Messina® PeachPrunus persica ‘NJ 352’ (PP# 18,091)
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Prunus persica ‘NJ 352’ (PP# 18,091)
Outdoor Growing zone
The Messina Peach was bred and selected for the northeastern states, and is the perfect choice if you live in those areas. Peaches are very specific to different climates, and this is the one for later springs and cooler summers. You will harvest very large, and delicious, ripe peaches in the second half of August, and their fiber-free, melting flesh will delight you, just as the deep orange-red skin will tempt you to take a bite of your very own tree-ripened crop. Small but charming red-pink flowers decorate the bare branches in spring, making this a tree you can grow in the garden, not just in an orchard. Full self-fertile without needing a second tree.
Plant your Messina Peach in full sun, in a warm position. In cold areas growing it trained on a wall will ensure a sweet, well-ripened crop. The soil should be well-drained, and peaches prefer lighter, more sandy soils, but not poor, dry soil. Prune from the beginning, to develop a vase-shaped tree with a center free of branches, and about 5 major limbs radiating out from the trunk.
When it comes to growing peaches successfully, you need to pay attention to where you live. Experts agree that there are several distinct growing-regions, each with unique requirements. This means a peach that grows well in Georgia, or another that is excellent in California, isn’t necessarily going to do well in the northeast. That’s why we have skilled plant breeders creating specific varieties for their own region, so in the northeast it pays to pay attention to local breeders. Perhaps the most outstanding is Professor Joe Goffreda at Rutgers in New Jersey. He created the Messina Peach, and if you live in the northeast and want to grow peaches, look no further. This outstanding late-season freestone peach has yellow flesh tucked inside a beautiful skin of light yellow heavily overlayed with deep pink and red. The delicious fruit is fiber-free, sweet with just a hint of acidity, and acclaimed by everyone who tastes it. The tree is vigorous and resistant to diseases, making this tree easy to grow. The fruit ripens over 2 weeks in August and stores well in the fridge, so you could still be eating your own tree-ripened peaches when September is almost over.
The Messina Peach is a vigorous deciduous tree that will, within 10 years or so, but 12 to 15 feet tall and wide. Of course you will have done some pruning in that time. The leaves are abundant and they are long and narrow – about 6 inches long and 1½ inches wide, dark-green and with a semi-glossy upper surface. They turn yellow in fall.
In spring your Messina Peach will turn into a wonderful flowering tree, with a profusion of small but bright flowers that open like fragrant red bowls on the bare branches, ¾ of an inch across. When the petals fall these turn into tiny fruits, and this self-fertile tree needs no second tree to create a full crop – it does it all by itself, so it’s ideal for smaller gardens. Following this April flowering, the fruit develops over spring and early summer, and will begin to ripen in the middle of August. Fruits ripen progressively over 2 weeks, giving you plenty of time to pick them, and allowing you to pick ‘n eat at exactly the moment of perfect ripeness.
The fruits are very large, slightly elongated globes, measuring 3 inches across and weighing as much as 8 ounces – that’s right, 2 peaches can weigh a pound. The stone is small, so the peach is almost all flesh, and that delicious, fiber-free melting flesh is yellow-orange and heavily flushed with healthy antioxidant red pigments. Yellow and heavily stained orange-red when ripe, the skin is relatively smooth, with a short coating of ‘fuzz’, making this a great peach to eat out of hand. Enjoy the delicious sweetness and well-balanced acidity of this variety, which is highly-rated for its eating qualities.
So lovely is the spring blooming, and so handsome a tree full of fruit, that there is no reason not to grow the Messina Peach as a lawn tree. In zones 4 and 5 it is best to place it in a sheltered, south-facing spot, and growing it against a wall of your home as an espalier is a great option, and ensures good ripening. In a larger garden you can of course grow it in an area dedicated to fruit trees – a home orchard.
The peach tree is hardy from zone 4 to zone 8, and it has been bred and selected to grow and crop well in the northeast. Since this peach was developed in zone 6, we don’t know it’s exact chilling hour requirement (time below 45 degrees but above 32), but we can assume it is perhaps 1,000 hours, keeping this variety to the cooler parts of zone 8 as a southern limit.
Grow your Messina Peach in full sun – this is important for ripening. Peaches need well-drained soil, and enjoy sandy soils that are not too dry. If you have heavier clay soil, amend it with large amounts of organic material, and don’t plant in a low-lying spot. It is relatively drought resistant, but fruit quality will be low if the soil is too dry in summer.
The Messina Peach tree is resistant to some important diseases, including bacterial leaf spot and certain kinds of cankers. Pests can be controlled organically, with Neem Oil and lime-sulfur sprays. Don’t think that your tree is going to need constant spraying – it is vigorous and healthy, and will grow well with some basic care. An isolated garden tree is less likely to suffer pests and diseases than trees grouped in orchards.
Pruning should begin while your tree is young. Aim for a short central trunk and about 5 radiating branches, creating a vase-shaped tree. Remove branches from the center so that the sun can penetrate and shorten back longer side-stems in spring or immediately after harvest. Don’t prune in winter or during wet weather, as this can spread disease. Once your tree has a crop of small fruits, remove all but one from each cluster, and keep them about 6 inches apart overall. This is the way to produce high-quality, large fruit, and not a heavy crop of small, poor fruit that is mostly stone.
The peach tree, Prunus persica, originated in China, but since those ancient times it has been highly bred and developed to give us the kind of fruit we enjoy today. There are several centers of peach breeding in America, and for the northeast the most important is the Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center of Rutgers University, New Jersey, which dates back to 1907. There, Professor Joe Goffreda worked with his lab technician, Anna Voordeckers, (who worked at the Center for 50 years) developed several new varieties – each takes 15 to 20 years from inception to release. The variety ‘NJ 352’ began with a cross between seedlings they had developed earlier, and was first identified as valuable early this century. In 2007 they received a patent on it, for the benefit of the University. It has been released under the trademark name of Messina, a brand name also owned by the University.
If you live in the northeast – and you probably do if you have read this far – then choosing the right variety for your climate is vital. Don’t waste precious years growing an unsuitable choice, make the wise choice and go with the Messina Peach. You won’t regret it. But order now, our limited stock will soon be gone, as demand for this type of peach is very high.