Peaches are perhaps the epitome of the summer fruit season when they are at their sweetest and most juiciest. But the ones from the grocery store are often hard and barely sweet – a far cry from their backyard grown cousins.
So what stops us from growing peaches in a Zone 4, 5 or 6 climate? Late frosts and very cold winter temperatures. Late frosts can damage the delicate peach blossoms and very cold winter temperatures can kill dormant buds and even trees. In colder climates the trees can have short lives – as little as 7 years.
No matter where you live you can pick between two types of peaches – freestone are juicier and perfect for eating right off the tree. Clingstone tend to be used more for baking or canning as they are firmer. Chose depending on how you plan to use your fruit. Peaches generally do not store well although some are better at holding on the tree than others.
There are fewer varieties to chose from for our climate. Reliance is a well liked variety that was developed by a UNH professor. You could plant a Reliance for mid-August fruit and an Alberta, Harken or Contender for a mid to late September harvest.
From the very knowledgeable fruit farmer Giff Burnap at Butternut Farms comes the recommendation of Harrow Diamond followed by Coralstar and Messina. Harrow Diamond ripens early – around August 1st – in New Hampshire. You would probably have to request these varieties be ordered by your nursery or purchase through mail order.
Research your variety before making a choice and consider planting two different varieties if you have the room and love peaches.
Resources: Growing Peaches in Maine and from UNH Growing Peaches and Nectarines in the Home Garden