Introduction Peaches & Nectarines
A ripe peach picked straight from the tree is one of the juiciest fruits that can be grown in the garden, rewarding the gardener with a drink as much as an edible feast.
The closely related, smooth-skinned nectarine is slightly harder to grow with lower yields but their sensational taste make this a must for any gourmet gardener. Their early pink blossom and thin, glossy leaves are additional reasons for finding space in your garden for this tree.
How to grow Peaches & Nectarines
Peaches and nectarines are best grown as a fan on a warm south or south facing wall. Peaches can be grown as free-standing bushes in very favourable sites, but nectarines will struggle. Due to their slightly tender nature, both peaches and nectarines can also successfully be grown in glasshouses but will require diligent watering. Avoid a heated greenhouse as they require a period of dormancy.
Most peaches are supplied on a St Julian A rootstock. This restrains the vigour and restricts the size of the tree making them better suited to the average sized garden.
Peaches and nectarines are ideal for small spaces. Firstly because they are self-fertile, meaning they don’t require another tree for pollination. Secondly, there are compact forms of peaches that can successfully be grown in pots, making them suitable for a sunny patio, courtyard or balcony. These varieties rarely growing higher than 1m when grown in a pot, and require minimal pruning.
Where to grow Peaches & Nectarines
Peaches and nectarines must be grown in a warm, sunny site if the fruits are going to successfully ripen in the UK. Avoiding frost pockets is another vital requirement as their early spring blossom can easily become damaged. A sheltered position will help prevent the leaves and fruit becoming damaged, and exposure to rain will create problems with peach leaf curl.
The soil should be well-drained, yet at the same time have plenty of humus content to help retain moisture. Peach trees will struggle in light, shallow soils, meaning that any underlying pans should be broken up prior to planting and plenty of organic matter incorporated into the planting area.
Peach or nectarine
If you have got space on your south facing wall for one fan and cannot decide between a peach or nectarine, it is possible to grow both on the same plant. Ask a specialist fruit nursery to bud a nectarine onto a young peach tree. One side will eventually produce peaches and the other side nectarines. In fact, it is not just peaches and nectarines. Almonds are very closely related, and have a similar growth habit meaning that they can also be grown on the same plant.
Planting Peaches & Nectarines
A container grown peach tree can be planted at any time of the year, but avoid planting during the summer as it will require copious watering. Bare root trees are usually healthier plants as they are not rootbound. The best time to plant is late autumn as the soil is still warm and it means they have more chance to establish themselves before the big push in early spring.