Nothing says ‘summer’ like ripe peaches, and these trees are also one of the easier fruits to grow in your own garden. To begin with you only need one tree, which is a bonus for small gardens where the usual need for a second tree as a pollinator make growing your own fruits more difficult. Secondly, the beautiful pink blossoms in spring make a peach tree as lovely as any flowering tree, so you get beauty as well as tasty fruit, all from just one tree. If you are growing peaches to eat out of hand, then a slip-stone variety, like the Belle of Georgia Peach Tree is the right choice. With this variety, nothing goes to waste, since the sweet delicious flesh comes off the stone so easily. When you bite into that sweet, aromatic flesh, you will wonder why you waited this long to grow your own peaches – nothing compares to tree-ripened fruit.
The Belle of Georgia Peach Tree is a classic variety of white-fleshed peach, renowned for its sweetness and its soft, white and delicious flesh. It is too fragile after picking to handle being shipped to market, so you won’t find this variety at the store, just in your garden, where you will come to love its unique flavor and texture. This is an heirloom variety, dating back to the 19th century. It was introduced in the 1870’s by Lewis A. Rumph, who lived in the peach-growing area of Macon, Georgia. He named the tree after a Mrs. Belle Hall, a neighbor from Macon.
Growing Belle of Georgia Peach Trees
Your Belle of Georgia Peach Tree can be grown from zone 5 to zone 8, so it will grow across most of the country. This is a disease-resistant variety, especially to the bacterial leaf spot that damages many other varieties. It will grow best in well-drained sandy or loam soil, and in slightly acidic soils, such as are found across most of the southeast, but this tree is happy to grow in any ordinary garden soil. Soils that hold water after rain are not very suitable, so if you plant your tree on a slope the drainage will be better and you will also avoid late spring frosts that can damage flower buds. In colder areas it can also be grown on a south-facing wall, spreading the branches out in the method called espalier. Your tree needs a good supply of water in summer and slow, deep soakings are much better than frequent sprinkles.
In spring the bare branches of your tree will be smothered in beautiful flowers of a rich pink. Even if that was all it did, this would be enough to make the Belle of Georgia Peach Tree worth growing in every garden. But as soon as the petals fall you will see tiny peaches developing, and as they summer progresses they will grow and grow until by the end of July the pale yellow skin will begin to blush with pink. Depending on exactly where you live you will be harvesting your fresh peaches around the first half of August, at the height of summer and just ready to quench your thirst and cool you down. Eaten fresh, chopped into a fruit salad, whizzed into a smoothie or baked in a pie, whatever you do with your harvest of peaches it is all going to taste wonderful. You can expect to harvest 40 pounds or more of peaches from your tree once it develops, and your first fruit will be there within a couple of years of planting.
Maximizing Your Crop of Peaches
For best results and the biggest crop of large fruit, some simple pruning should be done. Prune your tree in late winter, before the new growth begins. The goal in pruning your tree is to develop an open vase shape, with several well-spaced branches and an open center that lets in the sun to develop and ripen the fruit. Once you have built a framework, each year you should cut all the strong, upright shoots that grew in the previous summer back to just a few inches long. Cut at an outward-facing bud. Your tree should be open to the sun, not dense and bushy. For the biggest fruit, wait until the baby peaches are the size of a quarter and then thin them out, leaving one fruit every 6 to 8 inches on the stems. This sounds drastic but it will give you a crop of big, juicy fruits instead of small fruits that are mostly stone, so the results are well worth it.