Contender is building a reputation as the best flavoured of the hardier peaches since being introduced in 1987. Large, beautifully coloured fruit has firm, sweet, freestone flesh that resists browning when cut and a small pit. In short – the ideal canning peach. Two of the reasons why Contender is becoming known as a dependable producer are its cold hardy fruit buds and late blooming habit. It also shows considerable resistance to bacterial spot. Definitely one to try.
SELF-FERTILE | ZONE 4/5 | HARVEST: EARLY SEPT
Peach trees are usually unaffected by pests or diseases in northern areas, the occasional exception being peach leaf curl. PLC is not a fatal problem but it does need to be controlled if you get hit with it. Look for crinkled or puckered foliage in spring. Remove affected leaves and compost them. A good preventative is to spray the dormant trees with copper in the fall and again in the spring before bud break (See page 63). Do NOT spray during the growing season as it will cause all the leaves to drop.
Prune your peach trees in May, once they have leafed out, but don’t prune off all the new wood that grew last summer. Peach trees fruit on that last season growth. Trim any dead or winterkilled branches and leave most of the new wood. Occasionally you can make a few bold cuts back to a vigorous branch closer
to the trunk if your tree becomes too leggy. As the tree matures, you may want to thin out the branches quite aggressively.
One of the key factors that determines cold-hardiness for tender fruit trees such as apricots and peaches is how well they harden off in the fall. Any activity that stimulates growth should be avoided after August 1. This includes fertilizing, overly frequent watering and pruning.
Stop! Do not plant your peach or nectarine tree in that sheltered nook of the south side of your house. Although well meant, this very common mistake is almost certain to doom your new tree. Of course extreme cold is hard on peach trees, but the warm noonday sun on a late winter day is actually worse. A dark tree trunk will warm up considerably but then the temperature drops and the bark refreezes. To avoid this fluctuation, look for a planting site in the winter shade (north side) of a building or group of evergreens. In other word, close enough to the building to be shaded from the low winter sun but far enough back to get full exposure in the summertime when the sun is high. The goal is uniform cold so as
not to interrupt dormancy. Some growers white wash the trunks and lower branches of older peach trees in late fall with a cheap interior latex paint to protect from sun damage in winter. Young trees should have trunks wrapped with a light coloured blanket or covering.