Growing Peaches and Nectarines – a Lot Needs to go Right

An interesting article in the August Nashua Telegraph Feast section written by Lynn Post.

Kids get excited about birthday cake.  I get excited about pie!  For my birthday last week, my 18-year old son made me a peach-blueberry pie with local peaches from the farm stand and blueberries we picked ourselves.  To me, the super fresh taste and the knowledge that I was supporting a local farm made it much more of a treat than had we bought the ingredients at the supermarket.

Sometimes eating local is cheaper.   I remember a period last August when peaches were between $1.00 and $1.50 per pound at one of the local farms, which was less than at the supermarket.   They must have
had quite a bumper crop.

Local produce follows the laws of supply and demand, and supply is subject to the laws of Mother Nature.  Last winter’s conditions have resulted in “a healthy crop but not a bumper crop of peaches and nectarines,” according to Trevor Hardy of Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis.     Many things need to go right to have a bumper crop.

For example, did you know we need a warming period sometime in January or February and that an extended cold snap is harmful?  Do you remember last winter?  Because of harsh conditions in January and February, some of the peach buds froze and therefore did not blossom to produce peaches.

Some things farmers can control. Thinning and pruning are two
things they need to get right.  In southern New Hampshire, you cannot prune peach trees until mid to late May.  If you prune too early, you may lose the peach blossoms in a frost.  Once peaches start to form, the farmer needs to thin pollinated peach clusters with two to four peaches to single peaches in order to grow large juicy peaches instead of multiple small ones.   All these practices are performed by hand — every native peach was hand thinned and picked fresh for your enjoyment.

According to the UNH Cooperative Extension, peaches and nectarines “are only marginally adapted to the most ideal sites in extreme southern New Hampshire.”  The peach tree and its buds are extremely tender and sometimes cannot survive low temperatures of 0 to -5 degrees F.  It  ounds like we’re fortunate to get any peaches at all.  But there are plenty at the farm stands now.

Now to the fun part. Peaches and blueberries are the perfect combination and they are both in season now through late August.  Try a peach and blueberry pie … or perhaps cobbler, which is just as good but a little easier to make.

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