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Peaches and Nectarines - Prunus Persica and P. P. Var. Nectarina

Peaches and nectarines are closely related, the main difference between the two is that peaches have a downy skin, while nectarines are smooth skinned. They are treated similarly in the garden, although nectarines do better in warmer conditions and are less hardy.

Both fruits can be grown as free-standing 
 trees, but in cooler climates both are better grown as fans against a warm, south-facing wall or even a solid fence.

Fan-trained peaches such as this healthy

specimen provide a decorative feature
for a wall.

Cultivation

Peaches and nectarines need a warm, sunny site. The soil should be free draining, but it is also important that it is moisture retentive, so plenty of organic material should be added to the soil. Plant the trees or fans in autumn or early winter, with both at a distance of 4.5m/15ft. Trees should be staked to avoid wind-rock. Mulch in the spring with a good layer of manure or garden compost. If frosts are forecast when they are in blossom, cover the plants with fleece or polythene (plastic) frames. Water during dry periods.

It may be necessary to assist pollination by hand pollinating. Use a soft brush to transfer pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigmas of another. The flowers should be fully open and the weather dry and warm. With a good fruit set it will be necessary to thin them, removing the excess fruits so that they are 15cm/6in apart.

Pruning and training

Mature trees do not require much pruning apart from the removal of dead or damaged wood and the cutting out of some of the older wood to promote new, vigorous growth. Remove all the shoots that face towards or away from the wall. Initially, thin other shoots to intervals of about 15cm/6in, tying them to the wires and removing the tips if they are longer than about 45cm/
18in. Once the plant is established, allow a new bud to form at the base of each lateral in spring, but remove all other buds.

After fruiting, remove the fruiting wood and tie in the new lateral to replace it. Remove the tip if it is too long.

Harvesting and storing

Pick the fruit as it ripens. They are best eaten straight from the tree but can be kept for a few days in a cool place. They can be stored for longer periods by freezing or bottling.

Pests and diseases

Birds and aphids can be a common 
problem with peaches and nectarines as can earwigs and red spider mites. Diseases include peach leaf curl, powdery mildew and canker.

Peach bush tree

Not a great deal of pruning is required for a peach bush tree. In spring, cut back some of the older barren wood as far as a replacement new shoot. Also remove any awkwardly placed branches and keep the bush open and airy. Avoid making large cuts, as this is likely to allow canker to infect the tree.

Rootstocks

The rootstock will affect the size and rate of growth of the tree.

St Julien A  semi-vigorous stock (bush, fan)

Brompton A  vigorous stock (bush)

Varieties

Peaches

  • ‘Amsden June’
  • ‘Bellegarde’
  • ‘Duke of York’
  • ‘Dymond’
  • ‘Peregrine’
  • ‘Rochester’
  • ‘Red Haven’
  • ‘Royal George’

 

Nectarines

  • ‘Independence’
  • ‘John Rivers’
  • ‘Lord Napier’
  • ‘Pineapple’