This article was originally posted April 28, 2014 by Patrick Mann to the Brandon Triangle Orchard blog. Brandon Triangle Orchard is one of the sites lovingly cared for by Urban Orchard Stewards.
I love peaches, and so do most people I know, so a peach tree was high on my list of fruit tree selections.
But how many peach trees do you see around Seattle? Not many, and for good reasons. So is the idea of Seattle-grown peaches sheer folly? Let’s consider all the reasons not to try growing peaches in Seattle:
Peach trees have a productive life of only about 20 years. Not much, compared to the over 100 years you can get from an apple tree. On the plus side, they grow fast and are precocious, bearing fruit earlier than many other fruit trees.
Seattle doesn’t get very cold, but since “chill hours” only require temperatures under 45°F, we actually get a surprisingly high average of 3000 chill hours. That’s more than enough for peaches.
This is a serious issue. Peach trees flower early, when the weather is often too cold and wet to allow for successful insect-pollination. Fortunately, since peach trees usually require heavy thinning of fruit set, a sub-par fruit set may not actually be such a bad thing.
Peach trees are disease-prone. In particular, they are susceptible to peach leaf curl, a fungal disease promoted by cool wet winter weather, i.e. Seattle conditions.
Assuming you don’t want to spray chemicals, you do still have a few options:
- Plant a leaf curl resistant variety, such as Oregon Curl Free, Avalon Pride, or Indian Free Peach
- Protect your tree from winter rains by planting it against a house wall, under the roof overhang
- Spray natural anti-fungals in early Spring, such as Trichoderma mix or Effective Microbes
Is it worth it?
That’s really up to you. I definitely think so. You won’t have a great harvest – or any – every year. But when the right conditions come together and you pick that perfectly tree-ripened fruit off your own peach tree, I think you will agree with me that it is worth trying.