The Oklahoma peach crop survived this spring and some varieties are ripe and ready. Originally from China, the peach tree (Prunus persica) grows in a limited range and requires a winter chilling period, extra nitrogen, full sun and regular applications of water with more before harvest. Peach crops are, at best, a crap shoot at my house. Either the weather or the wildlife get the peaches before I do. My dad raised peaches in southeast Oklahoma, not exactly peach country. So much work for so little, but it kept him busy spraying, watering and cursing the weather.

The Redhaven peach is the harvest standard to which all other peaches are compared. At the Perkins Cimarron Valley Research Station, the average date for ripe Redhavens is July 12-16.

This may vary 2 to 5 days to the south (earlier) or the north (later). Loring and Biscoe varieties ripen weeks before Redhavens. When considering the type of peach tree to plant, ripening date is just one of the criteria. Resistance to Bacterial Leaf Spot (BLS), flesh color (yellow or white), flesh adherence (freestone, cling or semi), fruit quality (3 is average), fruit size and cold tolerance are all listed on OSU Fact Sheet HLA-6210 Apple and Peach Varieties for Oklahoma.

For dependable fruit production, most peach trees have been budded or grafted onto other robust rootstocks. Rootstocks not only determine the size of the tree, but the vigor, type of soil tolerated and anchorage. In Oklahoma the best rootstocks are Lovell, Halford and Guardian.

Guardian trials began in 1989 in an effort to halt Peach Tree Short Life disease caused by the ring nematode. Guardian is somewhat cold-hardy but hates being water-logged. Guardian rootstock peaches were released to nurseries in 1993.

Both Lovell and Halford rootstocks are susceptible to root-knot nematodes. Lovell can better handle wet conditions. Halford struggles with water issues and is susceptible to Armillaria, a root-penetrating fungi that produces cute honey colored mushrooms. Armillaria wiped out many early Oklahoma orchards.

Two weeks ago, I ate my way through a peck of Porter peaches. The Livesay family operate both Peach Barn and Bakery as well as Livesay Orchards. The 53 rd annual Porter Festival begins July 18 and ends the 20th. Art, music, cars, a 5K run and all things peachy can be found. Come see Miss Peach and Miss Peach Bud!

This is a good peach year. Last year, Texas peaches were imported for the festival to compensate for the nearly total loss of peaches due to a late frost. Porter is about 120 miles by car northeast of Shawnee.

Or, on July 20 drive to Stratford, 40 miles south of Shawnee, to enjoy the 43rd annual Stratford Peach Festival. One full day of peaches, games, and extensive car/truck show. Seven orchards will be there including Stratford Pullen Peaches, Peach Crest Farms, SonRise Peach Farm, Sunrise Peach Farms and Peachtree Farms.

Earlier this week we visited Peachtree Farms outside Ada and brought home ripe peaches and a peach milkshake. Yum-yum.

— Becky Emerson Carlburg is a lifestyle columnist for the Shawnee-News-Star, a sister publication of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.