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How to grow Peaches

Peaches Growing Guide

Few foods can compete with peaches when it comes to juiciness. Their plump, sun-ripened fruits are positively bursting with sweetness, making this month the height of the fruit grower’s calendar. If you’re lucky enough to have a warm, south- or southwest-facing wall then this is the fruit for you, but even if you don’t there are plenty of dwarf varieties available that are perfect for growing in pots on the patio.

Peaches and nectarines are closely related but peaches perform better in the cooler British climate and are the less troublesome to grow. Both are self-fertile, which means you can grow one tree on its own and it will still produce enough fruits to keep a family well-stocked. Peaches and nectarines are also worth growing for their decorative value – their attractive pink blossom is followed closely by thin, almost glossy leaves that catch the light.

Originally from China, peaches have been grown in Britain for at least a thousand years, so they are not particularly new or exotic to our shores. If you have a sunny, reasonably sheltered spot then a peach tree is worth growing and will pay you back many times over with year after year of delicious fruits.

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Growing Peaches month-by-month

January

If your tree has been infected by peach leaf curl in the past, spray the branchwork towards the end of the month with Bordeaux mixture.

February

Repeat an application of Bordeaux mixture to make sure the disease is under control. Begin pruning new trees as soon as the buds begin to break. Apply a mulch.

March

Protect blossom from frost damage using fleece but remove it during the day so that pollinating insects can gain access. Hand pollinate if there are few insects about.

April

Complete spring pruning of established trees to divert energy into fruit formation. Begin thinning developing fruits.

May

Complete thinning of fruits once they reach walnut size to leave one fruit every 20-25cm along the ribs. Water new trees during dry weather.

June

If birds become a nuisance and start pecking at your fruits then place netting over the trees to protect them. Regularly check nets for trapped birds.

July

Begin harvesting peaches as soon as they are ripe. Check ripeness by gently pressing the apex of each fruit and seeing if it gives slightly.

August

Enjoy your crop of juicy peaches. As soon as harvesting has finished, summer-prune fantrained trees to remove old, fruited wood. Tie in younger replacement shoots.

Must do this month!
September

Continue pruning fan-trained trees so that the basic framework is in place for the following year. Prepare the soil for new introductions later on in the autumn.

October

Begin planting peach trees this month from fresh, healthy nursery stock. Ensure a proper horizontal wire support framework is in place.

November

Finish planting your peaches and nectarines this month so that the trees' roots have enough time to settle down before the cold winter weather sets in.

December

If you are concerned about peach leaf curl, position polythene screens over your fantrained trees. They will keep the framework dry which reduces the chance of infection.

Caring for your Peaches plants + problems

Peach trees are at their most vulnerable when in flower. At all costs blossoms should be protected from frost or they may not produce fruit. Be prepared to cover wall-trained trees with fleece if frost threatens but remove this by day so that pollinating insects can easily get at the flowers. If you have screen protection against peach leaf curl then this may be sufficient to prevent any frost damage (see box: peach leaf curl).

As peaches flower so early in the year they may need a little help to ensure successful pollination and fruit set. Use a soft artist’s brush or a cotton wool bud to gently brush the centre of each flower. Move between flowers and do this every day during the flowering period. Once the fruits have begun to form you will then need to make sure they are correctly watered if they are to swell properly. Thoroughly soak the ground around each tree in dry weather (this will be particularly important for young trees). Mulching around the base of plants every spring will help to guard against excessively dry soil.

While it is possible to leave every fruit intact, the size of each peach will be smaller as a result; far better instead to thin them to leave fewer larger fruits on each tree. Begin when they are the size of marbles and reduce each cluster of fruits to leave one at each position. Any facing the wall should also be removed as these will not be able to swell properly. When the fruits have grown to walnut size thin them again to leave about 20-25cm between each one. If birds are a problem, cover plants over with taught netting as soon as the fruitlets appear. Check the nets regularly to make sure there are no trapped birds.

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