I live in peach country. Forty percent of the peaches in Texas come from Gillespie County, where I live. So you won’t be surprised to learn that the top story in this past week’s paper was about the upcoming peach crop.
Besides having enough water, the other thing you need for good peaches is enough “chill hours,” hours below 45 degrees, before the trees bud. Sorry, all you folks up north, but sometimes we don’t get enough cold hours. This year, we’re a little on the border at 660. 700-750 is preferrable, and we’ll probably get there soon. In a normal year, we get 800-850 chill hours.
The reason peach trees need chill hours is for something called “healthy dormancy.” Different peach varieties require different amounts, and our area produces 12 varieties. Not enough chill, not enough flowers, bad fruit.
The chill gives the peaches their sweetness. But if we drop down into the low 20s at this point, the buds will be damaged. A light freeze is fine. This morning 27 degrees–a little on the edge for the first peaches, but not as bad as, say, 21 degrees. Six degrees of separation can be an awful lot.
Once the trees start to bud–and oh, that’s the time to take a bike ride!–they need rain. While they’re dormant, rain isn’t necessary. But when we see those stubby trees covered with white and pink blossoms, we pray for the good Lord to turn on the rain. Just not too much.
The first fruits will come in mid-May, the last in early August. We’ll see then if we got the balance right. The proof will be this summer, when we slice open a local peach.
In the meantime we wait. And irrigate, if it stays dry. Mostly, we pray.