugelkultur. Some of them lived for about 6 months and leafed out nicely in the spring. Then, the squirrels got them. I remember when a squirrel ran across the yard, up the peach tree, grabbed one, ran over and climbed on top of the hot tub. He spun the fruit rapidly and looked at me as he ate the fruit down to the pit. Then, he's like, "you can have the pit" and ran off. Now, I have an effective anti-squirrel deterrent. It's a cylinder made of hardware cloth with wonky bits bent all around at the top which is about 3' off the ground. I finally got lots of plums, apricots and almonds. The property is at 3400 ft. elevation, a sweet spot in the high desert with artesian spring and oak trees. September 2019 - I went to OUR Ecovillage, driving from near the Mexican border to Vancouver Island. I had a grocery bag of my plums with me that needed to be eaten. The customs agent at the Canadian border asked if I had any stone fruit. I said, "No, I ate the last four today".
IMG_0559.JPG
volunteer peach tree
volunteer peach tree
 
Steve Thorn
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My 18 month old peach tree last October with the its first fruit buds forming!
20201003_172921.jpg
My 18 month old peach seedling
My 18 month old peach seedling
20201003_173021.jpg
Peach fruit buds!
Peach fruit buds!
 
Steve Thorn
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Here's an update on my younger peach seedlings. These photos were from last October, near the end of the growing season. The trees are about 7 months old.

Like the seedling in the first picture, the majority of these seedlings seem to be very well adapted and very healthy, vigorous growers. These peach seedlings had already made it through the first test, as they were planted very densely with other peach seedlings, and these were the ones that survived and grew fast enough to out compete their neighbors.

The second picture is of one of the seedlings that is struggling. This is the only one that I noticed that seems to be having more major issues, other weaker seedlings were probably already selected against. Most of the others look very similar to the first picture. It is possible that this weak seedling could be a result of transplant shock, or due to non fertile soil that it was transplanted into. However, I think it's also very possible that it just happened to be a dud genetically for this area. It may have been a vigorous enough grower to keep up with the other seedlings initially, but the disease and pest issues may be catching up to it.

The parents of these seedlings are growing pretty well in my area, so I was glad to see that the majority of the seedlings seem to be inheriting the genes to grow well here also, and hopefully a couple will even greatly surpass their parents. It also seems reasonable that an unlucky few will get the unfortunate bad set of genetics and struggle here as a result.

I may give the struggling seedling another year, just to ensure it wasn't something I did, like transplant shock or unfertile soil. Even if it is a dud, I will turn it into rootstock and graft better adapted varieties onto it that will thrive here.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these seedlings do this coming year with more room for them to grow and hopefully put on a lot of good growth!
20201003_175644.jpg
Thriving peach seedling
Thriving peach seedling
20201003_175145.jpg
Struggling peach seedling
Struggling peach seedling
 
May Lotito
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I also observed a huge difference in tree seedlings growing in various spots. Four pear seedlings ranges from 1 ft to 4.5 ft in height. Of the two mulberry cuttings taken from the same tree, one is 3 times bigger than the other. In general, more fertile the soil the plant grows better.
Compared to my one vigorous peach tree in the middle of veggie garden, I also found two mysterious volunteers by the pond dug out of old burn pile. For a long time I thought they were smartweeds since they were so tiny, only 1 ft tall and 1/4" thick. But the leaves did look like peach and they are obviously herbacoeus. I guess high pH and low OM in the soil do them no good. Any way, I piled up some cedar wood chip and compost to amend the soil. See if I am able to identify them when they grow up a bit this year.
 
Steve Thorn
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This little frog was hanging out on this small peach seedling near the end of last year.
Little-frog-on-a-little-peach-seedling.jpg
Little frog on a little peach seedling
Little frog on a little peach seedling
 
May Lotito
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How's everybody's peach trees doing? My tree is full of leaf buds now. The triple buds I saw earlier are all leaf buds too. Oh well, one more year to find out what kind of peach tree I have.
P1120487-(2).JPG
Tree budding in march
Tree budding in march
 
Steve Thorn
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I bet yours will flower next year May!

I spotted the first flower buds starting to swell about two weeks ago! This will be its first year flowering and its third growing season. I'm hoping it'll hold a few peaches, but I'm expecting that most or all of them may drop off this first year. The tree seems to be very healthy and a pretty good size, so maybe it'll hold on to a few!
20210307_150440.jpg
Lots of flower buds on the 2 year old peach tree in its 3rd growing season
Lots of flower buds on the 2 year old peach tree in its 3rd growing season
20210307_150446.jpg
Peach flower bud closeup
Peach flower bud closeup
20210306_172645.jpg
In the middle is a vegetative bud that will grow leaves and branches, with a fewer bud on each side
In the middle is a vegetative bud that will grow leaves and branches, with a flower bud on each side
 
Steve Thorn
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The first peach flowers started opening about a week ago! Most of them havent quite opened yet.
20210315_081104.jpg
First peach blossoms opening!
First peach blossoms opening, and on the seedling peach to boot!
20210315_081310.jpg
Peach flower bids
Peach flower buds
20210315_081359.jpg
More peach buds
More peach buds
 
Steve Thorn
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There are a lot more open flowers today!

This seedling tree seems to bloom over a really long time. It was the first one of all of my peaches to start blooming, and it has a lot of flowers that still haven't started opening. I think that this could be a really valuable trait. By having a long bloom time, it could help reduce frost damage where if some early blooms are damaged it has later blooms that wouldn't be, it provides a longer time frame for pollinators to be active, and also it is available to pollinate and be pollinated by other varieties, increasing genetic diversity in the offspring.
20210321_171128.jpg
My favorite peach bloom today
My favorite peach bloom today
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Peach blooms against the sky
Peach blooms against the sky
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More peach blooms
More peach blooms
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Petals starting to fall off
Petals starting to fall off
20210321_171109.jpg
Petals gone and hopefully a peach starting to form
Petals gone and hopefully a peach starting to form
20210321_171117.jpg
This looks really cool even without petals
This looks really cool even without petals
20210321_171150.jpg
Peach flowers in different stages of opening on the peach seedling
Peach flowers in different stages of opening on the peach seedling
20210321_171222.jpg
This is what the tree looks like right now
This is what the seedling peach tree looks like right now
 
Steve Thorn
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Compared to the peach seedling above, this named variety peach is about to bloom for the first time too, however all of the blooms look like they are in almost the exact same stage.

I'm guessing that this is selected for by commercial growers mainly so that the crop all ripens near the same time, however for the home grower, and even commercially for a smaller and sustainable scale, I think that having the peaches ripen over a longer time frame provides both more resiliency and value than having a huge amount of the fruit ripen at almost the exact same time.
20210321_171523.jpg
A rare triple flower at the top, and all the flowers seem to be in the same stage
A rare triple flower at the top, and all the flowers seem to be in the same stage on this named variety
20210321_171553.jpg
Named peach variety with blooms in almost the same stage
Named peach variety with blooms in almost the same stage
 
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I just stuck a couple of pits in the fridge the other week. We get enough cold for them to stratify outside and I want to make sure they get going this year. Hopefully one of them turns into something worth eating.
 
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Me too!  I am CRAZY about nectarines.    In the fall, I saved a couple of pits from some we bought at the grocery store, cracked them open, and put the seeds into a baggie with damp coco coir, then stuck it in the butter compartment of my fridge and forgot about it.  Lo and behold, both of them sprouted and developed nice root systems.  I left them in the fridge through the winter until I was ready to finally plant them today (March 27th).  It's one of our last chilly days here in the high desert and within a week or so I expect that the sun will be roasting on some days.   I covered the sprouted seeds entirely but shallowly because I honestly wasn't sure which way the trunk was going to come from... I'm assuming the split seed becomes the first leaves?  I figured whatever needed to would push through the last bit of soil.  Anyway, planted them where I want them to grow and mulched them, and I'm hoping to have two little nectarine seedlings soon.

I'm not certain how they'll do here in our crazy climate.  We're Mediterranean but on the cold side @ 6000 ft.  Our summer suns are incredibly harsh at this elevation, so I planted the seeds on the northeast-ish side of our house where they will get some shade, especially from the killer western sun.  I think the shaded location (more so with one than the other) might also help to keep the tree dormant a bit longer in the spring (we have confusing spring weather and many problems with late frosts after early warm weather).  I've heard that planting in a shaded location can help with chill hours as well, though I don't think that will be an issue here.

I have high hopes that they'll taste better than their parent nectarines because they will be grown with love in a healthy permaculture garden as opposed to monoculture, etc.  If not, I suppose I can graft some better-tasting options onto them!
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