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A peach of a planting idea for the Tehachapi Mountains

Tehachapi Gardener's Choice

When most people think about Tehachapi and fruit trees, the first type that comes to mind are apple trees. This is appropriate, since fine quality apples have been grown in the Tehachapi Mountains since some of the first settlers planted apples here in the 1850s and 1860s, but honestly there are easier choices for home gardeners.

Apples are vulnerable to an insect pest known as the coddling moth (the worm in the apple), and you usually have to do something to control them -- commercial pesticides, organic pesticides, etc. -- or many apple on your tree may have a worm in it. Peaches, on the other hand, have much fewer problems and are easier for home gardeners to grow delicious, tree ripened fruit, and California raises more peaches than any other state.

Peaches will also start to bear fruit sooner than apples and pears, which can take several years to really start producing. Peach trees are productive by their third year, and you may even get a few peaches the second year after planting. So why are we featuring peach trees in January? Because the best and least expensive time to buy peach trees is during the winter months, when you buy them as bare root trees and plant them when they are dormant.

Plant your peach trees in a sunny place and put a chicken wire cage around the root ball to discourage gophers. They do need to be pruned to shape them and to keep them at a convenient height for picking the sweet, juicy fruit, though peaches are naturally fairly compact trees and generally won't get too big. It's also important to thin out the small green peaches when they are about the size of ping pong ball -- if a tree has produced too heavy a crop, the fruit will stay small and the weight will break down branches.

There are many varieties of peaches that grow well in the Tehachapi Mountains, with ripening times that vary from June through September. There are peaches with yellow flesh and these tend to be a little more acidic and sweet-tart, and include such great varieties as O'Henry, Rio Oso Gem, Suncrest, Fair Time and Autumn Gold, and others that have white flesh, which are sweeter and milder and include Babcock, Nectar, Belle of Georgia and more.

Peach Tree

Botanical Name: Prunus persica

Deciduous Fruit Tree

Starting: Bareroot or containers

Size: 8 to 15 feet tall

Exposure: Full sun

Watering: Deep watering