Peach is a temperate fruit tree that belongs to the family of rosaceae, same as the apple. Peaches have not penetrated the Kenyan market that well; the fruit is spotted in few high end market places. However there are few farmers who cultivate peaches on a small scale and do sell their produce to roadside vendors. Peaches too require a chilling effect to break dormancy. Different peach cultivars have varying chilling requirements. Ideal locations for growing peaches are altitudes of approximately 1500-2500 m.
There are two important factors to consider when growing peach; proper site selection and cultivar choice. Peaches can be grown in a wide variety of soils as long as it is well drained. Soil PH of slightly above 6 is ideal. The site should be exposed to enough sunlight with an annual rainfall of about 800-1000 m. Cultivars propagated in Kenya include; alexander, jewel, waldo, killiecrankie among others. Healthy, disease free and vigorous seedlings ought to be planted. A spacing of 5m by 6m is ideal from one tree to the other. Ensure the planting holes are large enough to accommodate the root system. Intercrops such as beans and peas can be grown in between the peach trees during the initial stages.
The trees should be well maintained and pruned to the desired shape. Peaches are heavily pruned to ensure a strong tree and high quality yield. Open centre pruning technique is preferred to facilitate the penetration of light and air circulation. Peaches should be pruned annually to remove old wood because a peach tree produces fruit on one year old wood only. Nutrient levels should be maintained to keep trees healthy and productive. This is realised by applying manure and fertilizer; soil and foliage tests will determine nutrient need.
Peaches start fruiting in the third or fourth year. Thinning is necessary to control the number of fruits and for the production of quality peach fruits. One would rather have 200 quality well sized fruits than having 400 poorly developed fruits. Fruit don’t ripen uniformly on the tree so it is necessary to hand-pick fruits selectively. Fruits can be stored for 1-7 weeks under refrigeration and at a constant temperature.
A wide variety of pests and diseases attack peach trees, these include; aphids, moth, fruit flies, nematodes, scab, mildew, leaf curl, rust and root rot. In case of an attack do contact your extension officer for proper diagnosis and recommendations. As a general rule, prevention is better than cure; plant disease free seedlings and closely monitor your plants for any slight attacks. Happy season and ensure you plant a fruit tree.
Jurgen Griesbach, (2007) Growing Temperate Fruit Trees in Kenya. World Agroforestry centre, Nairobi.