Planting peach trees in the fall reduces the risk of transplant shock, increases growth production, and reduces water needs.
True, fall planting is less exhilarating than planting in spring because the growing season isn’t just around the corner. Instead, the days are dark and for several months all you have to show for your hard work is a large, bare stick standing in your yard.
But, in the end, fall planting means a more productive growing season when spring finally does break.
Let’s address the following topics when considering planting peach trees in the fall:
- Picking the Right Peach Tree
- Why Fall Planting is Advantageous
- Fall Planting Tips
First things first. Start with the right peach tree.
How do You Pick the Right Peach Tree?
Most peach trees thrive in Hardiness Zones 6-8 which are excellent for fall planting.
Zones less than 6 have harsher winters which can cause winter injury to fruit trees, especially if the trees are rated for warmer zones. Fall planting is still a good idea in colder zones, but there is more risk involved.
Even peach trees rated for the subfreezing temperatures of Zones 4 and 5 like Contender and Reliance can be injured or killed from drastic changes in temperature.
If you want to plant a peach tree rated for Zones 6-8 in Zone 4, keep the tree in a moveable pot. That way you can transition the plant to a warmer location for winter.
If you are not sure which zone your region falls under, check out this map.
Also, take stock of your land. Is it part of an unusually frigid micro climate? Take this into consideration when choosing varieties.
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Why is Planting Peach Trees in Fall Desirable?
The process of digging up a peach tree and planting it in a new location is traumatic for the roots and, by extension, the whole tree.
Less Stressful for the Tree
Leaves transpire which is a process that releases vapor from the leaves into the air. This requires water, of course, which is taken up by the roots. Most of the water-absorbing roots are fine hairs which are easily damaged in the transplant processes.
When leaves demand water from a root system disturbed and damaged by a transplant, it causes transplant shock. Fall planting prevents this from happening.
Peach trees enter a phase every year called dormancy. It’s like tree hibernation where activity is minimal and leaves are shed in preparation for it.
No leaves; no transpiration.
This means that leaves are not asking roots for water, so there’s less stress on the tree as it adjusts to its new location.
Planting at the beginning of dormancy allows the maximum amount of time for rebuilding the fine, hairy roots so come spring- it’s ready for business. Or at least, more ready than its spring-planted counterparts.
It might not seem like much growth occurs under winter conditions, but roots continue to grow when the ground is not frozen solid. Moist soil can hold a warmer temperature than the winter air above it.
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The settling in of the tree to its environment and root growth during fall and winter allows for a productive growing season.
While spring-planted peach trees are stressed and getting their bearings, fall-planted peach trees are ready to grow leaves and buds.
Requires Less Water
The other major benefit to jumping ahead and planting peach trees in the fall is that it requires less water for two reasons.
- Less Demand for Water
Peach trees don’t need to support foliage and fruit under a hot sun in winter. This means you do not need to water the tree as frequently because the tree and roots don’t need as much water.
- Rain (Free Water)
Late fall and winter are known for their gross, wet weather. It’s not great as a vacation destination, but it is excellent for free irrigation. Sit back and enjoy not expending money or energy on getting your peach tree established in the ground.
So, now that you’re sold on the benefits of fall planting peach trees, there are some logistics to bear in mind for optimal results.
Tips for Planting Peach Trees in the Fall
Both fall and spring planting involve the basics of preparing the soil and digging a hole, but some guidelines are unique to fall planting.
Wrap tree trunks with white guards
Baby trunks are more sensitive to winter sunscald which is when sunlight melts water in the trunk tissue and then refreezes when the sunlight is gone. It damages the tissue and can even kill the tree. Reflective material prevents sunscald and destruction from rodents.
Plan accordingly for bare root trees
Most of the time peach trees are sold bare root which means exactly what it sounds like- the roots are bare; they don’t come with soil.
Bare root trees are less expensive to buy than trees with soil. They are also more commonly sold and available in greater variety.
Trees in dormancy can survive without soil for a short window of time. If you buy bare root trees, plant them right away. Do everything you can to ensure the nursery will be able to send you your peach trees before the ground freezes.
Container trees are more flexible in terms of timing with planting. You can plant them whenever you want. However, container peach trees still benefit from fall planting.
Wait to Prune in Spring
Usually, fruit trees are pruned upon planting. If you plant your peach trees in the fall, PennState University recommends pruning them before bud break in the spring. Trees are more sensitive to injury after pruning so waiting until spring is safer.
If fall planting peach trees is better, why is spring planting so popular? Fall planting is common among seasoned growers. But, most folks don’t plan their gardens in late fall; they plan their holidays in late fall.
Then, as the days get longer and stores strategically place their garden supplies near the front doors, inspiration strikes.
Now that you know the secret, hopefully, you are motivated to plan ahead and plant in fall for an exceptionally peachy growing season.