Picking Peaches

I have peaches for the first time and I need to determine how frequently I need to pick them. I picked all the fruit on my Rich May trees on Friday and sold the fruit on Saturday. The peaches were very ripe and some were too ripe. I probably should have picked the fruit sooner but the farm is only open on Saturday at this moment. My next variety is Carored which I hope will be ready for picking this Friday. How many times should I plan on picking the fruit from each tree? Would a schedule where I pick on Tuesday and sell on Wednesday then pick on Friday and sell on Saturday make sense? Fortunately, I’m not overwhelmed with fruit since we had a 24 degree night during bloom time. I picked about 4 bushels from the 14 three year old Rich May trees - about half of what I was told to expect.

Most of my stone fruit varieties ripen over about 10 days. That’s what DWN harvest charts show and about my experience. Not sure how much that helps with timing harvest. In CA I think they’d pick everything about a week before the first fruit softens so anything we do with a later start would help. I think I could pick everything soon after the first fruit softens and provide the customers with first rate fruit that they could transport home and ripen over a weeks time. Trying to provide peaches that are juicy ripe at the market is challenging at best.

Hopefully Kevin or others will give their thoughts.

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Most small commercial growers depend of refrigeration to hold firm ripe peaches at a good condition for selling for at least a week if necessary.

Your question is unanswerable for me because different varieties behave completely differently. Several new types ripen on the tree without softening for a long time (White Lady for example)- that seems to be a trait Zaiger shoots for, as well as others, not only to reduce the # of pickings, but also to aid in transport and storage.

Many varieties reach their peak quality only a day or 2 before softening.

I think to some extent growers have to find their own way on this issues. At least peaches are a whole lot easier in this regard than pears.

Looks like this is going to take some trial and error testing to arrive at the proper solution for my situation, I have not used my walk in cooler in 20 years, but I’m going to turn it on and see if it works. Could I get by with a 35-36 degree temp? My goal is to sell a $5 basket of ripe peaches to my pick your own blueberry/blackberry customers. I don’t want to sell the hard unripe peaches like the grocery store, or even the peaches like I bought at the farmer’s market 2 weeks ago which had to ripen for three days before they were ripe. I want to sell something much better! I like the video of the Clemson peach doctor with juice running down his arm when he bites into the peach. That is the type of peach I would like to sell if possible. We may need to do some pick your own peaches once the trees are larger and I need to sell a lot of bushels. At the moment I have seven variety of roughly 14 trees each staggered from early season to late. I was happy that Rich May hit the same weekend that my SHB blueberry and my Natchez Blackberry hit. Next week is Carored if everything works out. We had no real experience growing peaches before the planted the 100 trees three years ago and we have a lot to learn, but so far the Peaches are working out better than the Apples

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For us it really depends alot on the cultivar as to if we can hold them for any length of time once ripe. Some are ok to hold for a week at actual ripe, some go from ripe to over-ripe in a flash. We hold our peaches in a large chest freezer that ive converted to refrigerator duty. Temp about 40 degrees.

For the Tropic Snow white peaches we are selling now we are forced to sell them under-ripe because they dont hold once soft. We just advise the customers to ripen on the counter for a day or two or until they start to soften. We would love to sell all our fruit totally ripe and ready to eat, but the waste would get obscene if we did.

Thanks everyone for the advice. Looks like in order to sell the ripe, juice running down your arm type peaches, I have to be willing to loose a large portion to over- ripe spoilage. That may be OK for a few weeks as I get started, but I’m going to have to learn to pick the peaches when they are not so ripe!

I tell customers to expect anything from soft ripe “ready to eat” peaches, to firm ripe, which require a small amount of counter time.

As long as peaches are close to being soft ripe, they will still produce a “messy” chin and arm if allowed to ripen on the counter.

It’s not like wholesale peaches which are picked a week or more too early.

I have my first 10 Rich May trees coming up. I think I over-cropped them a bit. They are 4 year trees and expect about 8 bu. from them (a lot to expect from such an early peach).

So many good comments mentioned already. All I can do is reiterate. Some varieties can be strip-picked some years, some take two weeks to pick them all, and everything in between.

I have about a hundred varieties out at the farm (about 65 of them I’ve never tried). I’m finding a lot of them are losers. Some of them are slated for immediate removal. Others seem to be doing well.

I’ve had more problems with white peaches than any other type.

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Thanks for the good information. Do you sell your peaches by the pound or by the basket? At the farmer’s market in my area they are sold in a 1 quart basket stacked high. We bought some a few weeks ago and the basket contained 7 small peaches (Carored). I thought the price was pretty high but they were selling like hot cakes. I plan on picking peaches less ripe this week. Going to two selling days a week which should help keep the ripeness under control. I believe you will really like the Rich May. I’m learning a lot of new stuff and so far I wish I had more peach tree and less apple tree.


I have always sold by the pound before, but I think this year we are going to try to sell by the box at Farmer’s Markets and by the pound at the house and farm. My small boxes hold a little more than a quart. My big boxes hold a little more than 1/2 a peck. All the peaches are stacked flat in my boxes. Many of them would bruise if I tried to stack them in quarts.

How much are they selling the Carored peaches for per quart out there?

I think you’ll have much better success in picking peaches by picking twice a week vs. once a week. We pick about every other day most of the time, but sometimes we wait a couple days before picking if we picked really hard. Hot weather really advances peach ripening a lot, so that you have to pick more frequently.

We pick when the background color is all yellow (no green) on most varieties. Some varieties don’t color well and there will be some green background color, even if the peach is dead ripe. A little green around the stem end (where the peach was touching the shoot) doesn’t bother me.


Thank you for the very precise information. That is exactly what I needed and its going to help a bunch! We don’t sell at the farmer’s market but peaches are $5. The vendors stack the peaches high in a 1 quart wooden berry basket. We counted 7 pretty small Carored peaches in the pack we bought 2 weeks ago. They remove the peaches from the basket and place them in a bag. Both of the vendors are pretty large growers (more than 20 acre of peaches) and come from the sandhills area of NC where peaches are big business. Its the same area where the research station produced variety like Winblo, Contenter, and Candor, but they no longer grade, pack and ship peaches all over the country like they once did. Another local grower about 5 miles from me with about 2 acre of peaches sells his for $1.50 a pound PYO. His first variety is Contenter which hits in late July. Last Saturday we sold a 2 quart plastic berry basket full of large and very ripe Rich May for $5. The basket held 7 or 8 peaches and probably weighed a little more than 3 pounds. We know the price was too cheap but it was really just a loss leader to make my customers happy get the folks to come back. Our main focus is PYO Black and Blueberry but Peaches could really help us if we can figure out how to grow and pick them. I’m not sure about the PYO peaches. PYO works great for blue/blackberry but we have a lot of waste. Picking peaches is so fast compared with small fruit, I believe it makes for sense for me to pick the peaches and keep the customers out of the peach orchard.

Have you ever done any PYO peaches? What do your small boxes look like?


I’ve not done any PYO but I have a friend who does it. He does it, but really doesn’t like it. He says customers knock peaches off right and left. While customers are picking, they keep a staff member to “police” the crowd.

Because of the wastage he actually charges more for U-pick than he does for We-pick.

I am using beer flats for peach boxes (the cardboard flats which hold a case of beer). They come flat in stacks of 100. You fold the four corners up and staple them. Cut them in half for small boxes.

I’d pay five bucks for a heap of ripe Rich May any day. Yum!


The Rich May were awesome! They were pretty ripe but we sold them all! Carored this week which are not nearly as ripe. I hope they will be just as good as the Rich May after they get dead ripe ans jucy.

The compressor on my cooler is shot so we bought a Coolbot and a 15K BTU AC unit so we can manage the ripeness of the peaches are we move through the season. We are new to growing and selling peaches, but so far we like peaches a lot as a profit center. I attached a picture of the display at our farm stand before they all sold.


Very nice looking. What is a Coolbot?

A coolbot is a device that tricks a standard air conditioner into thinking the temperature is beyond the setpoint so it runs almost constantly. This allows the AC unit to pull the temp of a smalll room down to mid 30’s. At $300 its very expensive given its lack of complexity - but it and a new AC unit is a lot cheaper than new refrigeration equipment for my cooler. I will not be able to remove a lot of field heat with this unit or get then temp down to 33 like I did with the refrigeration equipment , but I believe its going to solve my problem.


Nice photo! I love the way you included some fresh peach leaves in the basket. Makes a splendid presentation.

My current experience w/ Rich May:

Not good! My following comments are not at all to dispute your experience with this peach, but rather to illustrate the different dynamics of growing areas. I’m sure your Rich May were excellent (You’ve been growing fruit so long, I’m sure you can recognize a top quality fruit vs. something substandard.)

My Rich May experience (so far) has been exactly the opposite of yours.

As I mentioned, I have ten of these trees to start the season off. I’ve not tried this variety before. Generally I wouldn’t plant 10 trees of something I haven’t tried before, but the endorsements for Rich May were quite extensive. I wanted a good very early season peach, so I planted 10 of these in the spring of 2012. This is their 4th growing season.

The trees didn’t need much thinning and produced well. A few days ago, the trees started smelling like peaches, so I knew the peaches were getting close. I was all set to start selling them at a couple farmer’s markets, but I tried a few peaches this morning before picking and they were terrible. Tasted like pure acid - battery acid.

This was so against my expectation, I wondered if the nursery sent me a substitute variety without telling me. I looked up the patent on Rich May, and as far as I can tell everything checks out. Fruit description matches, blooms match, leaf glands match. The only thing that doesn’t match is that ripening (+/- Redhaven) is earlier than expected (based on the next earliest cultivar which I have experience with (PF1)). However, from what I can tell, I’ve found ripening can vary year to year and in different climates/locales. So I do think my trees are Rich May.

The only reason I can think of for the very poor quality is the enormous amount of rain we have received. We had the wettest May since 1995. This can dilute the flavor making the fruit bland. However this fruit is not bland, but tart (no sugar). I had someone at the orchard today who I asked to try the fruit. She said it tasted sour (my sentiments exactly) although she did comment positively that it was juicy, which of course isn’t much of an endorsement since virtually all peaches are juicy if picked anywhere near ripe.

The trees do seem to be highly susc. to bac. spot and so have lost a lot of leaves (probably also due to the rain). This could also be a factor in the poor flavor, although I’ve seen another variety severely defoliated from bac. spot still produce very flavorful fruit.

The fruit I tried was not completely soft ripe, but the apex end was soft enough to make a thumb impression without much pressure. I expect these fruit to be 2 days from completely soft (one day in hot weather). It’s possible the fruit will sugar up in the next couple days but I really doubt it.

If they do sweeten up, I will post back about that, but as it is, this tree is a complete loser for me. It cost me four growing seasons. Unless something changes drastically in the next few days, 1200 of these peaches will become compost.

Below is a pic of four Rich May peaches I picked today. I am letting them counter ripen to see if they will taste any better. The two peaches on the napkin are Georgia peaches. My mother-in-law bought them from the store for me to try. The Georgia peaches aren’t very good, but at least edible. More than I can say about the Rich May at this point.

Unless something changes, I plan to remove these trees by next spring. I trialed quite a few new varieties and a certain percentage has not worked out.

I am getting rid of both varieties of BuenOs peaches, Sweet Scarlet, and Rich May. I intend to remove several white peaches also.

I know it is disappointing, but that’s a quick hook. After investing 4 years, I wouldn’t want to give up on them without being sure. Especially if this year’s poor performance could be weather related.

They are pretty, so they should be useful from a commercial standpoint if they can get a bit sweeter. Brix would be nice to know, so that you could compare how yours are to some other growers and know if this year is an outlyer or expected.

Rather than composting them this year, can the peaches be made into preserves or canned? The extra acid could make them well suited, at least for jam- I’ve never canned peaches myself.


Sorry to hear about your Rich May. The difference between yours and mine really does demonstrate how much quality depends on the growing region. Your Rich May look like mine - exact same color and shape. Wonder if they may merit another year of experimentation.

Since you are running your own trials to determine what does well in your area, I guess your state’s agg colleges don’t spend much time on fruit research. I understand the frustration of spending a lot of time and money on a particular variety, only to discover that it is not good or it does not ripen during the proper window of time.

I’m fortunate to benefit from a lot of the research done at NC State. Its right in most cases, but Rich May was not a suggested variety. It was however on a list of preferred variety they provided produced by a large grower about 100 miles south. Spring frost are a huge issue and they normally recommend at least 900-1000 chill hours which rules out a lot of great peaches.

Which variety to you prefer for your area?


I thought about that possibility, but the fruit is clingstone. The real disadvantage for canning however is that the flesh is almost all red which tends to produce a poor canning product. The red tends to oxidize badly turning brown in the jar very quickly.

I may consider giving these trees another try as you and Blueberry suggest, but these trees burned me badly. I would rather have trees which occasionally produce no fruit than trees which produce inedible fruit. At least with trees which occasionally produce no fruit, I don’t have wasted spray and all the wasted time thinning and fussing over the trees.


Our state extension in KS knows almost nothing about growing fruit. KS used to have one fruit specialist but he mostly worked with blueberries and brambles. He quit and the University did not fill his position. Missouri is a little better, but their recommendations for peaches are a pretty narrow window.

Michigan is the real peach state in the Midwest. They recommend mostly peaches developed in their state - Stellar, Flamin Fury, Haven peaches. I pretty much have all the early ones they recommend, I was just trying to push the window a little bit earlier and heard a lot of good things about Rich May.

I’m kind of learning Zaiger creations don’t work well here. Jerry Frecon (from NJ) recommended Rich May, but some of the NJ peaches don’t work well here either. Laurol has too much bac. spot. The NJ flat peaches are hit and miss. We just get too much rain I guess.

For early varieties I haven’t tried a lot. PF1 is the earliest and I have a fair amount of experience with this peach. It’s not great but is OK for such an early peach. Earlystar is very good. This year will be the first year I harvest off of Desiree and Harrow Diamond. Harrow Diamond used to be a very widely planted early peach and is still grown commercially. Desiree is supposed to be a good early peach. The foliage and peaches on these trees look good so far.

I am very interested in your testing. I would really like to add a good early peach to my yard that will work well in this area.

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