Green gardening: growing peaches and nectarines

Green gardening: growing peaches and nectarines

Nothing beats biting into a juicy peach fresh from the tree. Growing peach and nectarine trees take a bit of work, but these guidelines will help you get started.

Peaches and nectarines can be grown in British Columbia and Ontario except where winter temperatures drop below −23°C (-9°F). Trees that are trained as espaliers, as well as the upright dwarf forms, will grow in any location other than a frost pocket or a site exposed to cold winds, but they will, of course, do best in a warm, sunny position.

Those that are trained as espaliers have the best chance of success, especially when they are grown against a wall facing south or southwest to catch the sun.

Nectarines are smooth-skinned peaches, and they are becoming increasingly popular in home gardens. Peach and nectarine trees are self-fertile — that is, each flower fertilizes itself — so only one tree is needed to obtain fruit.

One mature tree should provide enough fruit for the average family. Fruit that is grown outdoors will usually be ripe and ready to eat from midsummer on. Any good, well-drained soil is suitable for peach and nectarine trees.

1. Caring for trees

  • Peach trees should grow 30 to 45 centimetres (12 to 18 inches) yearly. If your trees grow sluggishly or if the leaves are yellow-green, spread compost across the entire root zone in the spring, or apply around a kilogram (four cups) of a balanced organic fertilizer per tree. Periodic foliar applications of seaweed will also improve tree growth and health.
  • If the soil is acid, apply two kilograms (eight cups) of lime every other year in humid regions.
  • Peaches need more nitrogen when growing in sod than in cultivated soil. After a few years of fertilizing and mulching, they may need relatively little fertilizer if mulched annually.
  • Water the soil liberally whenever there is danger that it might dry out.
  • Nectarines need more frequent watering and a little more fertilizing than peaches while the fruits are swelling.
  • Weed by shallow hoeing, or add a mulch.
  • To ensure a good crop, it pays to assist pollination by lightly dabbing every blossom with a camel’s hair paintbrush about every third day. This is best done on warm, dry days at about noon.

2. Harvesting

  • When the peaches are the size of marbles, start thinning them out, reducing all clusters to a single fruit. Remove fruits that have no room to develop properly.
  • When the peaches are the size of ping-pong balls, thin them out so that they are spaced 20 centimetres (eight inches) apart.
  • Fruit is ready for picking when the flesh around the stalk yields to gentle pressure from the fingers.
  • Store peaches in a cool place, not touching one another, in containers lined with soft material.
  • Follow these basic steps to ensure your peach and nectarine trees provide you with lots of tasty bounty.

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