Monday, May 11, 2009

Growing Peaches in Climate Zone 5 (Northern Illinois)

In February of 2008 I was invited to speak at the Chicago Botanical Garden by the Midwest Fruit Explorers (MidFex) on the subject of “ (Northern Illinois).  Since that time I have received many requests for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation I used.  I have the full PowerPoint presentation below:

The PowerPoint presentation is available for download at SlideShare if you are a SlideShare member.  If you are not a SlideShare member and do not want to register (it’s free) you may download the file at here.
I hope it helps those of you thinking of trying to grow peaches in northern climates.  Pay special attention to the sections on temperatures and keep in mind that since this presentation was given we experienced an all time low of -20 to -24 for over 6 hours that froze all of our peach trees.  This was the first time that we experienced these extreme lows since the late 1980's in our location.  As a result, all of our peach trees froze and we have had to remove them.  But we did grow peaches from 1992 to 2005.  Hope you find this info useful.


At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great info Dennis-

Just wondering if you had any cold hardy stock that made it. In particular, do you have any experience with PF24C Cold Hardy. This cultivar on perhaps Bailey rootstock seems like it would have a chance to make it through some of our more extreme zone 5 winters. -Joe

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Orchard Keeper said...


We did have about 50 PF24C Cold Hardy on Bailey. We lost about 10 of them out of the 50, but they also got Cytospora Canker that wiped out most of the others.

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous KenC said...

I'm in Northern IL, and my peach tree appears healthy, and bears heavily most years. I thin excess fruit. But my fruit never ripens before the fruit falls. This year I had nice large peaches, but again, not ripening.

Should I fertilize or water more? It does get some morning shade - is that the problem?

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Orchard Keeper said...

A couple of things could be going on. One is Mother Nature's way of thinning. This is normal for a tree that is loaded with fruit, but unusual for a tree to drop all it's fruit unless it is a lack of pollination or some other damage to the seed or embryo. Fruit trees set fruit so that they can produce seed. Too large a crop will strain the tree’s resources and result in smaller fruits, possibly of lesser quality. So the tree protects itself and its seed by thinning the crop, once it senses weather and growing conditions are stabile. The immature fruits are all competing for the same food and water. The strongest survive. Fruits that contain few seeds are the first to drop. But if they contain no seeds, they all can drop.

Fruit trees may actually start this thinning process earlier in the season by shedding some flowers that weren’t pollinated. You might not notice this, because you expect the flowers to drop. But when you see actual fruits starting to fall, it becomes more alarming. It should also be pruned every winter or very early spring and fertilized at that time. Hope this helps!

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Hi Dennis,
What peach would you recommend for my yard on the North West side of Chicago? I was going to choose Reliance, but I noticed your comment about poorer quality fruit. Would Madison be a good alternative?

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Orchard Keeper said...

Hi Jim!

Madison would be a good choice as well as Red Haven and some of the Flamin' Fury varieties like PF24c and PF7A.

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you think of some of the Canadian Trees coming out of Harrow Research in Ontario? Good for around here? And do they have more disease resistance than typical peaches?

At 1:22 PM, Blogger Orchard Keeper said...

We have not had the opportunity to plant any of the newer Harrow Research varieties, but are considering several for future plantings. One desired appeal is their disease resistance. And of course, their cold hardiness. I would recommend reviewing the varieties posted at to see some of their character traits to see if they are right for your area and desired qualities. Some are better for processing, some for fresh market. Hope this answers your questions!

At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in Northern Illinois in DeKalb County. Have you had any experience with Citation Rootstock or Stark Red Leaf. Are ieth dwarfing and do either do well around here. Finally, what is the best peach that will probably take the least amount of pampering in this area and most likely to succeed. Finally, thanks in advance.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Orchard Keeper said...

We have had no experience with Citation rootstock, since it is a plum/peach mix. it is more compatible with apricot and plum, it induces early bearing, is tolerant of wet soil conditions, does a good job of resisting root knot nematodes, advances maturity and increases size and sugar content of fruit. But I think the Stark Redleaf seedling is a much better choice. We do have many trees on Stark Redleaf and it is a more cold tolerant stock.

Stark Redleaf has its parentage in Tenn. Natural, a very cold hardy stock. The real test is coming this winter and we will see how well it has held up to these extreme temperatures come spring!

Here is a link to the PDF from Michigan State on fruit tree rootstocks for Michigan that includes peach as well as other fruits.

My first suggestion for variety would be Flamin' Fury PF 24C Cold Hardy on Redleaf Seedling. This is a proven cold hardy variety and is delicious. Varieties such as Madison and Reliance have a reputation for hardiness but are of medium quality and Reliance has been overrated for winter hardiness. Peach varieties with decent hardiness and good to excellent quality include Harrow Diamond (early), Starfire and Red Haven (midseason), Redskin (late August), and Harcrest (early September). There are many Flamin' Fury varoeties that are good for our area since these varieties have there heritage in Mivhigan with Paul Friday, an excellent peach breeder.

Here is a link to the Flamin' Fury varieites:

Hope this helps!


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