Orchard in a screen house and recommendations for sources of tasty peach varieties

I’ve been lurking for a while, but I finally have something to report:

My new screenhouse orchard:

I followed fruitnut’s example and moved my fruit trees under cover. I gave up on my small orchard, from which I lost all but a handful of fruit over 10 years due to the assaults by pine voles, deer, squirrels, birds, japanese beetles, stink bugs, as well as the usual diseases prevalent in the mid-Atlantic (zone 7, ~100 mi down the road from Scott Fraser Smith). This was a shock to me coming from So. Cal, where I would plant a tree and 4 years later be giving away bags of fruit.

Since it’s really hot and humid here, a greenhouse was no go. I screened in a portion of a 96’ cold frame and this May brought in a dozen trees that I potted up in spring 2017 or 2018 (15 gal rootmakers with Carl Whitcomb’s tree production mix - similar to Al’s gritty mix). I got a few huge, perfect peachs from my O’Henry and Kit Donnell trees w/o spraying. They were the best peaches I’ve ever tasted, and only cost $500 a piece. The four apples (Gala, Spartan, Fuji, Y. Delicious*) had rust and some fungal disease when I put them under cover. Even with 40 mesh screen, they still get some aphids. Amazingly, each variety gets a different type (golden, green, black or wooly). A couple trees have an apple or 2 on them. The Warren pear dropped some leaves in the recent heat blast; the plums (Santa Rosa, Satsuma) and Craig’s Crimson cherry look good but didn’t fruit yet. The plan is to take down the screen before snowfall and put it back on after pollination.

*I would have gone for resistant varieties but these are the fruit the cold-frame erector likes :wink:

After my success with peaches, I’m in the market for more. I got the current ones from Raintree and Bay Laurel mail order nurseries. Only half of the trees I got from these vendors survived. Does anyone have better luck with other online nurseries? I went through Scott’s list of sources but so far, I’m not finding the varieties I’m looking for: (any four of the following) Desert Gold, Eva’s Pride, July (Kim) Elberta, Loring, Mid Pride - all from recent DWN Taste Test 100 lists.

The outside orchard set hundreds of fruit this year, but I only got a few - from the 10 yr old peach tree the dogs rest under, and those were scarred and not as tasty as the screenhouse ones - probably because of they are different varieties. At the time I planted them I was going on local extension recommendations and hadn’t found Dave Wilson’s taste comparisons.

TIA and hope you have a good rest of the season.


Congradulations, job well done. When I see all that people go thru to grow fruit in humid climates I wonder if I’d go to that much trouble. Dry climates and a greenhouse have me spoiled.

Now if I were you I’d be thinking about how to make some improvements. Like a rain cover to knock out diseases of the fruit and tree plus possibly improve fruit brix. Maybe diseases aren’t much of an issue.

You guys out East all do a marvelous job…!!


I would love to see some varieties that have worked well for you and some that haven’t. Looks like you have tried a lot of them!

Welcome! I have had great success with trees from Arboreum in CA and Raintree.

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You’re in the East now and a lot of California varieties don’t do
that well in the East. I think you’d be better off with Eastern varieties,
and get the trees in the ground. I’d also use a commercial netting
(American Nettings) that you don’t have to remove for pollination,
instead of the screen. You’re going to have to make a lot of adjustments,
if you’re want to be successful in the East. Try Vaughn’s nursery.

Over the past three years, I have bought multiple trees from Adams County Nursery, Grow Organic and Bay Laurel and I am yet to have a single tree die. The first two guarantee their trees and will replace them if they die within the first year (I cannot remember if Baylaurel does the same), you can check with them for the details. Trees sold by ACN are all tested and proven reliable for north east/mid Atlantic.

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When I was contemplating a project like this one, my notion was to house mason bees inside for pollination, keeping the screen up

ltitlton - Where I am, the snow will trash the screen and I’d have to re-engineer the cold frame to support the snow load. Fruitnut had/had bees in his greenhouse and that worked. I could keep the screen up (which I can’t) I’d hand pollinate; I don’t have that many trees and there could be less thinning. It works well on my citrus in containers.

Ahmad - Thank you! Grow Organic is new to me, but I’ll check them all out for tasty varieties.

I’d love to see some pics of your setup.

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Currently overtaken by life…Will post photos and reply to everyone in a few days. Thanks for the comments and interest!


OK, I’m back.

I read that I’m supposed to answer everyone in one post, so here goes.

Thank you fruitnut! That means a lot coming from you.

I read everything you and Scott wrote to come up with this system.

The cold frame designer/erector and I discussed the rain shield. We were afraid that even with the screen providing ventilation, that it would significantly increase the heat load, which is already is tough on the pears. I thought I’d reassess next spring, when (in theory) the trees will be undercover earlier than this year.

We get a good long hot/dry spell during the summer, and I took your minimal water regime to heart, so brix is good enough for my taste. I like fully ripe (I wait till they fall off in my hand) but I’m not a maximum brix connoisseur. Heresy though it is, I don’t care for white/honey peaches - too sweet - at least the store-bought and stand-bought varieties I’ve tasted. Since I posted, I harvested 3 apples (1 Gala, 2 Fujis). I’ve been growing apples outside for 10 yrs without getting any fruit, so I’m delighted to have some out of the screenhouse. They were the best tasting apples I’ve ever had. This now brings the per fruit cost down to $300 each :wink:

The outside orchard had significant brown rot and other fungal diseases this year. The screen house is not downwind, but I’m sure those spores will find their way in. I’ll probably have to think about doing some of the antifungal sprays. Still the screen is a great help to keep the insects, birds and mammals away.

I can’t remember if you are still using containers. I think I remember reading that you repotted every few years. I think I’ll treat mine like giant bonsai. Root prune, new media, same pot.

Thanks for the Vaughn’s suggestion. I’ll check them out.

As for trees in the ground - been there, done that. I planted varieties suggested by local extension; I used a spray schedule designed using “Southeastern peach, nectarine and plum pest management and culture guide” and Scott Fraser Smith’s spray schedule. I tried tree bags, root enclosures (for the voles), deer fences, open season on squirrels… I did manage to get some fruit the year I hand painted each fruit with Surround - encasing each one in 3/16" or more of clay (tried spraying it, but the bugs munched through the lighter coating). That was massively time consuming given the several big summer rains we got.

Meanwhile the pine voles were girdling the trees or eating all the roots off. I had a big 8 yr old apple tree fall over with only stubs of roots from the vole family that lived under it. They prefer roots to poison bait, and trapping yielded only short-tailed shrews (which will kill voles). The pine voles live entirely underground, and are active year round. They start breeding at 2 mo. and have 4 litters a year. About 10 years ago, the pioneer vole burrowed through our gravel (crusher run) driveway leaving a trail of pushed up gravel - tough beast! Since then the orchard has been vole Eden. I’m hoping the voles won’t get to the screenhouse. It sits on a deep gravel pad and I found that voles won’t chew through the pots I’m using.

These are the before photos…

It looks a little skeletal now that I took the screen down for the hurricane. Luckily we won’t take a direct hit so I probably don’t need to lay the trees down. Ah nature.

Current stock:
Peaches - O’Henry, Kit Donnell (2017)- bore fruit; Kaweah, Gold Dust (2018) no fruit
Nectarine - Flavortop (2018) - no fruit
Plums: Santa Rosa x2, Satsuma (2017) - no fruit
Pears (hope for fruit by 2027): Warren (2017), unknown (2016)
Cherries - Craig’s Crimson (2018) - no fruit, Black Gold dead (2017)
Apples (2017) - Gala, Fuji - bore fruit; Spartan, Yellow Delicious no fruit

Thanks all!