Not only is late November and early December holiday season and preparation for most of us, it is also peach tree maintenance time. If you are a northern visitor, peach trees in Florida are like apple trees to the northern states. Specific peach tree maintenance cycles keep our low-chill peach trees strong and productive.
To increase carbohydrate storage in a tree, we want as many solar receptors, “leaves,” as possible. However, to decrease the number of chilling hours a peach tree needs, we remove the leaves. In southwest Florida we do not tend to get a timely frost to defoliate our peach trees. So, we artificially defoliate.
Vital defoliation timing
Peach defoliation is performed in the two-week period of the last week of November and the first week of December. Defoliation prepares the trees for the colder temperatures and future bud set. Fortunately, Florida peach trees do not require as many chilling units as our northern trees. Defoliation helps reduce the number of chilling hours needed for our peaches.
Zinc sulfate defoliates
Commonly, peach growers will apply zinc sulfate at a rate of 4 to 15 percent to defoliate the trees. This translates to 4 to 15 pounds of zinc sulfate per 100 gallons of water. However, read the product label for more detail on application. Here is link with more details on the defoliation process. Defoliation details
Air-blast sprayers work well for application on a large-scale orchards but homeowners should consider hand picking the leaves.
More Zinc benefits
Research also indicates that defoliation can manipulate the bloom period. In our area of southwest Florida, that can be as early as mid-January.
By utilizing zinc sulfate to defoliate the peach trees, we are also supplementing the trees with the micro-nutrient of zinc. Florida’s soils, or better defined as, sandy soils have low to no zinc levels. Zinc is an important micro-nutrient that develops strong leaves (solar receptors!), large fruit, and firm skin.
Whether you are considering peach trees as your future alternative fruit tree or as a backyard fruit trees (as a homeowner), you may want to consider following our Dr. Ali Sarkhosh educational social media on stone fruits. Search Facebook for “Stone Fruit at the University of Florida” or @stonefruitUFIFAS. Dr. Sarkhosh provides information on peach field days and additional articles on growing peach. Stone Fruit @ UF
Links to additional information on peach tree cultivars: Peach varieties
Information on growing alternative fruit crops and concerns with each crop: Alternative fruit crops
Just starting out as a small farm operation and you need resources, start with UF Small Farms Network webpage. Small Farm Enterprises
If you need assistance growing fruit or vegetable crops commercially in Manatee County, contact Lisa Hickey at (941) 722-4524 extension 1817 or Lisa.Hickey@ufl.edu. or visit: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/manatee/agriculture/vegetable–row-crops/