Last week I talked about hardy varieties of apricots that would do well in the warmer parts of our region. This week, I want to talk about hardy peach varieties. After all, peach shortcake and pie are hard to beat.
Like apricots, the challenge with peaches is they tend to bloom early and often get caught in a late frost that kills the buds. Therefore, to be able to get a reliable crop you need to seek out late blooming varieties and plan carefully where you plant them. Another factor is peaches go dormant late in the fall so an early hard freeze like we had in October can damage the tree.
Green Bluff, situated northeast of Spokane, is noted for its peaches but only because of some special location conditions and mechanical intervention.
Green Bluff stands a couple hundred feet higher than the surrounding landscape. As a result, cold air draining off Mount Spokane tends to flow around the Bluff. Cold air also drains off the Bluff into the lower elevations around it.
The growers on the Bluff also have wind machines they can crank up to move the air around and keep frost from settling into the trees if a frost threatens. Even then, they sometimes lose their crops.
Besides picking the right variety of tree, it is important to plant your trees in a place that will slow them from coming out of dormancy too quickly. This slows down the blooming process enough to escape a late frost. Look for places where the soil is shaded in the early spring or keeps a good layer of snow later than other parts of the yard. This can be near a fence or in the shade of trees that later in the summer will be gone allowing the tree to get full sun.
Like apricots, finding late blooming, hardy trees will take some sleuthing and looking through local nursery stocks and online early in the season. Here are some options to consider.
Reliance peach is hardy to USDA Zone 4 and has been around for a long time. While it was noted for its dependability, the fruit leaves a lot to be desired. It is a freestone that ripens in late July.
Contender, also hardy to Zone 4, has better quality fruit than Reliance. It is also freestone and ripens in late July.
Red Haven is hardy to Zone 5 and is a well-known peach in Washington. It blooms late and has less fuzz than most peaches. It has creamy, freestone flesh that ripens in late July.
Harrow Diamond is hardy to Zone 5 and blooms very late. The fruit has excellent quality and has a pretty, strong red blush. The fruit ripens in early in July about the same time raspberries get ripe.
Blushingstar is hardy to Zone 4 and is carried by Stark Brothers Nursery in Missouri. This variety is freestone and has white flesh with a unique, sweet flavor. The trees bear heavily and ripen around mid-August.