Peaches in Middle TN?



I would say it’s mostly essential here. There are some places where growers get by without planting on top of terraces. I know one peach/apple grower who didn’t do any raised plantings, but he is on top of a nice hill, and the ground drains well, and doesn’t have any seeps where he planted.

Growers up by the MO river don’t plant on raised plantings. That ground generally has good slope and lighter soil (I think it has more sand.)

I probably have the tallest terraces for a peach planting that I’ve seen. Most people don’t push them up that high (they were actually higher when I originally pushed them up, but they’ve settled.)

Making them that tall has it’s pluses and minuses. The taller terraces have steeper sides, so it makes picking harder. And it’s a real pain for my 50+ body to walk across, going up one side and down the other on each terrace, to get across the orchard (sort of like going for a rigorous hike). It’s not bad to do it once in a while, but if you do it several times a day, it gets old. Sometimes, if I’m in the middle of the drive lane, I just walk to the end, if I need to walk across the orchard, so I don’t have to walk up and down the sides of the terraces, but that involves wasted steps.

On the plus side, I think the trees have definitely benefited from being a little higher off the orchard floor. I’ve seen trees on the lower part of the orchard more damaged from frost, when the upper part got no damage, so I think the extra few feet helps some against cold air settling.

Another plus is that the branches which hang over the terraces toward the drive lane are less apt to touch the ground if they are heavy with fruit because the ground is a little further away.


Me too! I bet your levels of organic matter and beneficial soil life are off the charts.


They are pretty good. The baseline for the farm before I started mulching was 5.9% organic matter. I haven’t done a soil test since, so I don’t know what it is now. I think I’ve probably averaged about 50 to 60 box truck loads of mulch per year. There are a lot of worms and mushrooms which come up.

I did have one problem this summer with the wood chip mulch. A couple of trees started defoliating for no apparent reason. Last fall we had mulched some of the rows very heavily and these two trees were heavily mulched (about a foot or so of new wood chips). I think it was the mulch causing them problems because the mulch under those trees looked a little different color. I suspect something alleopathic was going on with that particular mulch which was applied so thick.

I had to cut off some pretty big branches on those two trees because those branches died. But the trees did survive and seemed to look better as the summer wore on. That’s the only real problem I’ve had with mulch, except that it does keep the ground wetter than I’d like, which makes it harder to keep fruit quality up during wet periods, and can stress trees from too much water.


I have two spots in my yard where I can get standing water in very wet springs. The first is near my dog lot and I removed all of the trees (mostly plums) from that area, the second is where is part of my garden spot can get standing water. The garden spot is on my to do list to fix. The clay soil does get water logged easy but I don’t think it is a major issue. It is to early for me to say 100% but I believe using raised 4ft by 4ft by 1ft containers works well and I get better results. I see where you mound and I think that is great. Hopefully the Gypsum I spread will kick in some day and make the clay more porous.

I will try some 50% nitrogen urea this year - not sure where I can source it but the local country stores have not gotten there fertilizer yet. Doesn’t look like the big box retailers carry it.

When you talk about mounding and buckets I assume you you are talking about tractor buckets?


Hi Blueberry,

The first two years I planted (3 years ago) we had extremely wet spring and summers. I had young trees and I did not mind the fast growth and the growth may have been more than what is recommended. My first attempt at growing fruit trees years ago was a disaster due to trees runting out so to me excessive growth is better than a runted tree. I thought that I was putting to much fertilizer on the trees and cut back last year and had subpar growth. We also had a very dry (almost drought) summer but I do water my trees when rain is lacking.

I need to take and measure how much fertilizer I am really putting on a tree with one hand. Unfortunately I don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh small amounts.

This may be the wrong logic or slightly imperfect logic but I measure the growth of a fruit tree by the base of the tree. A good thick base tells me the tree is growing properly. A peach tree that is 1.5 inches thick after 6 or 7 years in the ground is not right. I can post pictures of peach trees that are six to eight years old from fathers farm that are roughly that size. I want fast growth the first two to three years. The trees that I have that have done the best were pruned heavily there second year and I think that diverts energy and growth to base. Olpea has posted picture of his trees in other threads along with the ages and I have maybe two trees that start to come close to the growth Olpea sees in his area. None that equal the growth that he sees. My father has zero trees that come close to my trees.

I have a feeling the Piedmont farms you are describing likely were ex-cattle farms with a good soil base from the manure. The old Tobacco farms were notorious for being stripped of nutrients due to the tobacco farming if the crops were not properly rotated…


Need to add a warning about use of wood chips as mulch. If you put it on very thick or till it into the soil, wood chips absorb nitrogen which will deprive the plants of needed nutrients. This can be managed by adding enough supplemental nitrogen to overcome the mulch absorption. When wood chip mulch is applied 12 inches thick, it goes into accelerated decay because of the retained moisture. This speeds up the nitrogen absorption process!

Not directly related, but perhaps worth reading. Here is a link about soil PH.



Normally I’ve made raised plantings with some kind of equipment, but for the 20 buckets I mentioned above I was referring to 5 gal. buckets. I had about 7 buckets in the back of my pickup and every time I’d go to the farm, I’d fill them, then bring them home in the evening and dump them around the peach trees. I can’t remember exactly how many trips it took per tree, but probably 4, so maybe the mounds I built by hand had closer to 30 buckets of soil.

It takes a lot of work to build mounds by hand. Here are some pics of the puny mounds I built by hand with approx. 30 buckets per mound. The pictures don’t show it, but the mounds are probably a foot high or a bit taller. I just stepped outside and took the photos.

They are pictures of bud grafts I moved in Nov. I haven’t beheaded the trees yet, but the grafted buds still look alive. I apply white paint around the grafted buds, so it’s easy for me to spot where they’re at.

The second pic has a bunch of suckers. What was there previously was a large cherry tree on it’s own roots. I cut it down and placed the peach tree right over the stump (never done that before, so I don’t know how it will work). Then I piled buckets of dirt around the roots of the budded peach tree. The cherry tree suckered a lot. I’m a little behind on cutting those suckers off.

HI Fusion,

Thanks for the link you posted about the dance. The personification in the story makes it easy to remember.

I have read wood chips tie of nitrogen in the root zone, if they are incorporated in the soil. I’ve also read wood chips tie up nitrogen at the soil mulch interface, if they are used as a top dress.

In the case of trees, I don’t think wood chips used as a mulch would be able to pull any N from the root zone of the trees, but could pull N from supplemental N added on top of the mulch. Perhaps that’s what you were referring to. That it might temporarily tie up supplemental N added on top of the mulch.

In my experience, wood chip mulch seems to add vigor to trees on balance. My theory is that the rain filters down through the chips and creates a sort of “compost tea” which does make it down to the root zone. The downside of wood chips is that if the trees are suffering from water stress because of poorly drained soil, wood chips will exacerbate the problem.


Hi Olpea,

The look Farm Supply store does not sell Urea by the bag - they have ammonium nitrate in 34-0-0. Any negatives other than the lower nitrogen rating using ammonium nitrate? I understand it does not volatilize like Urea or 10-10-10.





I know of no negatives using ammonium nitrate for peaches. It shouldn’t be used for some crops like blueberries, but for peaches it’s fine.

I wish I could get it in bags, but it’s only sold in bulk here (pretty much since the terrorist attack on Oklahoma City). Imo ammonium nitrate is preferable to common urea in these type applications because of volatilization.


Couldn’t help getting another Contender peach tree from Rural King. It’s much bigger than my small one I planted from Gurneys 8 weeks ago and was only $24. Even after planted its 8 feet tall and has some fruit set. A bit root bound but that’s about it. If it can set fruit in a small pot it must be something special although it’s helped by about 15 different peach trees packed closely next to at RK. Excited about it.


That’s a nice size tree.

I ended up going with an Elberta, Red Haven, and a Contender myself. Hopefully 3 trees will be enough, I can always plant more if needed.


Very similar as well. I have an Elberta, Big Red as labeled by Walmart (maybe it’s actually a Red Haven) and the two Contenders. Hoping for same.