Peach tree care – Learn How

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Peach

The
peach, Prunus persica, is closely related to
apricots, cherries and plums. It was introduced into
England in the early sixteenth century via Europe and
Persia from China. The nectarine is a natural sport
of the peach with smaller, more delicately flavored
fruits, which are smooth-skinned, whereas peaches have
a rough skin.

Information for caring for a Peach tree.

Bush
peaches are hardy in southern England or Zone 6; the
protection of a south or southwest wall is needed further
north. Nectarines invariably are grown on walls. Both
fruits need abundant sunshine and crop to perfection
under glass. A well-drained, deep, medium loam soil
gives the best results. Soils with a high lime content
are disliked; but acid soils should be dressed with
mortar rubble. An application of 0.25kg (21lb) per sq.
m sq. yd) of coarse bonemeal should be given at planting
time and an annual summer feed of a balanced fertilizer
at the rate of 112kg (4oz) per sq. m sq. yd) should
be applied. Give the trees spring mulch of decayed dung
if the material is available. Plant one to three-year-old
trees between mid-October and mid-March, preferably
in October or November. Trim any damaged roots, cover
them with no more than 10-16cm (4-6in) of soil, tread
firm and ensure that the graft union is above ground
Keep the trunks of wall trees 10cm (4in) away from the
walls. Fan trees should be tied temporarily until the
soil has settled bush trees should be staked putting
the stake in the planting hole before the tree. Planting
distances are; for fan trees 5m (15ft) apart, and fox
bush trees 5-7m (15-20ft). Mulch either with compost
or straw manure in March, and rub off the first season’s
blossom buds.

Frosty
sites are unsuitable as the trees flower in February
or early March, and wall trees should be protected with
remay or tiffany at night, though this should be removed
by day to allow pollinating insects access to the flowers.
Although both fruits are self-fertile, hand pollination
ensures a full set. Fantrees, however, often set an
excessive crop, and the fruitlets should be thinned
progressively so as to leave peaches at one per 10 sq.
do (1 sq. ft) and nectarines at one per 23cm (gin) square.
Give copious waterings while the fruits are swelling.
Leave the crop to ripen fully on the tree, and check
daily for ripe fruits by palming off-finger pressure
causes bruises. They should be used promptly, for dessert,
bottling, canning or jam making.

When
pruning it should be remembered that peaches and nectarines
fruit on the previous season’s shoots, so prune them
hard enough to induce plenty of new growth, at least
30cm (12in) in length annually. However, do not go to
the other extreme as excessive pruning induces lush
growth and diminished cropping. Cut out any dead wood,
crossing branches and a third of the old growth of bush
trees in May, cutting always at a strong side shoot.
Disbud the fruiting shoots of fan trained trees during
April, May and June, retaining one new shoot at the
base, tip and middle. Pinch out the growing tips of
the last two at five leaves, but allow the basal shoots
to grow to their full length. Cut out the fruited shoots
after harvest and tie in the replacements in fan formation
at 8cm (3in) apart. Over-vigorous trees should be root
pruned.

Trees
are easily raised from seed but do not come true. Named
varieties are budded on to seedling peach or plum rootstocks
in July or early August (see Propagation). Plum rootstocks
are best for heavy soils-‘St Julien’ gives medium-sized
trees; `Common Mussel’ the smallest, coupled with early
fruiting, and ‘Brompton’ the largest. Seedling peach
rootstock sucker less than plum rootstocks.

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Peaches
and nectarines are prone to being infected by many diseases.

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