CUSTOMERS may cry “Peaches, peaches!” but there are relatively few good, local, tree-ripened peaches.
Twelve years ago, I planted a peach orchard with 15 different varieties. They ripen, on average, five days apart, giving me tree-ripened peaches over a 75-day period.
Across all of Virginia, however, peaches will last longer than 75 days. That’s because in the mountains the peach ripening date is three weeks later than in Fredericksburg.
This year, because of the very warm months of March and April, peaches came in early and will go out early.
We’re currently having a good harvest of clingstones, but they are tapering off now.
By the time you read this, we should be within a week of freestone Redhaven peaches being tree-ripened, depending on the weather. The ripening date of Redhaven is very significant. It’s the first of the freestone varieties–peaches whose flesh easily breaks away from the stone, or seed, to come in. All the peaches following Redhaven for the rest of the season are freestones.
During peach season, at my roadside stand (I do not sell pick-your-own peaches), I’m always being asked: “Are the peaches freestones?” I always answer: “The stones are free, but you have to pay for the peaches.”
Dedicated home gardeners could have their own miniature peach orchards that would last for 75 days. This could be done with 11 varieties by planting one tree for each variety. The first five would be clingstones (the peach flesh must be carved off the seed). In order of maturity, they are Flamin’ Fury PFI, Flamin’ Fury PF5B, Candor, Garnet Beauty and Gala. These should give you peaches for about 30 days.
The next six would be freestones. You could plant just the freestones and have peaches for about 45 days. Those, in order of maturity, are Redhaven, John Boy, Flamin’ Fury PF17, Flamin’ Fury PF24-007 (this is a secret-agent peach that is a big improvement over Loring, and that is really saying something), Messina (a new peach that thrives in the Mid-Atlantic area) and Laurol (very late).
Some of my more chintzy customers become inflamed and furious when they see the prices of the Flamin’ Fury line. Of course the flame cools off once they eat them and want more. Flamin’ Fury peaches have superior color, firmness, size and disease resistance compared with their peach competitors.
To order peach trees and learn more about peaches from their catalog, contact Adams County (Pa.) Nursery at 717/677-8105.
Emmett Snead operates Snead’s Farm along Tidewater Trail in Caroline County.