Peaches for Z5b

I am new here but have spent hours reading the discussions from the past. I am starting a direct market orchard in Vermont along Lake Champlain in a zone 5a-b (USDA always had this area a 5a and the rest of the valley 4b but when they updated they moved the valley to 5a and didn’t increase this area by the lake, which is why I say 5a-b). I know it is extremely marginal and I need to focus on cold hardiness. There are a couple of orchards near by that have successful u-pick peaches consistently, they both said they had no peaches 2 of the last 12 years. I am looking to plant 3 acres of peaches, some plums (3/4 ac) and sweet cherries trained UFO (1/2 ac).

Here are the peaches I am looking at. Any advice, comments or recommendations would be very appreciated.

Variety Harvest Start
PF-1 20-Jul
Harrow Diamond 27-Jul
Sure Crop 30-Jul
Garnet Beauty 30-Jul
Rising Star 7-Aug
PF - 8 Ball 10-Aug
Blazingstar 14-Aug
Reliance 14-Aug
PF-13 20-Aug
Polly 20-Aug
Intrepid 30-Aug
Contender 30-Aug
Blushing Star 5-Sep
PF-24 CH 8-Sep
Belle of George 10-Sep
Encore 15-Sep
Autumnstar 15-Sep
PF-Fat Lady 20-Sep

A few others I am considering but aren’t on the list mostly because I am having trouble finding a source at a reasonable price or they overlap with other cultivars.

China Pearl


Hi Brad,
Of all the varieties you listed, the one that stands out in a negative way to me is PF1. Taste was subpar and it had a split pit issue for me. I removed the tree.

I am a small backyard growing. In my area, Central MA zone 6 a, yoyo weather in the spring is the worst part of growing stone fruit. When fruit buds start to push in March (one year in Feb!!) due to warm weather and followed by freezing temp in April ( and May this year), it can wipe out an entire stone fruit crop.

I guess, your area does not have fluctuating temp, that’s why peach farm in your area seem to work out, Generally, zone 5 is iffy, esp. for a farm.

We have @Olpea Mark who has a commercial peach farm in KS, zone 6 and Maureen @MaureeninMaine with her peach farm in Maine, zone 6 (I think). Hopefully Mark and Maureen will give your their thoughts about farming peaches and cold hardy varieties.

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Im 5b, all the way across NY near Lake Erie, so take that into account. I have Reliance, Veteran, and a Saturn Donut Peach. All have done really well here, and are cold hardy. This year we had 4 inches of snow fall on open blooms, the reliance and saturn were unaffected, veteran lost about 50% of blooms. All still set a nice crop.

I will say Saturn has a wonderful, sweet low acid flavor. Its a wonderful small peach that is unique, and could draw in customers. Ill be planting another this year.

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I’ve grown or grow most of the peaches you mention, here in zone 6 KS/MO. We generally don’t have to worry about extreme cold freezing the fruit buds too much, but it does happen.

Here are my thoughts on varieties you list. Some of the dates you list don’t at all line up with how those peaches ripen here. Therefore I will put days +/- Redhaven by the varieties for my area.

PF1: -30 I agree with Tippy, not worth growing. It’s really a pretty sub-par peach. Stick with stuff which won’t disappoint your customers. You want repeat business, and while PF1 is better than most grocery store peaches, it won’t leave a very good impression in the mind of your customers. Not worth it just to sell peaches a week earlier.

Harrow Diamond: -21 is fine early peach

Sure Crop: -14 is a consistent producer, but it can be small and can have trouble developing flavor in wet years. If you think Risingstar would work in your zone 5, it beats the pants of Surecrop. Risingstar is a more vigorous tree, the fruit is bigger, and the flavor is much better. Risingstar has produced very consistently for me here.

Garnet Beauty: -14 is about the size of Risingstar but the flavor isn’t nearly as good.

Risingstar (-14) Garnet Beauty and Surecrop ripen all at the same time here.

PF 8 ball- It’s a little early for me to evaluate this one, but so far not too impressed. The 5 or 6 trees I put in haven’t produced anything yet, which they should have by now. They seem also to have a lot of issues with canker.

Blazingstar: +4 It’s a great tasting peach, one of the best, but I would not recommend it for your area. It’s very inconsistent here. I would expect even more production problems in Zone 5

Reliance: +5 Not the greatest quality, but probably good enough for a fresh Vermont peach. Challenger ripens about the same time here and is a better quality peach.

PF Lucky 13: +8 This one is a dog. A mangy dog. Unfortunately, I’ve grown this one far too long. I’ve grown it at two different locations and it is a very poor producer, except in the best of years.

Polly I’ve not grown.

Intrepid: +14 Like Challenger I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience, but so far it appears to be a fairly reliable peach.

Contender: +21 Very dependable producer. Decent peach

Blushing Star: +25 Flavor wasn’t consistent for me. Bac. spot magnet. It could be finicky producer in marginal years. There are better white peaches out there.

PF24c: +24 These trees took a while to get going, so my opinion wasn’t great on them for a while. Now that they have fully matured. I really like this peach. It’s dependable producer, sizes peaches well under a full crop load. The peaches aren’t outstanding flavor, but decent enough.

Belle of Georgia: +32 No way would a grow this peach commercially. I grew it once in my backyard. It drops fruit horribly, bruises super easy, is super soft and the flavor is only marginal for a white peach.

PF Fat lady +35 This is a really great peach.

You obviously have a hole in your production where Redhaven would fit. I would plant some Redhavens. Also I would plant some PF 9a trees. They ripen 4 days before Redhaven. They are the best cultivar for that window. Redhaven is the best cultivar for its window.

I also agree that Saturn is an excellent peach. Very heavy producer. The only problem I’ve had with it is stem pick tears, which are quite bad. But if you can let customers pick that peach themselves, and explain they are going to get some pick tears, they will be OK with it, especially once they taste the sugar content of the peach.


We’ve had a peach orchard here in 5A Maine for 9 years. Reliance, Red Haven & Contender have all done well for us. We are replacing Reliance mortalities with Red Haven from here on out. Our season started about 10 days ago and we sellout every time we open.


Yes, Saturn or another donut is something I have been considering. The stem issues was steering me to look for a different donut but I think Saturn is the hardiest. I will add it. Thanks.

Thanks for your thoughts. I have heard bad things about PF1 too and have gone back and forth between it and PF 5b which is a few days later but I think better quality. I just don’t know about hardiness.

Yes, the freeze thaws are the issue. I am trying for late bloomers with hardy buds while also wanting something better quality for the years we have good weather, if such a thing happens. Being within a mile of the lake does moderate the temps.

Wow, thanks so much Olpea for all the info. I will add Redhaven and perhaps PF 9a if it is hardy. I am wondering if you would just plant Harrow as the earliest peach or try PF 5b or something else? Is earlystar any good? One of the problems with marginal zones, apart from the malignity, is how short the season gets. I am trying to find good early and late peaches. The info on 8 ball and lucky 13 is interesting. I was eating a Blazingstar from a local grower yesterday, so it can be done here some years. Blushingstar and belle of Georgia both sound like they might not be the best whites for me. I have also looked at Eden and China Pearl but they seem harder to find and less talked about. I would be interested in hearing more about the best cold hardy whites and about Saturn alternatives that don’t have the stem issue.

Thanks again for all the wisdom.

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Thanks Maineorchard. I think you are one of my inspirations as I have watched your success. Good advice on Reliance vs. Red Haven. Have you tried any early season cultivars with any success? As I said above, stretching out 5a peach season into more than a month is one thing I am trying to do if possible.

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I don’t know if it will influence any of your choices, but I’m about 30 miles north of Omaha in hardiness zone 5a.

I have eight varieties, and like you I was looking for cold hardy trees. I went on the advice of Olpea in choosing most of the trees I have (What a resource that man is!)

Anyway, I’ve had success in bad years with Redhaven. This year we had some hard winds and I lost two branches that had a lot of peaches. I still picked 157 so it wasn’t a total loss, but a light harvest when looking back ('17 had 520 peaches, '18 was a freeze-out, '19 got 374)

They were some smaller this year too. Here’s a picture of some RH & Intrepid on the table with the Redhaven being on the far end.

Today I took another 162 Intrepid

(When we had the first run of RH & Intrepid on the big table a couple leaked and apparently the plastic table cloth she had under the cloth one I removed had a tear or something, so it got peach juice on the wood in a couple places and my bride almost served me papers!! So I brought in a smaller plastic table for today)

Anyway, I’ve taken 385 off the Intrepid and there’s 40-50 I left on.

I have a fully loaded Reliance tree that I’ll start on tomorrow, and a fully loaded PF24C that’s a few days away. Madison is also full of peaches but I’ll get a break as they’re a couple weeks away at least.

I’ve got a PF17 that I chose as a replacement when the PF24C was shown as in stock, but wasn’t. I thought it may be a bit marginal for here, but it’s made some peaches. They’re just huge and I got 65 this year.

I have a Contender that is a shy bearer for the size and age. I got 42 but the wildlife got an equal share.

Anyway I know a lot of people don’t rave about Reliance, but I thought last year it was one of my better peaches, and from the samples I’ve been taking ahead of harvesting them (and the aroma they put off) I bet this years harvest will not disappoint me. But I’m not a peach snob and probably don’t have as refined a pallet as a lot of the more seasoned growers so keep that in mind :wink:

I wish Contender set more fruit for me, PF17 is a nice HUGE peach, but unless it picks it up I probably wouldn’t recommend it due to it’s sparse output. (But for a backyard grower 65 of those big fellas will tip the scales) Indian Blood has been almost a bust, just a handful on there and a long way off.

RH, Madison, Intrepid, Reliance, and PF24C will produce a bounty in cold climes pretty reliably I would think.

Sorry for the long-winded post, I haven’t been on here in awhile.

Good luck on your selections!


Wow. Thanks, Jer. The longer the better for me. I also really appreciate the pics too. I think there is a lot of variability on cultivar performance based on location and management practices. So differing opinions on the same varieties is worth seeking out and appreciated. Translating that wisdom for my particular location and approach is the crux of the matter and might just take some trial and error.

I agree with the list you promote for cold climes. There seems to be something close to a consensus on those in that regard.

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Fantastic! Will you remove the skin before making jam?

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Very different (Rocky Mountain foothills) 5b. ‘polly’ is very high quality if it gets a lot of sun and is thinned.

Erratic bearing because of our late frosts but productive in good years. Worth a try.

Might want to look into “Veteran” or “Ranger”


Yes, I blanch them to get the skins off before doing up jam. It’s a bit of a balancing act for me - trying to hit the perfect stage of almost ripe to not too ripe for flavor and set. And too under-ripe might set really well, but even blanching under-ripe peaches won’t give you the skin slipping off like a more ripe one will.

Being able to blanch and get the skins off is a huge deal to me when processing a lot.

Those big peaches you got at that market, were they pretty good then?

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I have not done any early season cultivars…another orchard near me has Harrow Diamond as an early variety.

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I can second Harrow Diamond as an excellent early, cold-hardy selection. It bears early, precociously and reliably. July 29 in central Ontario (not Niagara). From there to 24c and Reliance season must be 6-7 weeks, no?


Actually thanks for remembering, they were perfectly ripe and I could hand peel the skin off while I ate it. Blanching was always kind of a pain to me, I was always concerned about ‘pre-cooking’ the peach. I was once told 3 minutes in boiling water. Not true if the peach isn’t ripe. Your peaches look perfect! Lucky you!

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PF5b is a better peach than PF1. Desiree ripens the same time as 5b and is also better than PF1. I got rid of all my really early peaches and just started the season later with -21 peaches like Harrow Diamond and Earlystar. The reason I did this is because our springs are generally so wet, the really early peaches weren’t that good. By the time Harrow Diamond and Earlystar ripen, we generally have enough dry weather that the flavor is good. You may not have the same issues in VT.

Earlystar is a better quality peach than Harrow Diamond. It also produces well here. Color is much better, and it wet years it is a better tasting peach than Harrow Diamond. That said, I think I’m going to go back to planting more Harrow Diamond for that window. Earlystar takes much longer for me to get into production because of it’s upright growth habit. It’s also not as vigorous as Harrow Diamond. I currently have about 20 trees of Earlystar and about 5 trees of Harrow Diamond, but I think from now on, I’m going to go with Harrow Diamond for new trees. Getting trees into production quickly is pretty important, when trying to pay bills.


Impressive Jerry!

I’m surprised you can pick Intrepid along with Redhaven. Here they are about 2 weeks apart, although Redhaven had a really long picking window here this year.

If you don’t mind sharing, how often do you have to spray insecticide and fungicide in IA? Your peaches look beautiful and I’m curious how often you have to spray in IA to keep them looking so good?

Great info, Olpea. Precocity is also an obvious concern for me as I am investing pretty heavily and need a return ASAP. That is one reason I am using a Hex -V production system. Avoiding those bench cuts will bring the fruit into production sooner. The upright nature of Earlystar might be well suited to this system. You are most likely correct about going with slightly later peaches. Our springs are also wet into June. I am going to ditch PF 1 except for a couple of trial trees in an area I plan on experimenting with different cultivars in. I might also try a couple of Richmay’s/Flavorich’s.