The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
SR. H. SHARPE/ROGER PARKER
University of Florida
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ........... ..- ..-...--
ORCHARD LAYOUT .................--
NURSERY STOCK ..-................................
SETTING TREES ....- .............................
FERTILIZATION ..........--. ...--.. ......
IRRIGATION ...... ........ --- .. .....
PRUNING ................. .. .. .... ..
T HINNING ............ ...... ..........
HARVESTING AND MARKETING ...................
V ARIETIES .......................................................
CHILLING REQUIREMENTS OF VARIETIES .
PEACH PESTS AND CONTROL ..........................
SUBSTITUTE MATERIALS ................-
INSECTS ................ ..... ..........
D ISEASES ............... ..........-- ..--
LITERATURE FOR FURTHER STUDY ...........
.-..- ....-....... ... 3
...---...-- .....- 4
.-.-.-- -------...- ... .......- 4
...-...- ..- ..-.- ........... 5
.-.-.. ..- ..- ..- .... ....... 6
..-..- .-- ............ 7
*- -- --- -.......--- 9
.....--......... ........... 10
..-....--- .............. 10
...-.- .-.--- ....-..- ....... 12
............. ............... 16
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director
Growing Peaches in Florida
R. H. Sharpe, Horticulturist, Florida Agricultural Experiment
Station; Roger A. Parker, Assistant Marion County Agent
It is estimated that from 3,500 to 4,000 acres of peach trees
have been planted during the past three years in Florida. About
1,000 acres of the Flordawon variety alone were planted in the
winter of 1962-63. Nurseries in the State probably will have suf-
ficient stock for planting an additional 3,000 to 4,000 acres in
the 1963-64 season.
It is hoped that this circular, the first on Florida peaches
since 1939, will be of some assistance to new and prospective
Proper site selection and choice of variety rank as two of the
most important factors in successful peach growing. Good air
and water drainage are essential for production and growth of
trees. In selecting a site, low areas (pockets) and sections
characterized by late spring frosts should be avoided. The effect
of cold on cropping has been studied in Alachua County for the
past five seasons. Three out of five crops on a cold site were lost;
but, on a warm site a few miles away, there was only one partial
crop loss due to spring frost.
Even in central Florida, critical temperatures for fruit kill
can occur throughout February and March in cold locations; thus,
late blooming-due to delayed dormancy break-is not as good
insurance as choice of good sites. Peach flower buds that have
just begun to swell will stand temperatures as low as 200 F.
Open blossoms show injury at about 260 F. Following petal fall
the young fruit are generally killed by minimums of 280 F.
Peaches can be grown on a wide variety of soils, provided
there is good internal drainage in the upper four to six feet.
"Hardpan" soils should be avoided unless an excellent system
of subsoil drainage tiles is provided. Well drained soils, such
as Lakeland, have proved to be well adapted to peach production
Normal spacing in the orchard is 20 by 20 feet (108 trees per
acre). All common varieties are self-fruitful so trees of each
variety should be planted in solid blocks for easier spraying and
Fig. 1-Flordawon variety trees in their fourth growing season
Trees 21/2 to 4 feet high are a good size to set. Smaller sizes
are acceptable but are likely to have rather limited root systems
and may start poorly in light soils. Larger sizes are more dif-
ficult to handle and more expensive though they grow off very
well in sandy soils.
Rootstocks for peaches in central Florida should be resistant
to both root-knot nematode species, Meloidogyne incognita and
M. javanica. Okinawa and Nemaguard peach stocks have satis-
factory resistance and are the only stocks recommended for cen-
tral Florida. Other stocks sometimes used, such as S-37 and
Rancho Resistant, are susceptible to M. javanica; Elberta, Ten-
nessee "Naturals", Lovell and other commonly used seedlings
are susceptible to both types.
On the loamy soils around Quincy, there is less need for
nematode-resistant stocks, provided pre-planting fumigation is
practiced. It has been observed that Maygold variety overgrows
S-37 and this combination is unsatisfactory. No overgrowth
problems have been noted with either Okinawa or Nemaguard
stocks in small plot trials during the past five years at Quincy.
Propagation of peaches is generally by T-budding in June.
Seeds should be planted in late January or early February. Re-
move Okinawa seeds from the pits in autumn and stratify at 35
to 45 F. for 40 days before planting. Similar handling of Nema-
guard has given good results. If the seeds are not removed
from the pits, the pits must be stratified and kept on cold stor-
age for at least 100 days; however, even this treatment has not
always been satisfactory. If plantings are allowed to become
dry before sprouting occurs, seeds may again become dormant.
Nursery site approval is required by the State Bureau of Plant
Industry for burrowing nematode control. For this and other
reasons, nursery propagation should be left to the specialist.
Set trees in the orchard in December or as soon thereafter
as possible so that new root growth can develop before time for
leaf growth. Avoid planting much deeper than the trees were
grown in the nursery. Peach trees need not be watered at plant-
ing if soil is moist and packed well around the roots. Trees that
are planted early in the winter and kept free of weed competition
will require a minimum of watering the first season. Usually
only one or two basin type irrigations in April and May will be
required, except in unusually dry years or on the coarser sands.
Clean-cultivate an area three to four feet out from newly-
set trees the first season. Plant middle strips with oats or rye,
or leave uncultivated until mid-April for protection from blow-
ing sand. Cover can be left in the middles throughout the first
summer if desired. In November, disc under all cover in the
Cultivate bearing orchards thoroughly by early January, then
leave as firm and clean as possible during and after bloom in
order to reduce frost hazard. Resume cultivation after danger
of frost is past and keep orchard clean-cultivated until just be-
fore fruit harvest. After harvest, native cover crops or hairy
indigo may be grown. Avoid plant covers which tend to build
up stink bug populations (see insect notes).
Prior to setting trees, apply liming materials as needed to
bring soil to the pH 6.0 to 6.5 range. Use of some dolomitic
lime is recommended, especially if the magnesium level in the
soil is low.
Because of soil type variations, there is a distinct difference
in the fertilizer requirements of peaches growing on the loamy
soils predominately west of the Suwannee river, and those grow-
ing on the sandy soils of peninsular Florida. Suggested mixed
fertilizers for the western area would include 6-6-6 and 8-8-8
or similar materials. Fertilizers for the peninsular area should
approximate a 12-4-8 formulation. All fertilizers should contain
one or two percent zinc oxide (Zno) equivalent when used on
young trees. On older trees, zinc may be applied as part of the
regular spray program by including two pounds of neutral zinc
per 100 gallons of water in one or two cover sprays each year,
or it may continue to be supplied in the regular fertilizer pro-
Because quickly available nitrogen applied sufficiently ahead
of bloom to be taken up by the tree is believed to improve set of
fruit, and because delayed availability of nitrogen may delay
fruit maturity and reduce color, it is recommended that only
mineral sources of nitrogen be used in peach fertilizers.
With the exception of zinc, the requirements for other minor
elements on peaches in Florida have not been determined. It is
known that peaches are very sensitive to copper, hence copper
must not be used in peach sprays and it is recommended that
fertilizers containing copper be avoided.
Apply fertilizer in the first (or planting) year in a circular
area 6 to 24 inches from the trunk as follows:
1/8 pound per tree in February
14 pound in late May
1/2 pound in July.
In the second year, apply fertilizer to cover the area one
foot from the trunk to one foot beyond the branch spread. Ap-
ply 1 to 11/2 pounds per tree in January and the same quantity
in late May. In the third year, start broadcast applications of
mixed fertilizer to supply 30 to 40 pounds nitrogen per acre
in January and again, in late May or after crop is harvested.
At the beginning of the fourth year, peach orchards in Flor-
ida are usually mature. Differences in variety and grove prac-
tices may dictate some changes in fertilization practices. Until
such specialized practices are worked out, it is suggested that
the recommended fertilizers be continued and applied in order
to supply 40 to 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre at least three
weeks ahead of bloom, with a second application of the same
quantity in late May or after the crop is harvested in the case
of later ripening varieties.
Experimental data has not been obtained under Florida condi-
tions, but irrigation of bearing trees has materially improved
fruit development in studies in other eastern states. The varie-
ties of commercial interest in Florida ripen in late April and
May when rainfall is usually light. Trees probably need at least
four inches of water per month, either from soil storage, rain-
fall, or from irrigation for maximum fruit growth. Applications
should be made before moisture stress becomes excessive.
Heavy applications just before maturity or during fruit harvest
are likely to reduce fruit quality and should be avoided.
Pruning is necessary to form a well shaped, strong tree, and
to control the growth of fruit-bearing wood. Peach trees are
pruned to form an open center. In one method of pruning or
training, trees should be cut back at planting time to a single
stem 24 inches in height. If laterals have formed on the nursery
tree, cut lower ones off flush with the stem, but allow one to two
inch stubs to remain on the upper ones. This is necessary to
insure leaving buds for new shoot development. After the tree
sprouts well in the spring, select three evenly spaced, vigorous,
wide-angled shoots to be the major scaffolding (see Figs. 2 and
3). Remove or cut back other shoots and remove all low-grow-
ing suckers, including those from the rootstock.
In the first winter, cut back the main scaffold branches ap-
proximately one-third to a lateral branch growing on the outside
of the main branches. Develop three primary branches and
prune for evenly spaced secondary branches. Watersprouts and
limbs that are too low to the ground should be removed. Trees
should be kept growing low; this enables more of the fruit to be
harvested from the ground in later years. Continue this train-
ing procedure for the second and third winters.
During March or April each season, rub off sucker growth
from main branches within two feet of the head or center of
After the third winter, pruning consists of removing over-
crowded branches, removing watersprouts, heading back terminal
growth to prevent the tree from growing to excess heights, and
keeping the center of the tree open to allow sunlight to reach
all parts of the tree. Fruiting laterals need to be thinned and
renewed, depending on vigor and variety habits, in order to
reduce excess fruit set.
Figs. 2 and 3-Select three vigorous wide-angled shoots for the
framework branches and cut back other shoots.
Peach trees often set more fruit than can be matured to good
size, even though attempts are made to avoid excess cropping
by careful pruning. The fruit should be thinned before pit
hardening to leave one fruit approximately every four to six
inches along the branches, depending on the variety and market
For maximum effect in improving size and early ripening,
thin as early as possible. At present, no information is available
on the use of chemical sprays for thinning in Florida.
Thinning reduces total poundage, hence profit depends on
the price as related to size. If the market would take small
peaches at the same price as larger fruit, heavy thinning would
be unprofitable. Determine the extent of thinning by market
demands and response of the variety to thinning.
Harvesting and Marketing
Peaches are harvested when nearly mature, but still firm
enough to ship well. Change in ground color is used to judge
picking stage. Peaches that are to be marketed locally can be
picked more mature than those to be shipped long distances. A
rapid increase in quality and size occurs during ripening and
very careful judgment is necessary to obtain maximum maturity
yet avoid losses due to overmaturity.
Pick and handle very carefully to prevent bruising. Peaches
do not mature uniformly on the tree, and, therefore, it is neces-
sary to pick over the orchard several times in order to obtain
those peaches that have reached just the right stage for market-
The varieties now available for central Florida have less
surface color and are less firm-fleshed than varieties like May-
gold and others grown further north. In order to obtain suffi-
cient color and size of fruit from the central Florida varieties,
there may be a tendency to let them become too ripe for con-
ventional methods of peach handling and marketing. Special
packaging methods may be essential, especially when the acre-
age and volume require out-of-state shipment.
It is not yet possible to forecast the marketing problems of
the Florida peach industry, but some precautions may be sug-
gested. Additional new varieties will be needed to give a ripen-
ing succession from mid-April through May, and the future of the
industry will be primarily dependent on such development. For-
tunately, the supply and variety of fresh fruits is limited in April
and May and market competition does not become heavy until
June, when volume production of southern peaches and other
fruits start moving to market.
Present production of peaches for fresh use in the eastern
United States averages over 5,000,000 bushels per month during
the summer season. Such a rate of consumption would require
perhaps 60,000 acres of bearing and non-bearing peaches in Flor-
ida for late April and May marketing, if figures of average pro-
duction of other southern states are used. Also using an esti-
mated 10-year life for peach trees in the southern states, it would
require 6,000 acres of new planting annually. A single variety
or varieties ripening together probably should not constitute
more than 15 to 20 percent of the total acreage, assuming a
harvest period of seven to 10 days for a variety. Up to 500 acres
of a variety in Florida can probably be marketed close to home,
but with new plantings of 1,000 or more acres per year-mostly
of two or three varieties-wider market distribution will be
New varieties of some commercial merit are the basis for
the recent surge in peach plantings. Interest started in the
Quincy area with the introduction of the variety Maygold in
1953. More recently, varieties with sufficiently low chilling re-
quirement for central Florida have been developed. Informa-
tion on some of the available varieties is still rather limited and
is summarized in Table 2 as a brief guide only. There is an
obvious need for further developments by breeding to fill gaps
in the marketing season and in area adaptation. None of the
presently available varieties for central Florida can be termed
of top commerical quality as they lack either desired color, size,
Chilling Requirement of Varieties
Depending upon the variety, varying amounts of chilling
(below 450 F) are necessary to provide good dormancy break
and heavy fruit set. Chilling should be accumulated by the end
of January in central Florida and by February 10 in north Flor-
ida, with flowering and leafing 20 to 30 days later in a normal
The average number of chilling hours each year for a given
location should be considered. A variety with a chilling require-
ment no higher than this average should be selected, and it is
preferable that the chilling requirement should be slightly below
this average to accommodate the mildest winters.
Lack of chilling results in light to no cropping, irregular fruit
development, and late and sometimes inadequate leafing, follow-
ed-in severe cases-by sunscald and damage to the main frame-
Although choice of varieties requiring more chilling than the
average for an area may result in later bloom and reduced spring
frost hazard, fruit set is unsatisfactory in seasons with inade-
quate winter chilling.
Chilling requirements for various varieties will be found
in Table 2, page 12. Extreme southern Florida areas usually
receive less than 100 hours chilling. The average number of
chilling hours for several central and north Florida areas (based
on figures for 15 seasons from 1946 to 1961) are shown in Table 1.
Number of Years in Period 1946-1961 with Chilling Hours
to Feb. 10
Location Less than 200 to 300 to 400 to over Average
200 300 400 600 600
Sanford 5 5 3 2 0 250
Brooksville 3 4 3 5 0 310
DeLand 3 3 6 2 1 320
Williston 2 2 3 7 1 365
Gainesville 2 1 2 7 3 435
Lake City 0 2 2 6 5 520
Quincy 0 1 1 3 10 620
It should be recognized that chilling effectiveness is not en-
tirely measured by hours below 450 F. Temperatures in the
range of 450 to 500 also have considerable benefit, while tempera-
tures above 700 during the chilling period appear to be detri-
mental. Thus, a winter marked by considerable cloudy weather
usually is followed by better dormancy break than one with an
equal accumulation of 450 hours that is marked by generally
dry, sunny conditions. This accounts for reported differences
in behavior under Florida and southern California conditions,
when hours below 450 F. only are considered.
TABLE 2.-VARIETY CHARACTERISTICS.
Ripening Flesh Stone Flesh Principal Require-
Date* Color Freeness Firmness Use** ment
Red Ceylon Mid-June White
Okinawa Early June White
Flordawon Late April Yellow
White Knight 2 Early May White
White Knight 1 Late April White
Jewel Late May White
Early Amber Early May Yellow
Tejon Early May Yellow
Late May to
Flordaqueen Early June Yellow Free
Ripening periods vary considerably with season. Dates given are considered normal
for the areas where the varieties are best adapted.
** H = Home; L = Local; C = Commercial; R = Rootstock. For commercial use, em-
phasis is on ripening with or before Maygold and ahead of principal producing areas in
Georgia. Home and local use varieties are soft-fleshed or too late-ripening for the early
Peach Pests and Control
The following schedule is suggested for control of the most
important insects and diseases on bearing peaches in Florida.
Experience and experimental work are needed to develop a more
specific schedule, particularly for central Florida, but the follow-
ing has been effective in most situations. Only the borer sprays
and, occasionally, scale and rust control are required for non-
H, L, C
H, L, C
H, L, C
H, L, C
H, L, C
H, L, C
bearing trees. OBSERVE LABEL PRECAUTIONS ON ALL
Name and Time Materials per 100 Pests
of Spray Gallons of Spray Controlled
3% oil according to
3% gallons of 90%
oil per 100 gallons
Blossom 5 lbs. of wettable
First Cover 5 lbs. wettable
Post-Bloom sulfur plus 2 lbs.
about March 5. 15% Parathion W.P.
10 days later.
Third Cover, 10
to 14 days
10 to 14 days
July 15 and
Same as first cover
Same as first
Same as first
5 lbs. wettable
5 lbs. wettable
sulfur or 2 lbs.
5 lbs. wettable
sulfur or 2 lbs.
1 lbs. Thiodan,
On San Jose scale, use
a single spray. For
white peach scale, use
2 sprays 14 days apart.
Do not use oil if freez-
ing weather is ex-
pected within 4 hours.
Mainly for brown rot
problem areas only.
See notes on curculio
and substitute mate-
This and following
spray most important
for curculio and scab
Stink bugs, See above.
Apply as needed.
See note on stink
bugs and curcuuo.
Mainly for brown rot
Primarily in central
Primarily in central
Borers Thoroughly cover base
of trunk only.
Captan may be substituted for sulfur in control of brown rot.
Several materials may be substituted for parathion in curculio
control. Dieldrin, 1/2 lb. 50% wettable powder per 100 gallons,
Dec. 1-Jan. 15
may be used in first cover, but should not be used within 45 days
of harvest because of danger of residue build-up. Guthion, 11/4
lbs. of 25% W.P. per 100 gallons, has also been reported good
for curculio control. It should not be used within 21 days of har-
vest. Build-up of white peach scale can occur with all these
insecticides. San Jose scale is kept under fairly good control
with the parathion schedule but not with dieldrin or guthion.
Malathion is suggested for homeowners use, because of lower
toxicity hazards. Rates of malathion use are 4 tablespoons of
25% W.P. per gallon of water.
White peach scale control has been generally unsuccessful
with insecticides used in the summer. It can cause much tree
damage if allowed to become established. Check carefully and
spray infected orchards with 3% oil twice in the dormant sea-
Curculio appears not to be a problem at present in south Flor-
ida but is the most serious pest on peaches in central and north
Florida. Reports in Georgia indicate help in control from broad-
cast soil applications of aldrin, dieldrin or heptachlor at rates of
2 pounds active material per acre. This has not been too effec-
tive in initial trials in Florida and the full spray schedule appears
At Gainesville, major egg-laying periods on fruit have ranged
between March 8 and April 10. Egg-laying activity appears to
be timed with the shuck-split (usually 15 to 20 days after full
bloom) stage in wild plums. Sprays the first and third weeks of
March are generally effective but should be modified with sea-
sonal differences. Egg-laying is prolonged through the month
of March if cool weather persists and an additional spray (fourth
cover) may be needed.
Stink bugs are sucking insects which cause "catfacing" or
dimpling of fruits from early season feeding and gumming later
in the season. They also increase brown rot damage. Sprays
may be needed prior to first cover on early flowering varieties.
Use parathion or dieldrin at rates used for curculio. Where cul-
tural conditions permit, some reduction in populations is reported
by eliminating covers, such as peas, beans, crotalaria, beggar-
weed, and citrons. Parathion should not be used within 14 days
of harvest to avoid residue problems.
Fig. 4-Plum Curculio is shown making crescent-shaped cuts on fruit
where eggs are laid.
Borers have been observed throughout central and north
Florida. Uncontrolled populations ruin trees by severe girdling
at the soil line. Lesser borers attack the tree framework at
large pruning cuts, but have not been as important as the trunk
borer in Florida. Avoid hoeing dirt away from trunks after
spraying and thus exposing unsprayed surface.
Scab affects peaches in all areas of the State, causing small
brown spots on skin of fruit. Sulfur sprays in the period four
to six weeks after full bloom are essential for control. The ear-
liest varieties ripen before spotting is too noticeable.
Bacterial spot is serious on Maygold in the Quincy area in
some years, and is not effectively controlled by sprays. It has
not yet become serious in central Florida areas and resistance
or susceptibility of varieties grown in these areas is not known.
Peach leaf curl has been of minor importance. In central
Florida, unsprayed trees have shown little or no infection.
Brown rot has not been a very serious problem on early
peaches in central Florida, so far, probably due to the charac-
teristically dry weather in April and May. It can be quite serious
in north Florida in wet springs, particularly on the very earliest
varieties like Springtime or on the late ripening varieties grown
for local use.
Rust may prove to be one of the more serious diseases in
central Florida. Severe defoliation has occurred by mid-summer
in some instances and undoubtedly weakens the trees. In north-
west Florida, infection usually does not appear until late summer
or fall as it does in Georgia and South Carolina where the disease
is considered of minor importance.
Mushroom root rot is a fungus disease often present in newly
cleared oak land. There is no practical control, other than plant-
ing on sites relatively free of decaying oak roots. Peach trees
wilt suddenly, usually starting about their third year in the
orchard Cutting through the bark at and just below the ground
line discloses white strands of the fungus, where it has encircled
and girdled the trunk of the tree.
Viruses are numerous in all established peach growing re-
gions. These are introduced in nursery stock, as infected bud-
wood, or wild hosts. Phony virus is found in wild plum trees in
Florida but causes no observable damage to plums. When trans-
mitted to the peach by leafhoppers, it causes tree dwarfing,
distorted fruit, and poor fruit production. Before planting peach-
es, remove and kill all wild plums within one quarter mile of the
orchard where possible. Sprays of 2, 4, 5-T and other woody
brush killers can be used for killing plums.
LITERATURE FOR FURTHER STUDY
Peach Growing East of the Rocky Mountains. U.S.D.A. Farmers Bulletin
Insect Pests of the Peach in the Eastern States. U.S.D.A. Farmers
Controlling Phony Diseases of Peaches. U.S.D.A. Leaflet 515.
Peach Irrigation in a Humid Region. Horticulture Dept. Report No. 1,
Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, N. J.
Handling Transportation, Storage and Marketing of Peaches. U.S.D.A.
Bibliographical Bulletin 21.
Evaluation of Selected Consumer Packages and Shipping Containers for
Peaches. U.S.D.A. Marketing Research Report 533.